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

What is GA4 (Google Analytics 4)?

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

Following are the other three versions:

Note: GA4 also uses the gtag.js library but uses a new measurement model called ‘Event+Parameter’ model.

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.

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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 robust ecommerce reporting and attribution modelling. 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 (because GA4 is built on firebase analytics). But it is quite different from any GA3 reporting view.

At first glance, GA4 may look intimidating as many of the reports and metrics that you have been familiar with are not there. They have either been removed or replaced.

You are going to see different sets of reports in your GA 4 view and you are not going to see many reports. This is because many of the reports are generated only when you start tracking events.

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Advantages of using the GA4 property

#1 GA4 property enables more robust cross-device and cross-platform tracking.

You can combine website and mobile app usage data into one GA property. This is more powerful than the roll-up property you may have used in the past to combine web and app data as both platform now use the same schema. 

Thus a GA4 property enables more robust cross-device and cross-platform tracking.

#2 Accurate reporting on unique users across platforms.

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

#3 Advanced Analysis reports are available to all GA users.

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:

 

Note: The 360 version of GA4 would be available at a later date.

#4 Free connection to Big Query

GA4 comes with a free connection to Big Query. Earlier this feature was available only to the GA 360 customers. So now you can access the raw GA data and can run SQL queries on it.

#5 No limits on the volume of data you can send

There are no limits on the volume of data you can send to a GA4 property. However, there are certain limits on the number of unique events you can use.

#6 Automatic tracking for certain types of events

A GA4 property has got the ‘enhanced measurement‘ feature which enables automatic tracking for certain types of events (like scroll tracking, video tracking, exit tracking, site search tracking, etc) without any additional coding/tagging.

#7 Debugging available within the reporting interface

The GA4 reporting view provides the debugView report through which you can validate your analytics configuration for apps.

#8 Robust Cross-Platform Insight

You can measure a 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.

#9 New set of engagement metrics for more accurate tracking

GA4 reporting view provides a new set of engagement metrics (Engaged Sessions, Engagement Rate, Engaged Sessions per User, Engagement Time) which can much more accurately track users engagement with your website/app.

There is no concept of bounce rate in GA4 reports. This metric has been replaced by Engagement Rate. It is calculated as:

Engagement Rate = engaged sessions / sessions

Here,

An Engaged session is a GA session in which a user has actively interacted with your website/app for at least 10 seconds. The GA session in which a conversion event is fired or two or more pageviews/screenviews are fired is also reported as an engaged session.

Since Engagement rate does not rely only on pageviews it can be easily used across platforms (website and mobile app) for measuring users engagement.

This is not the case with the bounce rate metric which usually fails to measure user engagement on mobile apps and other single-page apps. Bounce rate also does not work well in certain niches like publishing (news, blogs) where single-page sessions are common. 

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 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+pageviews centric measurement model. 

GA4 allows you to track any user activity (including pageviews) as an event. You can also create your own custom events.

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 The GA4 property is not really ready for commercial consumption. There are many reports (which you have come to rely on) 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.

#2 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 still not fit for commercial consumption. 

#3 Little to no data on attribution. If you are thinking of carrying out attribution modelling then that is not possible with GA4. Maybe in the future but not for now.

Setting up and deploying analytics and marketing tags are not the same as they used to be in the case of Universal Analytics. So complete migration to GA4 is going to be very time-consuming and difficult.

Other articles related to GA4 (Google Analytics 4)

#1 GA4 Intro

  1. What is GA4 (Google Analytics 4) – The Apps + Web Property?
  2. Key Benefits of Using Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  3. How to upgrade to GA4 (Google Analytics 4)
  4. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) vs Universal Analytics – What is the difference?
  5. Google Signals GA4 – See demographics (gender, age) in Google Analytics 4
  6. Understanding Google Analytics Measurement ID (GA4)
  7. Google Analytics 4 training and tutorial
  8. Using the GA4 test property

#2 GA4 Integration

  1. How to connect GA4 (Google Analytics 4) with Google Data Studio
  2. How to link GA4 (Google Analytics 4) with Google Ads
  3. GA4 BigQuery – Connect Google Analytics 4 with BigQuery

#3 GA4 Events

  1. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Event Tracking Setup Tutorial
  2. How to set up GA4 Custom Events via Google Tag Manager
  3. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Enhanced Measurement Tracking Tutorial
  4. Events Report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  5. GA4 User Properties (User Scoped Custom Dimensions) – Tutorial
  6. Event Scoped Custom Dimensions in GA4 – Tutorial

#4 GA4 Conversions

  1. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Conversion Tracking Guide
  2. How to import conversions from GA4 property to your Google Ads account

#5 GA4 Dimensions and Metrics

  1. GA4 Metrics Tutorial with Free Google Analytics 4 Ebook
  2. GA4 Custom Metrics Tutorial
  3. GA4 Dimensions Tutorial
  4. GA4 Custom Dimensions Tutorial

#6 GA4 Ecommerce

  1. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Ecommerce Tracking via GTM – Tutorial

#7 GA4 Specialized Tracking

  1. Cross Domain Tracking in GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Setup Guide
  2. GA4 Site Search – Tracking Site Search in Google Analytics 4
  3. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Scroll Tracking Tutorial
  4. How to Install Google Analytics 4 on Shopify
  5. Self-referral Google Analytics 4 – Referral exclusion GA4
  6. GA4 Data Import Tutorial

#8 GA4 filters

  1. GA4 filters – Understanding data filters in Google Analytics 4
  2. How to create and test filters in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?
  3. Exclude internal traffic in GA4 (Google Analytics 4) via IP filter

#9 GA4 Analysis Hub

  1. Analysis Hub Google Analytics – Exploration Report in GA4 (Google Analytics 4)
  2. How to use the user lifetime report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  3. How to use path analysis report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  4. How to use Segment Overlap Report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  5. How to use the Funnel Analysis Report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

#10 GA4 Advanced

  1. How to use Debug View report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  2. Understanding GA4 measurement protocol
  3. How to create a remarketing audience in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  4. GA4 Audiences – Creating custom audience in Google Analytics 4
  5. How to build comparison (Advanced segment) in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

#11 GA4 Reporting

  1. How to create custom insights in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)


Frequently asked questions about GA4

What is Google Analytics 4?

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

IS GA4 a replacement for the older GA3 version?

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 robust ecommerce reporting and attribution modelling. So I would suggest that you create and use the GA4 property in parallel with your GA3 property.

What are the big advantages of GA4?

#1 GA4 property enables more robust cross-device and cross-platform tracking.
#2 Accurate reporting on unique users across platforms.
#3 Advanced Analysis reports are available to all GA users rather than just GA360 users.
#4 Free connection to BigQuery.
#5 No limits on the volume of data you can send.
#6 Automatic tracking for certain types of events.
#7 Debugging available within the reporting interface.
#8 Robust cross-platform insight.
#9 New set of engagement metrics for more accurate tracking.

Is it easy to migrate to GA4?

Setting up and deploying analytics and marketing tags are not the same as they used to be in the case of Universal Analytics. So complete migration to GA4 is going to be very time-consuming and difficult.

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