What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4) – The Apps + Web Property

GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics. Since it is the 4th version, it is called as GA4.

Following are the other three versions:

In the past, if you want to measure your website usage data then you would need to use the GA property meant for tracking website data. 

If you want to measure your mobile app usage data then you would need to use Google Analytics for Firebase or Google Analytics APP view (created via separate GA property).

There was no easy way to combine mobile app and website usage data for unified reporting and analysis. However, this has all changed with the advent of GA4 property (formerly known as ‘Apps and Web’ property).

Google Analytics allows you to integrate mobile app and website usage data into a single GA Property. This new property is called ‘Google Analytics 4 (or GA4)’ and it is available in your GA account when you create a new property.

If you have got both a mobile app and a website and you want to measure the purchase journey and/or engagement of your users across your mobile app and website then you should start using the GA4 property immediately.

Even if you don’t have a mobile app, Google still recommends that you create and use the GA4 property and run in parallel with your GA3 property as eventually Google is likely to discontinue support for GA3 and other older GA versions.

You can use and take advantage of the new GA4 property even if you don’t have any mobile app. In that case, you can just use it to measure your website performance.

However,

GA4 won’t become a 100% replacement for your GA3 property, anytime soon. It is still not ready for commercial consumption mainly because of lack of ecommerce reporting. So keep your GA3 property intact.

The reporting view that you create in GA4 property is the GA4 view. The reporting interface of the GA4 view looks similar to that of Google Analytics for firebase. But it is quite different from any GA3 reporting view.

 

You are going to see different sets of reports in your GA 4 view.

Advantage of using the GA4 property

#1 You can combine website and mobile app usage data into one GA property. Thus enabling more robust cross-device and cross-platform tracking.

#2 The reporting view in the GA4 property report on total unique users across platforms. You can not get this insight through any other GA property type.

#3 The reporting view of the GA4 property comes with a new set of reports called ‘Analysis’ which let you do advanced analysis. Previously these reports were available only to GA 360 users:

#4 You can measure customer purchase journey across your website and mobile apps. Such cross-platform insight can help you: 

#1 In improving your understanding of customer purchase journey across platforms and providing better user experience as a result. 

#2 Fixing cross-device attribution issues.  For example, you can determine the number of users who started their purchase journey on your mobile app before visiting your website to complete the purchase. 

#3 Understanding the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns across devices/platforms. For example, you can determine the marketing channel(s) responsible for acquiring the most customers across different platforms.

The new Google Analytics Account Structure

With the advent of GA4 property, the Google Analytics account structure has changed a bit. Now we have got data stream(s) under the new GA4 property.

In the context of the Google ecosystem, an organization represents a company that owns one or more Google products (like Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Google Optimize, Google Data Studio, etc). 

You access your organizations at https://marketingplatform.google.com/home 

You can link one or more GA accounts to your organization. 

Each GA account is made up of one or more properties (called the GA property). Earlier a GA property used to represent either website or mobile app. Now a GA property can also represent both websites and mobile apps.  

The property that collects data from your website is called the ‘web’ property:

The property that collects data from your mobile apps is called the ‘Apps’ property:

The property that collects data from both your mobile apps and website is called the ‘Apps and Web’ property (now known as GA4 property):

Note: The GA4 property currently provides only one reporting view. This view can contain data from one or more data streams.

Introduction to Data Streams

A data stream is a data source.  

When the data source is a website, it is called a web data stream.

When the data source is a mobile app, it is called a mobile app data stream.

There are two types of the mobile app data stream:

  1. IOS app data stream
  2. Android app data stream

When the data source is an IOS mobile app, it is called an IOS app data stream.

When the data source is an Android mobile app, it is called an Android app data stream.

You can add one or more data streams to your GA4 property:

 

Note: While you can connect multiple mobile data streams to your GA4 property, you can connect only one web data stream to your GA4 property.

You can view all of the data from multiple streams in your GA4 reports or you can filter reports to include data only from the specific stream(s).

It is important to remember that the reporting view in the GA4 property can not collect data retroactively. It collects data only from the date you first connected your data stream(s) to the property. That’s why it is important that you set up your GA4 property now and not wait till later.

When you connect a new data stream to your GA4 property, it can take up to 24 hours for new data to appear in your reports.

A web data stream has got: Stream URL, Stream name, Measurement ID and Stream ID:

The new ‘Event + Parameter’ measurement model

The GA4 property uses the ‘Event + Parameter’ measurement model (which is user-centric) instead of the traditional session centric measurement model. 

The new event model is more flexible than the traditional event model in terms of its ability to track a wider range of user interactions, from pageviews, app open, outbound clicks, scrolls to video engagement, file downloads, etc. 

Google has to make these changes for the following two reasons:

#1 To make it possible, to see integrated reporting across mobile apps and website in a single GA4 reporting view.

#2 Be able to use a single set of metrics and dimensions across mobile apps and website.

The ‘event + parameter’ based data model allows you to measure any custom event and can automate certain types of event tracking (like scroll tracking, video tracking, exit tracking, site search tracking, etc) without additional coding/tagging. 

This new feature of automatically measuring certain users’ interactions and content on your website (in addition to standard page view measurement) is called ‘Enhanced measurement‘:

Some caveats to watch out for

#1 GA4 property does not provide robust roll-up reporting between Universal Analytics and Google Analytics for firebase yet. This roll-up reporting is still in its infancy. So don’t get your hopes so high. 

#2 The GA4 property is not really ready for commercial consumption. There are many reports missing in the reporting view of GA4 property. So do not even think of replacing your GA3 property with GA4 property. I would suggest that you create and use the GA4 property in parallel with your GA3 property.

#3 You can collect very limited e-commerce data in the reporting view of your GA4 property. This is one of its biggest drawbacks and why it is not fit for commercial consumption. 

Related Article: How to upgrade to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) 

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