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

Last Updated: September 9, 2022

What is GA4 (Google Analytics 4)?

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google Analytics.

Since it is the fourth version, it is called GA4.

Following are the other three versions:

  1. The first version of Google Analytics (GA1) is the Classic Google Analytics which uses the ga.js JavaScript library.
  2. The second version of Google Analytics (GA2) is Universal Analytics which uses the analytics.js JavaScript library.
  3. The third version of Google Analytics (GA3) is also Universal Analytics, but it uses the gtag.js JavaScript library.

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

In the past, if you wanted 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, you 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 ‘App+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).

The GA4 property is available in your GA account when you create a new property.

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 will discontinue support for GA3 and other older GA versions.

If you don’t have a mobile app, your GA4 property can be used to measure your website performance.

However:

GA4 has not yet become a 100% replacement for your GA3 property. It lacks robust ecommerce reporting and attribution modelling features. So keep your GA3 tracking intact for as long as possible.

The reporting view you create in the GA4 property is called the GA4 reporting view.

Note: You can create only one reporting view in a GA4 property.

The user 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.

user interface ga4 view

At first glance, the GA4 view may look intimidating as many of the reports and metrics you have been familiar with are not there.

They have either been removed or replaced.

You will see different sets of reports in your GA4 view, and you will not see many reports. 

FAQ: Why does GA4 not have many reports?

Google wants you to use Google Data Studio for reporting purposes or create your own reports from scratch using the Explorations report templates: 

exploration report templates

That’s why GA4 does not come with many reports.

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 platforms now use the same schema. 

Therefore, 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 ‘Explorations‘, which lets you do advanced analysis.

explorations ga4 1

Previously these reports were available only to GA 360 users.

Note: The 360 version of GA4 will be available later.

#4 Free connection to BigQuery

Big query linking

GA4 comes with a free connection to BigQuery.

Earlier, this feature was available only to the GA 360 customers.

So now you can access the raw GA data and 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

enhance measurement

A GA4 property has the ‘enhanced measurement‘ feature that 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

ga4 debugView 1

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 a better user experience. 

#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) that can track users’ engagement with your website/app much more accurately.

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 where a user has actively interacted with your website/app for at least ten seconds.

The GA session in which a conversion event or two or more pageviews/screenviews are fired is also reported as an engagement session.

Since the 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. 

To learn more about the advantages of using GA4, check out this article: Key Benefits of Using Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

The new Google Analytics Account Structure

The new Google Analytics accounts structure

With the advent of GA4 property, the Google Analytics account structure has changed.

A Google Analytics account is made up of one or more GA4 properties.

A GA4 property is made up of one or more data streams.

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

The two versions of GA4: GA4 Standard and GA4 360

GA4 Standard is free to use version of GA4. Whereas, GA4 360 is the paid version (monthly subscription) of GA4:

ga4 standard ga4 360 1

Following are the main differences between GA4 and GA4 360:

  1. Free Vs Paid
  2. Data Processing and Accuracy
  3. Enterprise-level analytics
  4. Technical support
  5. Availability
  6. Legal requirements
  7. Data Limits
  8. Data Freshness
  9. Event Parameters
  10. Event Scoped Custom Dimensions
  11. Event Scoped Custom Metrics
  12. User Scoped Custom Dimensions
  13. Conversions
  14. Audiences
  15. Exploration reports
  16. Data Sampling for Exploration reports
  17. Unsampled Data for Exploration reports
  18. Data Retention
  19. BigQuery Export Limit
  20. Subproperties
  21. Roll-up Properties
  22. Automatic Custom Tables
  23. Product integrations
  24. CRM integration
  25. Native remarketing integrations

To learn about the differences between GA4 and GA4 360 in great detail, go through the following article: GA4 vs GA4 360 – What is the difference?

Introduction to data streams

A data stream is a data source.  

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

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

There are two types of 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 the IOS app data stream.

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

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

add data stream ga4

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 data 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, Stream ID and Status:

click on data stream ga4
web stream details

Note: Each GA4 property can have up to 50 data streams. These data streams can be any combination of web and app data streams. However, there is a limit of 30 app data streams per GA4 property.

How many GA4 properties do you need?

As a rule of thumb use one GA4 property for each website.

So, if you own/manage only one website then you need only one GA4 property.

You should also consider setting up one GA4 property just for testing purposes. We call such property a GA4 test property.

Note: You don’t need a separate GA4 property just for tracking subdomains as the subdomains are tracked automatically in GA4.

To learn more about how to structure your Google Analytics account for GA4, check out this article: Google Analytics Account Hierarchy (structure explained)

The new ‘Event + Parameter’ measurement model

The GA4 property uses the ‘Event + Parameter’ measurement model (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 websites in a single GA4 reporting view.

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

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‘:

enhance measurement property details

Changing GA4 property settings

Following are the various ways through which you can change the settings of your GA4 property:

#1 Changing the reporting timezone or currency of your GA4 property

property settings

#2 Adding or removing users from a GA4 property

GA4 property access management
adding users to a ga4 property

#3 Adding a data stream

add stream
adding web data stream

#4 Editing a data stream

demo account
What is GA4 (Google Analytics 4) - The App+Web Property? 67
web stream details edit
update data stream ga4

#5 Removing a data stream

stream details
delete data stream ga4

#6 Enabling/disabling the enhanced measurement events 

enhanced measurement toggle

#7 Changing the settings of the enhanced measurement events

enhanced measurement settings
enhanced measurement

#8 Managing connected site tags

manage connected site tags ga4

#9 Creating an API secret to enable additional events to be sent through Measurement Protocol

measurement protocol api secrets ga4

#10 Modifying incoming events and parameters

modify events ga4

#11 Creating new events from existing events (custom events)

create custom events ga4

#12 Configuring your domain for cross-domain measurement

configure tag settings ga4
configure your domains ga4

#13 Excluding internal traffic from being tracked

show all
define internal traffic ga4

#14 Adding or removing domains whose traffic should NOT be considered to be referrals (unwanted referrals)

list unwanted referrals

#15 Adjusting session timeout

adjust session timeout ga4 2
adjust session timeout ga4 2 1

#16 Adjusting timer for engaged sessions

Adjusting timer for engaged sessions ga4

#17 Enabling/disabling the collection of universal analytics events

collect universal analytics events

#18 Enabling/disabling Google Signals Data Collection

data collection

#19 Changing user and event data retention settings 

event data retention

#20 Enabling/disabling ‘Reset user data on new activity’

data retention setting

#21 Adding, removing or editing data filters

data filters

#22 Uploading data from external data sources

data import

#23 Changing reporting identity

reporting identity

#24 Changing attribution settings (like reporting attribution model and lookback window)

reporting attribution model
attribution settings

#25 Checking out the change history of your GA4 Property

property change history ga4

#26 Deleting data from the GA4 property through data deletion requests

data deletion

#27 Linking GA4 property with other Google products

product links

Related Articles:

#28 Checking out Analytics Intelligence Search History

analytics intelligence search history

#29 Marking/un-marking an event as a conversion

mark as conversion

#30 Creating new events

create event

#31 Modifying existing events

Modify event ga4

#32 Creating a new conversion event

new conversion

#33 Changing the network settings of a conversion event

network settings

#34 Creating new audiences

new audience

#35 Creating, editing or archiving custom dimensions

create dimensions
edit archive custom dimensions ga4

#36 Creating, editing or archiving custom metrics

custom definitions
edit archive custom metrics ga4

#37 Creating a new report collection

create new collection ga4

A collection (also known as report collection) is a set of reports in GA4. 

#38 Editing an existing report collection

edit collection ga4

#39 Creating a new report

create new report ga4

Some caveats to watch out for

Following are some major drawbacks of using a GA4 property:

#1 You would need formal training in order to use a GA4 property as it is nothing like GA3.

#2 The user interface of GA4 is not user-friendly. It is not intuitive to use.

#3 Reports and various metrics are not easy to understand. This is because GA4 combines web and app data that are fundamentally different and should have been kept separate.

#4 Many reports and metrics which you have come to rely on in GA3 are simply missing in the reporting view of GA4 property. For example, there is very limited data on audience, acquisition, behaviour and conversions.

#5 The ecommerce tracking capabilities in GA4 are not as robust as they are in GA3. For example, GA4 lacks enhanced ecommerce tracking capabilities.

#6 The multi-channel funnel reports in GA4 are pretty much non-existent.

#7 You can create only one reporting view in a standard GA4 property (unless you are using GA4 360).

#8 GA4 lets you rename, add or remove reports from the left-hand side navigation.

In a multi-user environment, people may not understand the context in which the reports were renamed and/or reorganized. This lack of standardization could lead to a lack of clarity and more ambiguity. It could make finding data much more difficult.

#9 Complete migration from GA3 to GA4 could be very time-consuming and difficult.

Setting up and deploying analytics and marketing tags are not the same as they used to be in the case of GA3. So complete migration from GA3 to GA4 could be very time-consuming and difficult.

#10 GA4 is still not a substitute for GA3. Not even close. So do not even think of replacing your GA3 property with GA4 property. Run GA4 in parallel to GA3 as long as possible.

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

#1 Google Analytics 4 Intro

  1. What is GA4 (Google Analytics 4) – The Apps + Web Property?
  2. Key Benefits of Using Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  3. Setup GA4 – Upgrade to GA4 – Implementation Guide
  4. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) vs Universal Analytics – What is the Difference?
  5. GA4 vs GA4 360 – Pricing, Limits, Billing and More
  6. Google Analytics 4 Training & Tutorial with FREE GA4 ebook

#2 Google Analytics 4 Property

  1. Google Analytics Account Hierarchy (Structure Explained)
  2. Understanding Google Analytics Measurement ID (GA4)
  3. Google Signals GA4 – See Demographics (Gender, Age) in Google Analytics 4
  4. Using the GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Test Property
  5. Google Analytics 4 Sub Properties Tutorial
  6. Roll up Property in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) – Tutorial

#3 Google Analytics 4 Integrations

  1. How to connect GA4 (Google Analytics 4) with Google Data Studio
  2. How to link GA4 (Google Analytics 4) with Google Ads
  3. How to link Google Search Console to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  4. How to Install Google Analytics 4 on Shopify
  5. GA4 Firebase Integration – Correctly Add App Data Streams to GA4 Property

#4 Google Analytics 4 Events

  1. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Event Tracking Setup Tutorial
  2. Understanding Event Parameters in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  3. Recommended Events in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  4. Enhanced Measurement Events in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  5. Automatically Collected Events in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  6. How to Set Up GA4 Custom Events via Google Tag Manager
  7. Events Report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  8. How to Rename Events in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  9. How to Use Google Analytics 4 Event Builder

#5 Google Analytics 4 Conversions

  1. Google Analytics 4 Conversion Tracking Guide – GA4 Goals
  2. How to Import Conversions from GA4 Property to Your Google Ads account
  3. GA4 Conversion Rate – How to find it and use it

#6 Google Analytics 4 Dimensions

  1. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Dimensions Tutorial
  2. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Custom Dimensions Tutorial
  3. GA4 User Properties (User Scoped Custom Dimensions) – Tutorial
  4. Event Scoped Custom Dimensions in GA4 – Tutorial

#7 Google Analytics 4 Metrics

  1. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Metrics Tutorial with Free Google Analytics 4 Ebook
  2. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Custom Metrics Tutorial
  3. What are Predictive Metrics in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

#8 Google Analytics 4 Ecommerce

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

#9 Google Analytics 4 Specialized Tracking

  1. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Enhanced Measurement Tracking Tutorial
  2. Cross Domain Tracking in GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Setup Guide
  3. GA4 Site Search – Tracking Site Search in Google Analytics 4
  4. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Scroll Tracking Tutorial
  5. Self-referral Google Analytics 4 – Referral exclusion GA4
  6. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Data Import Tutorial
  7. Google Analytics 4 Content Grouping – Create Content Groups in GA4
  8. How to Track Single Page Apps in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  9. utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign Parameters – GA4 (Google Analytics 4) 

#10 Google Analytics 4 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

#11 Google Analytics 4 Explorations

  1. Free Form Report in GA4 (Google Analytics 4) – Exploration Report
  2. How to Use the User Lifetime Report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  3. How to Use Path Exploration Report in GA4 (Google Analytics 4) – Path Analysis
  4. How to Use Segment Overlap Report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  5. How to Use the Funnel Exploration Report in GA4 (Google Analytics 4) – Funnel Analysis
  6. Cohort Exploration Report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  7. How to Create Landing Pages Report in GA4 (Google Analytics 4)
  8. How to Create Google Ads report in GA4 (Google Analytics 4)
  9. How to Segment GA4 Data by Data Stream
  10. Organic Search Traffic Analysis in GA4 – Complete Guide

#12 Google Analytics 4 Advanced

  1. Understanding Google Analytics 4 Sessions
  2. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Measurement Protocol Tutorial
  3. How to Build Comparisons (Advanced Segments) in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  4. Understanding Automated Insights in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  5. Understanding Channel Groupings in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  6. Understanding Data Sampling in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

#13 Google Analytics 4 Reports

  1. How to Create Custom Insights in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  2. How to Use Debug View Report in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

#14 Google Analytics 4 Attribution

  1. Guide to Attribution Models in GA4 (Google Analytics 4)
  2. How to Change Attribution Models in GA4 (Google Analytics 4)?
  3. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Conversion Paths Report in Attribution
  4. GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Model Comparison Report in Attribution
  5. Advertising Snapshot in GA4 (Google Analytics 4) Attribution
  6. GA4 Attribution Modelling Tutorial

#15 Google Analytics 4 Audiences

  1. GA4 Audiences – Creating Custom Audience in Google Analytics 4
  2. How to Create a Remarketing Audience in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  3. Understanding Audience Triggers in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
  4. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Predictive Audiences – Tutorial

#16 Google Analytics 4 BigQuery

  1. GA4 BigQuery – Connect Google Analytics 4 with BigQuery
  2. BigQuery GA4 Schema – Send Custom GA4 Data to BigQuery
  3. How to Backfill GA4 Data in BigQuery
  4. How to Connect and Export Data from GA

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 a 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 is 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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