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5 GA4 Limitations—A Look Into What You Can and Can't Track

Ashley Stander
By Ashley Stander
Head and shoulders photo of Michelle Meyer
Edited by Michelle Meyer

Published November 1, 2022.

A phone screen displaying the Google analytics logo against a white background.

Google Analytics 4 (GA4), a free web analytics solution, is recognized as the most widely used data analytics platform worldwide. Want some proof? revealed in October 2022 that "Google Analytics is used by 55.8% of all the websites, that is a traffic analysis tool market share of 85.8%."

Now that we have our facts straight, let's get into the nitty-gritty of what you can and can't track on GA4.

5 GA4 Limitations Explained

It's important to note that even though GA4 has some limitations, Google has made significant improvements from the previous "Universal" version of the platform. Your best bet is to get familiar with the limitations so that you can make the most of what the platform can give you.

1. Strong Reliance on Sampled Data

GA4 is relying more heavily on sampled data and machine learning to fill the gaps in data reporting. They're doing this to compensate for removing third-party cookies.

Data sampling adds a certain amount of "guesswork" to your data reports, meaning you can’t be completely sure your data is 100% accurate. The shift away from actual data will depend on two things:

  1. The size of your data
  2. The quality of your sampled data

Unfortunately, this is something that you can't control. However, if you want unsampled reports, you can try using standard reports. These reports are in the menu on the left side of the screen under Reports.

2. No Access to Raw Data

GA4 won't give you access to raw data. But it does give you access to aggregated data. Aggregated data is still useful and does give you a certain level of insight, but if you want to dig deeper into your data, you'll need it to be raw. This is because aggregated data is split into subsets, meaning you'll find it challenging to segment your users according to behavior using machine learning tools.

The good news is that you can use GA4's Hit Data Extractor to extract your data and then use GA4 to track your raw hit level data on your website. You can export this data to a data warehouse of your choosing.

» Can you still use GA4 to track Amazon sales? Boost Amazon sales with Google Analytics

3. Cannot Import or Process Historical Data

Google recently announced that “... all standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023, and 360 Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits on October 1, 2023. After that, you’ll be able to access your previously processed data in Universal Analytics for at least six months.”

So, while you won't be able to import or process your historical data, you'll be able to save it. This is because the old and the new versions are completely different—like comparing apples and oranges.

When the clock strikes 12 on June 30, 2023, Universal Analytics will be switched off. You'll have to export your historical reports to have access to this data. Your best bet is to do your migration from Universal to GA4 as soon as possible. That way, your website can start collecting data before Universal is switched off. You won't be able to make accurate month-on-month and year-on-year comparisons but at least you'll have some historical data when Universal goes down.

4. Data Collection Limits

GA4 places limits on data collection for event parameters and user properties that you should take note of:

  1. There's now a limit of 50 custom metrics and custom dimensions per property for the free version of the platform. This limit increases to 125 if you have Google Analytics 360 (GA360). If you use custom metrics and dimensions to track your data-driven marketing activities, you'll be forced to streamline the process typically by using a measurement plan.
  2. The removal of calculated metrics and data retention is limited to up to 14 months in the free version. This limit is increased to 50 months in GA360.
  3. Automated tracking has been updated to 30 goals per view in GA4 and 50 per view in GA360.

In a nutshell, the limitations apply to the free version of GA4—you can update those limits by purchasing GA360, but it's going to cost you.

5. Limited Compliance with EU GDPR

As of the end of 2022, GA4 won't be GDPR compliant. Currently, GA4 doesn't sufficiently protect EU residents' data against US surveillance laws, making it a direct breach of GDPR. Even though GA4 has put new privacy controls in place, these controls don't resolve the issue of unregulated, non-consensual EU-US data transfer.

Your solution is to either find an alternative or change your settings in GA4 to make it GDPR-compliant and run regular audits to make sure it stays that way.

Key GA4 Capabilities

Now that we have the limitations out of the way, let's take a look at some of the benefits of GA4:

  1. Track User Journey GA4 will tell you how many users are visiting your site at any given point in time. It will also help you to track how users navigate your site.
  2. Clicks per Page You'll be able to analyze your pages to identify which pages are more popular by tracking your users' page clicks.
  3. Conversions You'll be able to determine the conversion rate of your site and identify pages and content that may be preventing users from converting.
  4. Multichannel Performance Tracking You'll be able to keep track of the performance of your marketing campaigns across multiple channels.
  5. Geographical Data Reports You'll see which cities and countries your users are visiting your site from. What's more, you'll be able to see what type of device they're using to access your website.

» Can GA4 monitor product performance? Use these tricks for product analysis with GA4

Key Takeaway

It's important to know how these limitations (and benefits) will impact your e-commerce business goals. But all is not lost—you do have other alternatives. If you're looking for cutting-edge supporting solutions, you can always turn to BeProfit to provide you with a wide variety of solutions that will ease you painlessly into the new GA4.

» Interested in BeProfit's service? Compare BeProfit pricing plans