Google Analytics 4: Disadvantages and Limitations – Is It Worth It? – Watch Engine Watch


The free version of Google Analytics, Universal Analytics, is the most widely used web analytics solution. The platform is so popular that it dominates 86% market share, making Google the market leader. But while many consider Google Analytics to be the standard, there are reasons to wonder if it’s a great choice for your marketing – especially since Google has announced the withdrawal of Universal Analytics.

On July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics brands will stop processing new hits, forcing users to switch to its successor, Google Analytics 4. While this may seem like a natural advancement, marketers should not be misled.

The learning curve will be steep – Google Analytics 4 is an almost entirely new platform that is still evolving. In addition, Google Analytics risks losing the trust of users due to gray areas around privacy and data ownership.

With a privacy-focused future ahead of us, now is the time to look for alternatives that better balance data collection and compliance. With the right analytics platform, marketers will make sure your data collection is as it should be: predictable and sustainable. After all, marketers and analysts want to process data at the user level while building the trust of their visitors.

In this article, we will delve into the issues with Google Analytics 4 from a user and privacy and compliance perspective, so you can make an informed decision before switching platforms.

User perspective: Google Analytics 4 is a step in the wrong direction

Google Analytics 4 introduces modified reporting and measurement technology that is neither well understood nor widely accepted in the marketing community.

In terms of user experience, many find the GA4 difficult to navigate. But there are also many challenges with feature sets. Let’s delve into these limitations:

There is no easy way to migrate your data

Migration is a complex process and needs to be carefully planned. Unfortunately, Google Analytics 4 does not make this easy. Without migrating data or tags, all historical data from Universal Analytics will not be transferred to the new platform.

The challenge only grows with the size of the organization – you can move hundreds of tags. So if marketers need to start collecting data from scratch, they could also switch to new analytics software.

Not so intuitive user interface

The most important challenge that marketers and analysts are likely to face with Google Analytics 4 is not knowing the new interface.

The new dashboard has several immediately obvious differences from what marketers are used to doing. The types of hits are essential to how Universal Analytic properties handle all statistics. Types of hits include page hits, event hits, e-commerce hits, and social interaction hits.

GA4 does not have the concept of a hit type as used by Universal Analytics. Everything in Google Analytics 4 is categorized as an “event”. That’s a big difference.

For marketers to succeed on the new platform, they will need to adapt quickly to maintain the same momentum they had with this previous platform.

Custom dimension limits

A custom dimension is an attribute that marketers can configure in their analytics tool to delve into their data. It allows you to rotate or segment this data to isolate a specific audience or traffic for deeper analysis.

GA4 does allow for a custom dimension for report segmentation, but there is a strict limitation. You can only have up to 25 custom dimensions per user range and up to 50 custom dimensions per brand per event.

Lack of custom channel sorting

Channel groups are rules-based groups of marketing channels. When tailored, these groups allow marketers to effectively monitor the performance of these channels.

Unlike Universal Analytics, GA4 does not allow you to create custom channel groups in the new interface. Instead, marketers will only be able to use their default channel groups.

Motivations for the short term

The deadline Google has left for the analytics community to take action is surprising. There is much speculation as to why this might be the case, including:

  1. Google may have been disappointed with the speed with which Google Analytics 4 was being implemented and decided to take decisive action.
  2. Google has avoided some of the legal issues facing Universal Analytics in the EU.
  3. Google wants to reduce costs and get rid of technical debt associated with thousands of sites with old solutions installed. Because GA4 is designed to support the Google advertising network, it delivers more revenue than the competition.

Now is the concrete deadline for the transition, marketers will have to decide whether they want to start adapting Google Analytics 4 or start again with a new platform.

Privacy and compliance: Google Analytics 4 has a long way to go

If a company operates in multiple countries, marketing teams will need to be aware of the many challenges posed by the obligations of local data privacy laws and international regulations.

Constantly changing data protection legislation and strict security regulations only complicate matters. If we read the tea leaves, we believe that GA4 will not last long in Europe. Here’s why:

Google Analytics violates European law

Google makes it difficult to collect data in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aims to restore control over personal data to users and customers. The regulation requires you to obtain explicit consent when processing personal data. Failure to comply with this provision may result in high fines or even prosecution.

A recent decision by the Austrian Data Protection Authority (DSB) states that using Google Analytics violates the GDPR. This means that organizations involved in the collection, storage and processing of data on EU citizens need to adapt their policies and make major technological changes to comply with the GDPR.

There is no clear guideline as to where the data is linked via Google Analytics

The Google Guide means that data is transferred to the nearest Google Analytics server center. However, data can be stored in a geographical location that does not have adequate privacy protection in the EU.

The newly introduced features in GA4 partially solve this problem, as they allow the first part of data collection (and anonymization) on European servers. However, the data can and will most likely be sent to the US

The future of marketing requires the consent of users

Whether it’s data quality, tool limitations, a lack of privacy-friendly features, or transparency in data handling, we believe marketers are likely to consider switching platforms.

Piwik PRO eliminates the privacy and compliance issues associated with Google Analytics, allowing marketers to collect data predictably and sustainably. The user interface and feature sets are similar to Universal Analytics, so marketers and analysts feel at home when moving to our platform.

If you would like to learn more about Alternative Google Analytics or get more information about Piwik PRO Analytics Suite, visit

Still undecided? See our article on addressing concerns about the transition to an alternative analytical solution and the analytical mindset you should consider: Switching from Google Analytics – You Need to Know This.


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