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Was GA4 released prematurely? 0 Recommended Answers 4 Replies 27 Upvotes
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I am surprised and frankly amazed that GA4 is being pushed as the default shiny new when creating a new Analytics property, with Universal Analytics relegated to a "no longer recommended" route. I am genuinely wondering if there has been some sort of mistake - perhaps an intern at Google has lent on the go-live button or something?

From what I can tell from looking at it and reading what documentation there is, it's incomplete at best. Their own tagging system (Google Tag Manager) still has the tags in "beta" with warnings to that end.

The e-commerce integration through GTM looks painful and confusing with tutorials being relied on from third parties to piece together parts of the puzzle. I've read the mammoth document page about eCommerce tagging when you already have a UA dataLayer implementation and having read it several times can't fathom what they are trying to say with regards to not using the same dataLayer implementation for both. Isn't that the point of the dataLayer - send data once to GTM and fire off one or more tags?

What documentation does exist on Google's side is confusing or just plain incorrect in some places. Like pointing at options that don't exist where they say they do (Additional Settings, click Tagging settings.)

The Google Tag Assistant has no knowledge of GA4. When you click through to the notification about how the assistant is changing, the page provides no information as to how or where to access the web based version (this seems to be part of GTM preview mode from what I can piece together, for those wondering. I could be wrong, it seems odd that you'd need GTM to debug tags.).

Views? Not yet implemented. So, what happened to always creating a Raw, Master and Test view? Does that go out of the window now? If so, where is that explained? Are filters still a thing?

There are so many blanks left to fill in, I feel like if they are pushing this so that the new property can be collecting data, it almost should just be an opt-in when creating a UA profile, with GA4 silently collecting data and not being an option, or being an "advanced" option until the product and documentation is at least half finished.

At this stage I feel like it's not worth the time and effort to make things work by figuring them out by osmosis.

A couple of concrete questions I do have though:

How do you track SUB domains? 1 web data stream or 2? No mention of that, just cross domain tracking.

Do automatic events that are enabled by default work when implemented via GTM? The documentation says "providing you have tagged with gtag" - well I haven't.  It's clear that there's a disconnect between the GA team and GTM which is frankly bizarre.

EDIT: Having set up a GA4 tag in GTM with the "default events" switched on, they appear to be showing in Analytics (scroll, click, file_download etc.)

I'm all for progress and I understand the concept of building on something, but Google really shouldn't push a half finished product with little coherent documentation as the new default.
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Google's just doing what it usually does :-/

When they changed from Universal analytics.js tracking code to gtag.js in the interface as the default in 2017, they just very quietly pushed it through

Gosh, you think the documentation is bad these days.. you should have seen it 10yrs ago!!

And this quote sums it up well.. and shows their history of doing crap like this..
Some veterans of the Google Analytics world, especially agencies supporting many clients, will remember the migration from “classic” Google Analytics (ga.js) to Universal Analytics (analytics.js) like a bad dream.
 
Even further back, there was a migration from urchin.js to ga.js – Urchin being what Google Analytics grew from after Google purchased the Urchin company. 

In both cases, it was a sizeable effort for clients to migrate all of their custom tracking to a totally new code syntax.
https://www.cardinalpath.com/blog/google-analytics-new-global-site-tag-offers-unified-google-product-tracking
What is even more confusing too.. is that they are referring to "web" properties now as being Universal Analytics Properties, however prior to gtag.js and what a lot of ppl and 3rd parties are still using is Universal Analytics (analytics.js)... different code syntaxes.. 

The list of pain points continues to grow..
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Yes I recall the various iterations. I don't want to re-tag all of the sites I work with, set everything up yet again and learn another format. I don't want to double up with a UA and a GA4 version of everything to support both in GTM either.

Surely there was a better way to handle this without voiding all our existing work.
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Having spent a ton of time in the past week running into these same thoughts, I did want to offer some counter-points:

1) I'm pretty sure Apple's privacy and tracking changes forced google to accelerate this rollout
2) When I step back to look at the changes, they seem like they are on a very good path to fix some of the issues I have with GA

In my findings, I see that they are doing the following:
1) Clearly dividing the "settings configuration" (using https://analytics.google.com/) from the code configuration (javascript)
2) Eliminating redundant / overlapping ideas (no more views + dimensions, instead just dimensions) (no more views + audiances, just audiances)
3) Simplifying tools: you can set persistent tags or fire an event.  Thats it.

So when I un-learned the idea of separating traffic by subdomain, and instead switched to the only tools I actually had from the new garb, I found it was simple to solve my issue: basically for our case our subdomains were separate "product"s, hence make them a dimension:

var params = {
  linker: {
  domains: ['site.com', "site-app1.com"]
},
custom_map: {
dimension1: 'product', // www, app1, app2
dimension2: 'role', // guest, admin, member-1, staff-1...
},
product: "www",
role: "guest"
}
if (/gtm_debug/i.test(window.location.search)){
params.debug_mode = true
}
gtag('config', GA_MEASUREMENT_ID, params);

​The last piece was to decide whether to use the "enhanced measurements" or not, we currently are, but frankly I'm leaning toward not and adhere to the statement above: just use the tools, so it would simply be adding "screen_view" events.


I do agree, I wish Google would be better about updating their docs, or at least making sure docs that would not relate to v4 would be clearly marked as that.
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Here are a few resources I've found worthwhile:


Google Analytics 4 playlist 
Support Pages

That root support page was especially helpful, but you'll have to drill down through several pages. Not the easiest to navigate but if you're willing to invest the time you'll find tonnes of useful information.
Here's some good info I was able to find after some digging (starting from that root page):


Those links above do a good job and laying out the fundamental differences between UA Analytics and Google Analytics 4. Hopefully, they'll make the transition a bit easier.
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