GA4 in 2024: A list of our hopes and dreams

It’s January 2024 and for six months Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has been pretty much the only version of the market-leading web analytics platform available.

Last June, Google, in its infinite wisdom, sunsetted the much-loved Universal Analytics (UA). It was seen by many as a rash move particularly as GA4 wasn’t (and in many ways still isn’t) ready to go to market; and whilst Google continue to roll out updates on a regular basis there are still features that many of us in the analytics community would like to see either return or added.

In this post I’m going to take a look at some of the things that I think we’ll see coming to Google Analytics in 2024 and I’ll also cover off some features on my analytics wish list, that I’d love to see.

Oh yeah… AI

Let’s just get this bit out the way.

Yes, for sure, AI will likely find its way deeper into Google Analytics, but there will likely be much greater development in GA’s machine-learning capabilities. You can currently find some of this lurking around the edges of the UI such as in the Insights panels on the Report snapshot landing page, but with the volume of data that GA is ingesting and the speed at which AI and ML are moving, it seems almost inevitable that we’ll see more of this in 2024. I think will be predominantly across two areas:

  1. Modelling the missing data: By using observed data from users who opt-in to tracking and marrying this with modelled data both from the machine-learning engines and from anonymised pings via Consent Mode, we will be able to close some of the gaps in data imposed by GDPR regulations.
  2. Understanding your requirements: Out the box, GA is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. AI may start helping by observing GA users on an account level and providing them with data specific to their needs. All of these require the GA practitioner to go to different reports and to do different things but AI may help surface these reports based on each user’s specific requirements.

Private Parts

Google Analytics can be a privacy minefield. Over the past few years, there have been a number of EU court rulings that cast doubt on the validity of its data privacy mechanisms. In 2024 we’ll see additional options on how and where data is stored (see EU’s Digital Markets Act). The hope is that these additional protections will result in more users choosing to share their data with us again, allowing for a clearer, more accurate picture of activity across our digital estates.

The other biggy that doesn’t affect Google Analytics, but is worth mentioning because you will be told that it does, is Google’s decision to finally start deprecating the use of third-party cookies on their Chrome web browser. As third-party cookies slowly disappear, we may also see loosening of some of the cookie banner requirements currently imposed via GDPR. Certainly for UK users the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill will assist in removing some of the most stringent hurdles. This in turn will allow digital analysts and the teams they support to again provide a more accurate picture of website and app activity.

Points of View

One of the biggest grumbles I hear about GA4 compared to UA is the loss of Views. Views were great – it meant you could create a window into a specific part of your website and filter out everything else. They were immensely useful; I had a View that was literally just my traffic (based on my IP), which made testing and debugging really easy. Then GA4 came along and you couldn’t do that anymore. There are rumours that some sort of View-like feature is coming in 2024, possibly in Data Streams, but until then we shall wait with fingers crossed.

Accessibility: Google, really?

The Explore feature is one of the most welcome additions to GA4 compared to UA. The ability to create bespoke reports with multiple-layered dimensions has made creating complex datasets much less time consuming. However, almost inconceivably for a company as large as Google, the user-interface, and in particular the charts, are an accessibility disaster. I’m not an accessibility expert, but even from a layman’s point-of-view the data visualisations are some of the worst I’ve seen. Low colour contrast makes differentiating data points next to impossible and keys are so small as to render them essentially useless. I’d love to see this improved this year, both for my sake, but more importantly for users where an accessibility-optimised experience is required as standard.

Peace out, Google Analytics

I think 2024 will be the year that a new rival platform emerges as an analogous, free tool that encompasses all the goodness of GA4 and provides users with something new and exciting. Platforms such as Matomo and Piwik are already attracting some of the more disillusioned UA-loving users away. I would also not be surprised to see Google starting to throttle the analytics accounts in terms of accuracy and scope in a bid to move users to their paid 360 solution. For users requiring accuracy at a low-cost, a move to using Google BigQuery maybe the best solution; it provides the most accurate representation of the data with the opportunity to analyse and visualise in a platform most suited to a user’s specific requirements.

Final Thoughts

Google Analytics remains a great tool for web analytics, and GA4 has some great features; it’s easy to grumble about change. I believe that this time next year GA4 will be in a much better place – the product is still in heavy development. Couple this with the increasing omnipresence of AI, I think the next twelve months will be a very interesting ride for all Google Analytics users.

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