4 Reasons Why Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is TERRIBLE

2023 is the year in which Google will ditch Universal Analytics in favor of its latest product. But Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is annoying as hell. Whenever you log into Universal Analytics, you see this nagging screenshot:

Warning to Switch to Google Analytics 4 from Universal Analytics
Warning to Switch to Google Analytics 4 from Universal Analytics

This annoying message will continue till the very end. Google wants you to switch to GA4. But how can I when it’s missing core features? Here are some of the problems with Google Analytics 4.

Table of Contents

1. Google Analytics 4 Delays in Reporting

Unlike Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 4 delays reporting by a ridiculous amount. According to the official GA4 freshness table, you can expect delays of up to 12 hours before the data appears in a report. The realtime report works fine with less than 1 minute of processing time. But if you want to collate data and see how many times users visited a page, you have to wait for half a day.

For some reason, people get defensive when you point out the horrible GA4 delays. The standard excuse is that the “official” SLA for free Universal Analytics (UA) was 48 hours, so GA4 isn’t worse:

Defending Google Analytics 4

However, this argument ignores that Universal Analytics reports visits almost immediately. I’ve been using it for over ten years, and regardless of the “SLA”, my reports have almost always been in real-time. GA4, on the other hand, has very annoying delays, far more significant than Universal Analytics.

For comparison, here’s a screenshot of my visits at 10:30 PM on Sunday, according to Universal Analytics:

Universal Analytics Almost Instant Reporting
Universal Analytics Almost Instant Reporting

It shows that I received 245 visits.

And here’s the same report on Google Analytics 4 at the same time:

Google Analytics 4 Reporting Delay
Google Analytics 4 Reporting Delay

It shows only 32 visits. I’m estimating a GA4 reporting delay of at least 8 hours. That’s unacceptable for a supposedly “better” product. Google had better fix this problem before they fully roll out GA4. Otherwise, it’s just a step backward.

2. No Wrapping in GA4 Table Reports

This problem is one of basic usability. I’d written an earlier article about how to create a free-form GA4 event parameters report which showed both the URL clicked and the page on which the event happened. Here’s what it looks like:

GA4 Event Parameters Report
GA4 Event Parameters Report

You can see that the URL cuts off at the end of the cell instead of wrapping it in the free-form report so that we can see the full text. Compare this to the wrapping in a typical Universal Analytics report:

Cell Wrapping in Google Analytics
Cell Wrapping in Google Analytics

The first screenshot is useless and completely unreadable. To see the data in the cells, you need to export the report to a CSV file in a spreadsheet. The second report is what it should look like.

3. No Site Speed Measurement in GA4

Universal Analytics has a “Site Speed” section, where you can track the various load time metrics for your web pages. Here’s a screenshot:

Google Analytics Site Speed Missing in GA4
Google Analytics Site Speed Missing in GA4

However, Google Analytics 4 is missing this report entirely. So that’s a straight-up downgrade from Universal Analytics. I don’t know if Google plans to include this feature in a later update, but it’s impossible to call something an “upgrade” when it lacks features the previous iteration didn’t have.

Instead of Google Analytics for site speed measurement, I suggest Cloudflare Analytics instead. It’s free, respects your user’s privacy, so you don’t need to show cookie banners, and most importantly, it lets you check your real-life loading times as shown here:

Cloudflare Page Load Times
Cloudflare Page Load Times

In addition to the site speed, you can check your core web vitals measured by actual usage and break them down by pages, countries, and more. You can find out more in my Cloudflare Analytics vs Google Analytics comparison.

4. Fewer In-Built Reports in Google Analytics 4

While Google Analytics 4 has a report builder functionality, there are far fewer pre-defined reports than in Universal Analytics. For example, here’s a screenshot of the “Landing Pages” and “Exit Pages” reports:

Universal Analytics Has More In-Built Reports than Google Analytics 4
Universal Analytics Has More In-Built Reports than Google Analytics 4

These reports are beneficial for those new to analytics. Often people will stick to what’s available rather than create a report of their own. Google Analytics 4 has none of the above reports and lacks the tools to dig deeper into individual items.

Final Thoughts: Google Analytics 4 is a Downgrade

Google has a history of replacing good products with poorly designed ones, and Google Analytics 4 is no exception. It’s a flat-out downgrade from Universal Analytics, and the only area where it works as well as the older version is the realtime report. I don’t know if this state of affairs is permanent or if Google will introduce more features later. Sadly, I don’t feel very hopeful.

About Bhagwad Park

I've been writing about web hosting and WordPress tutorials since 2008. I also create tutorials on Linux server administration, and have a ton of experience with web hosting products. Contact me via e-mail!

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