Lost in GA4 Reporting Options? We’ve Got You


The Gist

  • Maximizing Google Analytics 4 (GA4) reporting tools: GA4 offers four methods to extract data, including Standard Reports, Explorations, Data API, and BigQuery Export, giving users flexibility and powerful analytics options.
  • Understanding the strengths and limitations of GA4’s reporting options: Standard Reports serve high-level and frequent lookups; Explorations offer advanced report types and deeper analysis.
  • Leveraging GA4 for advanced marketing decisions: The transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 provides an enhanced platform for marketers to extract valuable insights.

Congratulations! You put in the work, rallied your engineers, and successfully migrated from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

Now what?

How do you pull the data you need to make well-informed marketing decisions? With GA4, there’s an abundance of choice which can make it daunting for users who don’t know where to start.

Google has provided four different methods to pull data out of GA4: Standard Reports, Explorations, the Data API and the BigQuery export. In contrast, free users of Universal Analytics had only two options: Standard Reports & the Reporting API. The two additional options in GA4 (Explorations and BigQuery Export) are unique in that they work from raw data as opposed to pre-aggregated data. With raw data, you can pose questions that you otherwise cannot to aggregate data, but the computational power required is greater. What that means in practice is that Explorations are subject to data retention and sampling limits while your requests to BigQuery will potentially generate usage fees.

GA3 Reporting Options

Aggregate Data

Raw Data

Standard Reports

Reporting API

BigQuery Export (GA360 Customers Only)

GA4 Reporting Options

Aggregate Data

Raw Data

Standard Reports

Data API


BigQuery Export

Now that you have a high-level overview, let’s dig into when you might want to use or avoid each option.

GA4 Standard Reports: Use for Basic Inquiries

Standard Reports are the reports available as soon as you log in to the GA4 interface. While these are meant to mimic the Standard Reports available in GA3, you may notice that they are limited in both form and function. Not all dimensions are available in standard reports and the chart types are limited to line, scatter and bar. Google has moved advanced visualizations and analyses to the “Exploration” reports (more on those later) which means that “standard” reports should be used only for frequent lookups and basic inquiries.

When to Use GA4 Standard Reports

  • When you have frequent needs to look at the same high-level metrics broken down by one or two dimensions.
  • When you need to view metrics across very long time periods and want to avoid sampling.
  • When you’ve deployed a consent banner and want to view modeled data.

When to Avoid GA4 Standard Reports

GA4 Standard Reports

  • When you need to break down your report by more than two dimensions.
  • When you want to view data broken out by segment and the segment has not yet been defined as an “Audience.”

Related Article: 8 Google Analytics 4 Features That Leave Universal Analytics in the Dust

GA4 Explorations: Fueled by Raw Data

Explorations are a new, advanced reporting option available in GA4. Given that it’s brand new, it tends to cause some confusion around how its reports and the data behind those reports differ from other reporting options. What may be helpful to know is that the reason Explorations are broken out into its own interface is because they are fueled by raw data while Standard Reports are fueled by pre-aggregate data. What this means in practice is that you can ask questions in Explorations that you can’t ask in Standard reports.

With this additional power comes a few limitations: The raw data fueling these reports is retained for up to 13 months and data will be sampled after 10 million events are included in the analysis. Both limitations are relaxed for paying customers.


Source link