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Common Mistakes with GA4

Nov. 17, 2023 | Dwight Zahringer

Common Mistakes with Google Analytics 4

Common Analytics 4 Integration Mistakes

Embarking on the journey with Google Analytics 4 (GA4) can significantly enrich your data analysis, but it’s not without its pitfalls. Navigating GA4’s robust landscape requires a keen eye for detail and an understanding of its intricacies to fully harness its power. Here, we’ll delve into seven pivotal areas where mistakes commonly occur and how you can adeptly sidestep them, ensuring your data remains pristine and actionable. 

Data Retention Duration

A common oversight with GA4 is neglecting to set an adequate data retention period. The default setting is a mere two months, potentially leading to a loss of precious historical data, which is vital for year-over-year comparisons. Custom reports rely on these settings, although standard report data remains indefinitely. Adjusting the retention period is straightforward: access ‘Data Settings’ and extend it to 14 months. Keep an eye on the “Reset on new activity” option, which can extend the retention timeline with each user visit, ensuring continuous data availability.

Managing Dimension Cardinality

Dimension cardinality can be a thorny issue in GA4, particularly when a single dimension contains a plethora of unique values within a day. To circumvent the pitfalls of high cardinality, which can skew data accuracy, consider bucketing values into logical ranges. For instance, instead of tracking exact word counts for articles, categorize them into intervals (e.g., <500, 500-1000, etc.). This approach curtails the number of unique dimensions, fostering more precise analysis.

Integration with BigQuery

GA4 democratizes access to BigQuery integration, once a premium feature. Linking GA4 to BigQuery from the get-go is essential for amassing a robust historical data repository. BigQuery’s edge lies in its ability to handle large datasets without sampling, unlike GA4’s custom reports. To establish this link, navigate to ‘BigQuery Links’ in the GA4 settings and follow the prompts to set up a BigQuery project.

Custom Audiences Configuration

One of GA4’s formidable tools is its audience-building capabilities. Crafting audiences tailored to your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and marking them as conversions can provide a wellspring of insights. Audience definitions are not retroactive; hence, setting them up early is crucial for capturing historical audience data.

Mindful Migration from Universal Analytics

GA4 and Universal Analytics (UA) are distinct entities with differing data models. While auto-migration may seem convenient, it’s a golden opportunity to reassess your analytics strategy. A manual approach to event collection architecture in GA4 can lead to a more refined analytics framework.

Referral Exclusions

For e-commerce sites using third-party payment processors, it’s vital to exclude referral domains to prevent new session initiations upon customer return post-checkout. This step is crucial to avoid distorting conversion data. Similarly, if tracking is required across subdomains, your primary domain should also be excluded from referrals to maintain session continuity.

Reporting Identity Selection

GA4 offers three reporting identity options—blended, observed, and device-based. Choosing the right one hinges on your specific business needs. Most scenarios without user ID systems on their websites should opt for ‘device-based’ to avoid potential data distortion due to privacy concerns. Experimenting with different options and observing their impact on conversion data can help determine the most suitable choice.

Common mistakes with GA4

Mastering GA4 configuration is not a one-time effort; it requires ongoing vigilance. Understanding the nuances of its features enables you to exploit its full potential while steering clear of common missteps. By remaining attentive to these seven areas—from data retention to reporting identity—you can safeguard your data’s integrity. This proactive stance not only fortifies your data-driven strategies but also ensures that you capture the rich insights GA4 is designed to deliver, thereby enhancing your website or application’s performance in the long run.