Exploring Google Analytics 4: All you need to know


7 min read

From Data Collection Controls to Measurement Protocol.

Data collection controls in GA4

You can control the amount of user-level and event-level data stored by Google Analytics

When you use Analytics to collect data from your digital properties, like your website or mobile app, you can partially or completely disable data collection.

Google Analytics 4 does not log or store individual IP addresses, no need to change any settings.

Set the amount of time before user-level and event-level data stored by Google Analytics is automatically deleted from Analytics servers. Note: the setting does not affect reports that rely on aggregated data.

Once implemented, Google's tags will dynamically adapt based on the consent status of your users, only using measurement tools for the specified purposes when consent's been given by the user.

Cardinality issues with GA4

Cardinality occurs when your data contains too many URLs or parameters - when there are too many data variations.

In Google Analytics 4, every dimension that records more than 500 unique values per day is considered a high cardinality dimension (source).

Example of High Cardinality - when you track the exact word count as a custom dimension on every article page, you may end up having high cardinality if you have thousands of articles because the word count can be different for every article.

The question is do you need to collect data on the exact word count for every article your visitors read to your website?

Remove data from GA4

You can remove your data from GA4 for any reason and at any time. For example, if you inadvertently collected unwanted data, such as personally identifiable information (PII) in Google Analytics, you can request the data be deleted from the Analytics servers or delete information for a single user.


Request Data Collections

If you need to delete data from the Analytics servers, you can submit a request for its removal. There's a 7-day grace period starting from the time you request Analytics will begin the deletion process. Administrators and users with edit permission for your account will be informed of your request and have the ability to cancel the request during the grace period.

Delete User Data

You can also delete a single user’s data from your Analytics account. If you have edit permission for the account, use the user exploration technique found in the Explore section. Data associated with this user will be removed from the report within 72 hours and deleted from the Analytics servers in the next deletion process.

Your reports based on previously aggregated data, like user counts in the Audience Overview report, won’t be affected.

Delete a Property

If you have edit permission, you can delete a property from your Analytics account. Your property and all the reports and data in the property will be permanently deleted 35 days after being moved to the trash can. Once deleted, you can't retrieve any historical data or reinstate reports.

Analytics User Deletion API

You can also use the Analytics User Deletion API to delete data in bulk. For example, use this API to delete data for multiple users at one time. Visit the User Deletion API guide to learn more.

Types of GA4 API

Analytics User Deletion API

To fulfill privacy obligations, you can use the Analytics User Deletion API to delete data in bulk. For example, use this API to delete data for multiple users at one time. Visit the User Deletion API guide to learn more.

Google Analytics Data API

What does it mean for other stakeholders?

Accessing the API is a good workaround if you prefer to parse through GA4 data without any restrictions from its user interface. Using the API allows any marketer to customize their workflow when needed.

Use the API in combination with other applications to create powerful integrations. The result of using the API is getting a more comprehensive understanding of Google Analytics data. With this knowledge, you can make more informed decisions about your marketing strategy.

Combine Business Data in Google Analytics

Each business system you use generates its own data. This includes Google Analytics, which uses website tags and the Firebase SDK to send data to Analytics from websites and apps. You may want to adjust the data sent to Analytics, or widen the data Analytics collects with other data and signals relevant to your business to make it even more meaningful and drive better business decisions.

For example, your CRM might contain information like customer-loyalty ratings, lifetime values, and product preferences.

If you're a web publisher, your content-management system might store dimensions like author and article category.

If you run an eCommerce business, you store item attributes like price, style, and size.

Note that tags and/or the Firebase SDK need to be implemented for each website and app individually.

Use Case #1

Gabriela uses Google Analytics to gain insights into how her customers use her photo editing app and website. She also has business data outside of Analytics, including information about her pro-level subscribers. She wants to combine this data with the data in already in Analytics to gain more insight into these customers.

There are several ways to customize and integrate this kind of data with Analytics data. The 3 options are.

Modify and create Events

You can use the Analytics interface to change existing events and create new events.
Events are the backbone of how Analytics collects and processes data. Events provide insight into what's happening on your website or app, such as page views, button clicks, user actions, or system events.

To adjust the data that’s flowing into Analytics, you can change existing events and create new events without changing the code on your site or app. Let's look at some common examples for each.

Change existing event

  • Rename an event so the same event name is used across various properties and data streams.

  • Fix a typo that's causing a measurement error.

Create new event

Website visitors already trigger the page_view event when they view any page, but you may want to use page views of a specific page as a separate event. Create a new event from the existing page_view event, and only fire it when a visitor views the specific page.

If this specific page is important, you can mark this new event as a conversion.

🔔 Note: When a new event is created and an action meets its criteria, the action may also meet the criteria of the original event. For example, if you create a new event on your website's homepage and name it page_view_homepage, when a user visits your homepage, both the page_view_homepage event and the original page_view event will be triggered and both events will be counted.

Once your website tags and/or the Firebase SDK are set up, many basic interactions with your website or app are automatically collected as events in Google Analytics. For example, the first time a user visits your website, the property logs this action as a first_visitevent.

Measurement Protocol

Measurement Protocol lets you send data to Google Analytics from internet-connected devices like a kiosk or point-of-sale system that complements your website or app.

Measurement Protocol is to augment data collection via gtag, Tag Manager, and Google Analytics for Firebase. It is not a mean to replace them.

Image Source: Google

Resources: https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/protocol/ga4

Data Import

Upload data from external sources and join it with your Analytics data.

Missing 📊Dimension and Metrics in Looker Studio

Looker Studio, relies on the Google Analytics Data API to retrieve data. If the dimension and metrics - building blocks for the data are not in the API schema, it will not show up on Looker Studio.

Where else to look for that data?

The data ( 📊Dimension and Metrics) could be found in reports, explorations, Audiences and in BigQuery when you set up BigQuery Export.

4 'Reporting Surfaces'

Depending on your specific needs and your organization's analytics maturity level (Embrace, Empower, Evolve*), there are 4 different places to access the data that being collected on GA4.

🤗 Embrace
1. Reports & Insights (Google Analytics UI)
2. Explorations (Google Analytics UI)

⚡ Empower
3. Google Analytics Data API (Looker Studio)

4. BigQuery (Google Cloud Platform)

The data building blocks- dimensions and metrics also vary among the 4 'Reporting Surfaces' (Google's terminology)

* A client in Ireland used to categorize it as Crawl, Walk, Run. But I prefer my 3E - Embrace, Empower, Evolve