How to cope without views in GA4
Views have always been a staple of a good set up in Universal Analytics (UA). For years, marketers and analysts have drilled into us that we need more than one view for the optimal Universal Analytics use. With the creation of 25 views per Property allowed, how could we resist segmenting the life out of everything? Three views per Property at least – Raw view, test view, master/reporting View – has been an industry standard for so long. Anything else might take some getting used to.
There are a few key reasons why views in Universal Analytics were so important. Let’s look at each of them and then explore what the new GA4 solution should be.
Filtering data in Universal Analytics can have many advantages, such as excluding data from your company’s IP address (often referred to as ‘Internal’ traffic). Internal traffic can skew your data, as often marketers, developers and analysts need to use your site to test new code, tags or just browse a lovely new landing page from the customer’s viewpoint. Sending this data to GA will inflate your traffic and conversion numbers, which, when used in reporting, can cause an incorrect view of your website’s performance.
Filtering UA data happens before the data gets into Analytics, so any data that is filtered out is unrecoverable during the timeframe the filter was applied. This makes the Testing View essential to ensure that only the data you want to be excluded is picked up by your filter.
- What’s the GA4 solution?
GA4 has a built-in feature for setting up and testing filters, removing the need for testing in a separate view. Creating filters in GA4 is now a two-step process, first defining your ‘Internal’ traffic, then switching from ‘Testing’ to ‘Active’ when you’re confident the filter is working as expected.
Filtering in GA4 is limited to IP addresses & Debug Mode traffic, compared to UA’s more extensive filter options, meaning not all filters from UA can currently be replicated in GA4. There is a 10 filter per Property limit in GA4; but considering the only filter options available are exclude Internal or Developer traffic, this is unlikely to be a problem.
Segmentation of data was another reason views in UA got so much hype. Lots or marketers advocated creating views for specific sub-sections of data, such as Paid Search only or Country-specific – claiming metrics would be skewed when looking at the Worldwide View, when your main client base is only in the UK.
- What’s the GA4 solution?
Comparisons are essentially Universal Analytics’ Advanced Segments – but better. Comparisons can have up to five conditions, giving you the ability to create broad or very specific subsections of data. Once added, comparisons will be included in all your standard reports (including Real Time) and can be turned into segments for use in Explorations.
The biggest downside to Comparisons is that they can’t be saved, so if you need to use the same Comparisons on a regular basis this is not the solution for you. They are ideal for quickly checking a certain set of your data, but for a more long-term solution creating Segments in Exploration reports, or simply filtering specific Explorations removes the need for any data-specific Views.
User ID view
A User ID view was developed to improve cross-device tracking by only including data in the view when a user-ID is sent alongside the tracking data. Each ID sent to this view was counted as a unique user. This special view includes a set of cross-device reports, not available in standard UA views, giving you the ability to analyse data across multiple devices, to compare how users interact with your site.
Whilst this UA feature is useful, it is limited only to websites with functionality to link a specific user with a persistent, unique ID, such as having a log in section on your site.
- What’s the GA4 solution?
This one is simple. GA4 can collect data both with and without a user ID in the same Property, removing the need for an additional user ID view. During your GA4 set up process, you will be able to specify in the reporting identity settings how you want to identify users. You are given two options here: identify users by user ID, Google Signals, then device – or just by user ID then device. Google Signals data will be included once you activate Google Signals and there is sufficient traffic in your Property.
You will still need to create & assign your own IDs to users, in the same way as in UA: via a sign-in or similar function. You also need to set the reporting identity to include user ID. However, if you don’t have a sign-in option Google can use data from Google Signals and devices alongside the improved Machine Learning capabilities to join up user activity.
Google confirmed Universal Analytics will stop collecting data from 1st July next year. Previous blogs are available to help you know more about what to expect with GA4 and approach getting the most of your set up today and in the future:
An overview of GA4, its new interface, metrics, and key comparisons with Universal Analytics
An update on product linking for Search Console, Google Ads, DV360 and a closer look at the depth offered by increased UTM parameters, channel groupings and data-driven attribution.