Fed Up with the new Google Analytics GA 4? 

07.13.2023 12:38 PM Comment(s)

You aren't alone. A lot of people don't understand GA 4 and miss Universal Analytics (UA), the previous version. I don't blame them and totally understand every beef I've read about it. 

I find Google products hard to understand myself, as is their setup documentation. I have usually referred to third-party tutorials to learn how to do things with Google products.

I thought I'd write a post on some easier and more effective tools and strategies people can use to evaluate their website traffic. 

Note that I'm an affiliate for some of these products, noted with an *. This means I can get a commission if you buy a product after clicking my affiliate link.

Some of these tools I've seen recommended in conversations on Twitter and some of them I am familiar with because I'm familiar with them in my business. 

However, I don't think the solution for most folks is to wash their hands of GA 4 altogether. It can still have a lot of value if you're evaluating the right things and doing so in the right context.

Databox surveyed agencies to get insight on how GA 4 helped them and also did a deep dive into how other tools can and should complement GA 4 data.

"Over 60% of our respondents agreed that GA4 has provided a clearer overview of activity across their digital properties, while more than half of the SaaS companies stated that GA4 has allowed them to create richer audience profiles, which have proven to be more likely to convert when targeted in campaigns." - Databox* blog post on their analysis of GA 4 benefits

I have set up GA 4, but I'm in the midst of researching what other tools and trends are the best combination for me to use in my business.

GA 4 differs from previous versions in that it is designed to track event-based data instead of just traffic. 

That approach can be very important to help people contextualize their data, but a lot of people find GA 4 very complicated to set up with the tools they need to track and the data is hard to understand. It can get even more complicated if you have data in different platforms.

Other drawbacks of GA 4: a lot of browsers block it, meaning it can't see or analyze their web activity, the code can slow down your site.

I've organized these tools and strategies by type of software.

1. Knowledge Base Software

Help Scout*
If you've ever had to browse through a software's documentation to find out how to do something with it, chances are that the tool that housed the documentation was a knowledge base.

Your activity and feedback in that knowledge base provides a wealth of information on your experience with the product. In other words, it can provide hints on why people end their subscription and how you can retain them by making certain changes, among many other types of insight.

I've researched a number of knowledge bases to see which provide the richest data with the right tools and my favourite so far is Help Scout. Help Scout reports have built-in data on which searches yielded no results and other great insights. 

If you integrate Help Scout with Databox with Help Scout, you get even richer data on Help Scout that you can use to modify your product, strengthen relationships with customers and do much more. I've taken a screenshot to show you all the things you can track.

Screenshot of Recommended Help Scout Docs KPIs
Screenshot from Help Scout website


Guru is another fantastic platform that has native analytics on customer experience within a knowledge base. It seems a better fit for internal knowledge bases, vs public ones. I can't find integrations for it in GA 4 and Databox doesn't have one. I'd be wary of recommending it for public use, specifically ecommerce sites. 

You could probably integrate Guru data with another platform manually by downloading the CSV spreadsheet reports, but that's a bit beyond my skillset and business goals, so I can't shed light on that.

Guru is a great tool for centralizing information and communication of team members working remotely.


Hubspot is a suite of tools for marketing, sales, operations, customer service and much more. They don't seem to have search analytics results for any of their tools, however.

2. Ecommerce platforms

Shopify's* Shopify plan and higher have very detailed behavior reporting including search engine activity, click through rates, satisfaction and more, plus it integrates with a ton of tools. 

My only complaint is that a lot of functions you may want in a store are not included features in Shopify. You need to get an Extension to do that and I don't see a way to combine data from an extension with data that's included in Shopify*. You also can't get much data on your website's organic content like your blog in Shopify*.

But that's okay. You can work around that by connecting Shopify to a tool that will have data on that. I use Zoho PageSense* to test layout and content on my site so I can have it optimal by the time I launch my book, courses and tutorial. It has comprehensive analytics on how people interact with your site. Here's how to integrate Zoho PageSense* with Shopify.*

You can also integrate Shopify* with Databox to obtain and visualize rich data on how things are going in your store. 

3. A customized search engine

The limitation of most platforms that offer search insights is that the search only applies to one element of the site: the store, the knowledge base or the customer service functions. And all of these tend to be hosted elsewhere, each with its own cloud software. So they aren't even "on" your site. They just linked to on your site and the domain points to those elements on top of the website. 

Some of your most valuable insights on customer experience with your site can be how they engage (or don't engage) with organic content on your website, specifically if they're looking for something. So if your organic content had a search engine, you could get analytics on that from search. 

Search engine software Algolia filters can track and measure all sorts of search activity. SiteSearch360 analytics also track very comprehensive data points on search behaviour. Another benefit is that you can use these tools to personalize the content your returning visitors see.

This does come with a price tag, though. Some of these tools are pay for use, but you still need a fair bit of administration to set them up, come up with the content strategy and analysis for it and run the tools. And the results will show you what content you should invest time in at least testing, so there's that cost, as well. If you don't have a lot of website traffic and don't anticipate getting much in the near future, a simpler, cheaper tool is probably a better option for you.

4. Event-Based Analytics

I've heard good things about Mixpanel and Matomo, which are secure, comprehensive analytics tools that are surely easier to set up and analyze than GA 4 is. They both have a ton of integrations, too. A lot of apps don't have integrations with GA 4, so that's another consideration. This G2 Mixpanel vs. Matomo article compares and contrasts both platforms well and also includes reviews.