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As the developer behind Conversion Bridge, I've spent countless hours making analytics setup and conversion tracking in WordPress a breeze for platforms like Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and a host of privacy-first analytics platforms. Conversion Bridge also simplifies conversion tracking with a single click for 49 different plugins including WooCommerce, a plethora of form plugins, and other WordPress plugin integrations.

My journey with Conversion Bridge actually began out of a desire to use an alternative to Google Analytics 4. I found GA4's dashboard less than user-friendly, and finding basic reports seemed like a looking for needle in a haystack. Despite these hurdles, Google continues to hold the crown in the marketing world, largely due to its longevity so I ultimately acquiesced and made an official integration for it. Having now used it more extensively while building and testing this new WordPress conversion tracking plugin, I now find it...tolerable, but still much more challenging to use than it should be especially compared to newer alternatives.

What is Google Analytics 4?

GA4 is the latest iteration of Google's free web analytics service, formerly known as Universal Analytics (UA) and before that was a separate company known as Urchin Analytics that Google acquired.

Google Analytics 4 was a complete redo from it's predecessor UA. In fact, none of the UA historical data was portable over to GA4 making comparing past years no longer possible and forcing everyone to essentially start over. This seemed to be an impetus for many WordPress website owners like myself to finally ditch Google and look for alternative analytic platforms that focused on privacy such as Fathom, Plausible, or one of the many other platforms that is integrated with Conversion Bridge.

I've been making websites since ~2000 and have been using Google Analytics since it was first offered because it was free - so why wouldn't you? However, with the issues around privacy starting taking center stage in the EU and around the world, Google Analytics started becoming an issue as it was seen as breaking the law in some countries.

One of the reasons GA4 was created was to better comply with new privacy laws and regulations. Here's how it works:

  1. User Consent: GA4 has features that respect user consent for data collection. It can work with or without cookies, which is important for following privacy rules in different regions.
  2. Data Anonymization: GA4 includes options to anonymize IP addresses and other user data, which helps in protecting user privacy (Conversion Bridge allows you to set anonymous IPs as an option).
  3. Data Retention Controls: Businesses can control how long user data is kept, which is a requirement in many privacy laws.
  4. Flexibility for Regulations: GA4 is designed to adapt to different privacy regulations from around the world. This means businesses can configure their settings to comply with specific laws like GDPR in Europe or CCPA in California.

However, it's important to remember that while GA4 itself can comply with privacy laws, it's up to each business using GA4 to make sure they are using it in a way that follows the law. This includes getting proper consent from users, managing data correctly, and being transparent about how user data is used.

New Features in Google Analytics 4

This latest version has brought major changes that could have significant benefits for WordPress conversion tracking using Google Analytics. It's all down to its emphasis on event-based tracking, machine learning capabilities, predictive metrics, and cross-platform tracking.

Event-based tracking

GA4's new event-based tracking model is vastly different from the traditional session-page view model of Universal Analytics. Now, it's easier to track specific user behaviors on your website beyond just page views. Anything from button clicks to form submissions are now tracked as events - a method that many of the alternative platforms had been doing for while before.

Machine Learning

The machine learning at the core of GA4 is one of its most promising developments. By leveraging machine learning, GA4 can automatically surface insights for you. It can even predict future actions users may take, such as the likelihood they'll churn or whether they're likely to complete a purchase. Such insights are gold for anyone needing to understand user behavior at a deeper level. This is how GA4 is getting around privacy issues from UA - instead of tracking users across websites, it is using machine learning to give you more insights about your highly-likely to convert audiences which you can then use in Google Ads to build targeted ads.

In order to take advantage of the machine learning feature and predictive metrics, you need to send custom events to tell GA4 specifically what a user is doing on your site. This is precisely why Conversion Bridge exists - to help WordPress website owners track every important metric about their users' interactions with their website across 49 plugins. Important interactions need to be fed into GA like product page views, begin checkout, email newsletter signups, etc. Without this data, the machine learning feature will have lower quality predictions.

Cross-platform Tracking

While not as important for most WordPress website owners doing conversion tracking, cross-platform tracking in GA4 is more versatile than ever before. It's not restricted to websites; you can measure user interactions across websites, apps, and web apps, then view the combined data all in one place. This presents an exciting opportunity for businesses managing multiple platforms.

Pros and Cons of Google Analytics 4

GA4, despite its shiny new coat of paint and a ton of hyped features, remains a double-edged sword for businesses and site owners.

Pros

For me, the best part of GA4 is their extensive list of available recommended events which also allows useful metadata specific to the event to be included. For example, with a "Purchase" event, Conversion Bridge can (and does) send a lot of additional information about the purchase such as order total, coupon codes used, shipping costs, line item data, and more. The more data you have at your finger tips, the more informed your marketing decisions can be.

GA4's integration of machine learning is another plus. This is where predictions about future user behaviors come into play. For businesses looking to understand their audience better, this feature is gold.

The main reason Google Analytics exists is to help increase the usage of Google Ads - the biggest income stream for Google. Because you can build audiences which can help you make targeted ads, you can increase the effectiveness of your paid advertising campaigns in Google Ads. I hate to admit it but this is an excellent reason to use Google Analytics.

Cons

A stacked suite of features won't mean much if users struggle to navigate through the interface, find basic reports, or set up tracking accurately. My main bone of contention is the difficulty in finding the reports that I felt were right on the surface in UA but buried behind tons of seemingly random menu labels didn't seem related whatsoever. As a result, it's easy to see why many novices and some seasoned marketers are looking to move away from GA4, despite its free price tag and bells and whistles.

As someone who has built hundreds of WordPress websites over the years, I no longer feel like I can simply send a client over to their GA account and let them look at anything there without a proper walkthrough. I don't think I ever needed to explain a single thing in UA to a client in 15+ years, but now too much time is needed to train clients to understand their own analytics.

Key Takeaways

In spite of all these impressive features and having used it extensively for various sites, I still do not have a generally positive opinion of GA4 due to its less than friendly interface that makes what should be simple tasks almost unbearable chores. That being said, while GA4 might have a much steeper learning curve, it's still a solid platform for many experienced digital marketers to use.

Here's a rundown of Google Analytics 4 + Conversion Bridge:

  • GA4 is the latest version of Google's free web analytics service, providing wider cross-platform tracking capabilities, and leaning heavily into machine learning.
  • GA4 offers powerful custom insights that can identify unseen trends and potential issues. This enables more optimized decision-making and increased lead generation opportunities.
  • One key feature of GA4, the focus on multiple-platform tracking, allows events and conversions to be tracked seamlessly across different platforms. However, its interface and tracking setup can be less intuitive than its predecessor, Universal Analytics.
  • Despite the many impressive features of GA4, like its event-based tracking model, machine learning capabilities, predictive metrics, and cross-platform tracking, the interface may be challenging for some users.
  • To offset its complex interface and setup to make the most of it's advanced features like machine learning, using as Conversion Bridge can help you can start tracking site visits and detailed interactions with your website.

Should You Use Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 is not for the faint at heart. However, seasoned pros will still find it to be an excellent resources for website data tracking. To help offset the challenges of using Google Analytics, you can buy Conversion Bridge to significantly simplify the setup process and configuring conversion tracking for WordPress websites. GA4's advanced machine learning features are worth the deep dive - but understand it will require a deep dive to wrap your head around how to use it, especially compared to newer alternatives. I think skilled marketers will appreciate the advanced features and insights it gives for creating effective marketing strategies.

Feature comparison for Google Analytics

Google Analytics Fathom AnalyticsPlausible AnalyticsUsermavenPirsch AnalyticsSimple AnalyticsAnalyticsWPSwetrixGo Squared AnalyticsWide Angle Analytics
Pricing Free $15/mo+$9/mo+$0/mo+$6/mo+$9/mo$149 one timeStarts at $5/mo$9/mo+€9.99/mo
Free Trial
GDPR-Compatible
No Cookie Notice
GA Import
Multiple Websites
Advanced E-commerce
Funnels
Custom Extensions
Email Updates
Public Dashboards
Developer API
Data Retention 26 months max Forever3-5+ years6 months+ForeverForeverForeverUnlimitedUnlimited12 mo to Unlimited
Open Source
Derek Ashauer
Derek Ashauer is the lead developer of the Conversion Bridge WordPress plugin. He has helped build hundreds of custom websites using WordPress and helped business grow using marketing strategies and various analytic platforms. He now focuses his energy and experience to build highly-rated and helpful WordPress plugins.