GA4: Quick Fire Questions with our SEO Team

Published on June 20, 2023 by Alex Eade

It’s T-minus 10 days until Universal Analytics is sunset, and replaced by GA4. To give you a little more information about the new platform, we sat our SEO team down and asked them some quickfire GA4 questions…

Is Google Analytics 4 GDPR compliant?

Steve: It’s a bit of a complex one, but essentially, no. It’s not GDPR compliant straight out of the box because the data isn’t stored in a way that provides complete user privacy. It uses anonymisation, but It’s not fully GDPR compliant. They’re doing everything they can but it’s work in progress. 

Sam: There are things we can do to make it more GDPR compliant, for example enforcing a cookie policy on the website to only fire the tags if the individual user opts into those tags.

Steve: Yeah, it’s still an issue because of the Privacy Shield framework which is now invalid, as of 2020, it’s invalid. They’re looking at creating another one because technically EU citizens are not sufficiently protected and their data is not sufficiently protected against US surveillance laws. 

Sam: I was just gonna say you can run into other issues, too. If you’re accidentally collecting users’ information, and it’s getting stored in GA4, for example, if you’ve got a page on your website where users submit a form and that uses email addresses posted to a URL, then that URL is technically attached to  GA4 and then that email address would appear in your Page Views report.

So people need to take other steps to make sure they’re anonymizing that data and don’t send it straight to GA4 – essentially don’t just rely on the platforms you’re using to anonymize data and make it GDPR compliant, make sure you’re doing the work, too. 

Why is Google switching to GA4?

Steve: For pretty much that exact reason, data privacy. Universal Analytics is even less GDPR compliant than GA4 so they’re under pressure to do something about it. 

How will GA4 affect SEO?

Steve: It won’t. It’s literally an analytics tool so it won’t affect how pages are ranked. 

Sam: However, we’re going to have less data to go by. So if we have less data on things like, ‘How many users are visiting a certain page?’ We might not know as accurately about how well things are performing. It’ll mean SEOs have to think outside the box more. 

Steve: Yeah, it will affect data driven decision making. But it won’t affect your rankings and traffic. Although by impacting decision making, it might in the long term impact your SEO. 

Will GA4 have any impact on data collection?

Steve: Yes. The fact that it’s more vague than data in Universal Analytics, you know, that there are certain things it makes up using machine learning. It’s going to affect data collection. However, 100% data accuracy is a myth anyway and Universal Analytics didn’t provide completely accurate data either. 

What’s good & bad about GA4?

Steve: It’s not as intuitive as Ua3 (Universal Analytics), it’s just not. But the real time report  which lets you see the number of current users is 30 minutes now instead of five which is good. 

Sam: Another good thing is their measurement API, if you got an e-commerce site it allows you to connect your e-commerce store to GA and then it will send data from the store whereas with Universal Analytics, it basically relied on when the user hit the ‘Thank You’ page. What that didn’t take into account was if a user then cancelled their purchase and was refunded by the store that was still being logged in GA as a successful purchase. Whereas with the measurement API, we can send the refund and the cancellation data back to GA4 and get far more accurate measurement.

You can also track across domains a lot easier in GA4 and you can track apps and websites within the same property, which is quite nice for some businesses.

Also you can look at your conversion path. So someone comes via organic social and then comes back by PPC. You can see all those different parts. I know you can do that in UA to a degree, but it’s just a bit nicer in GA4.

What happens if you don’t switch to GA4?

Joe: You lose everything! Technically not everything but yeah, you’re not going to be tracking data in Universal Analytics from July 1st. Google has said they’re only gonna store that data for 12 months, so eventually you will lose that UA data as well. So people need to think about data warehousing for their old data. And how they compare that to GA4 data because metrics will measure differently in GA4. So, people are gonna have to expect that there’s going to be discrepancies between their data when comparing in year on year reports. 

Is GA4 free to use?

Steve: Yes, it’s free. There is a GA4 360 which you have to pay for, like you did for Universal Analytics 360, but all it does is give you more big query exports. Basically instead of giving you a million exports it’s giving you a billion – it’s not necessary for anything other than the very largest websites. 

Is GA4 good for ecommerce websites? 

Sam: Yes. Yes, for the reasons I mentioned earlier – their measurement API providing more accurate data and stopping refunds and cancelled sales being included in sales data. 

Steve: However, it doesn’t replace your e-commerce CRM. 

Joe: Adding to that, actually you could track offline conversions with Ga4 as well. So you could use that same measurement API Sam mentioned and if you had a point of sale system in a shop, you could transfer those transactions over to Ga4 as well. 

How will setting up GA4 affect Google Ads if I’m already using Ads?

Sam: That’s probably a question for the PPC team! I’m gonna say it does because if you haven’t got it set up, then you’re going to impact your data which impacts your bid adjustments.

Steve: Yeah. I think you lose audiences as well, so yes it does, but definitely something to ask your PPC manager! 

What can I track in GA4? Anything new to UA? 

Steve: So much! And everything’s new, technically even website sessions are new because the way they’re calculated is different. I’d have a read of this blog by our Head of Search, Chris, where he lists what’s new in a bit more detail – but basically it’s all changed! 

Do I need Google Tag Manager to set up GA4? 

Steve: You do not! Again, if anyone’s having difficulties setting it up or wants advice on analytics or SEO in general, you know who to call! 

Why is my data different in UA and GA4? 

Steve: Because the way that Google calculates metrics has completely changed. Google says that they’re measuring people, not clicks, now. People need to understand that these differences between UA metrics and GA4 metrics means you can’t really compare your old data to the new data you’ll be collecting. It’s completely different and it will take a while to get used to. 


If you need support with our own analytics, or would like to find out more about how our SEO team can help your website rank better, just get in touch.