I had an annoying problem this morning that made me almost want to jump off the balcony. (Luckily, I don’t have a balcony.)
I was setting up Google Analytics for a new campaign, and it automatically forced me to use the new version of Google Analytics, GA4. Okay, such are the times.
The interface changed a bit which just meant that some options were hidden under some others, but they were all there.
Until… I had to set up the filters for the new Google Analytics property. And there was no filter option!
I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I went to the Google support page and found out where it is supposed to be: listed under Data settings.
But guess what I did see instead:
Data settings with two sub-options but missing the third!
I reloaded, cleared caches, Googled, nothing helped me.
I found a Google Help Desk thread–from yesterday!–of a bunch of people having the same problem. But no solution in sight.
What’s the solution? Who knows, but the best option seems to be to hope that it just hasn’t been rolled out yet or there’s a bug as to when and where it shows up.
This does imply the question of why, in 2020, you would need filters at all.
The general new Google Analytics GA4 vision seems to be to de-emphasize filters, preferring views instead. You can easily just exclude your traffic from the any view and create segments. Why even bother with filters?!
Well! Here are a bunch of reasons why filters are still deeply useful:
- To exclude your team’s views to the site from even being recorded in the data.
- To standardize capitalization or other non-standard characters.
- To take different pages, counted as separate pages, to be considered as one page (perhaps there’s a change in the URL, for example, but not a change in the page itself).
- To allow everyone with access to the data to see the version of the data (views and segments are just for your user, not for the other users).
- To avoid views/segments being lost (it’s happened to me a few times; GA sometimes just doesn’t save or remember them).
- To restrict traffic only to sites with a particular hostname (it has happened to me where spammers or just perhaps people making a mistake have put my tracking code on their sites, even though I don’t want these rando sites tracked!).
And so on, and so on. Even with the GA4 changes, most of these situations still exist and filters are the only solution.
The broader issue is that Google Analytics–just like Google Ads, formerly AdWords–increasingly tries to read our minds and automate everything. While that may work for the low-end, unsophisticated users, it makes it harder for higher-end sophisticated users. This ultimately drives us towards different tools better suited for our needs (I’m looking at you, Segment).
But the Elephant in the Room is that you can’t avoid Google. If you run PPC campaigns, you effectively have to run GA if only for conversion tracking. If you focus on SEO, GA signals to Google that you’re a google player in their ecosystem plus gives Google the data it needs and wants.
How do you solve this? In short, find another platform you like to do your analytics on–I happen to overuse Segment; and I think the old-school Clicky is underrated. Let’s bear with Google for the minimum necessary time… and hope they get this filter issue fixed, soon.