There are many differences between Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4). One very important change is that the feature known as “views” is not available in GA4 and is unlikely to return.

A lot of people are concerned about this missing feature, but there are other ways in GA4 to solve for many of the use cases for views. This article will address some of those more common use cases and how to deal with them as part of your migration to GA4.

A brief recap of views and Universal Properties

Views provided the ability to make a copy of data and modify it, allowing one to maintain the original data as a backup. While helpful, views could become redundant if the settings across views were inconsistent. Goals not configured in all views, Ads not linked, or missing query parameter exclusions are examples of inconsistent configurations. 

Views can also distort data. The most common example is with subdomain inclusions where views can ignore hits that occurred prior to the inclusion criteria, potentially leading to incorrect channel reporting, incorrect bounce rate, etc. 

The common best practice views we recommended for Universal Properties are:

  • Master – standard view for the majority of reporting
  • Testing – view for testing filters before applying them to “Master”
  • Raw – view without any manipulations

Other common views include:

  • User ID – includes hits for authenticated users
  • Hostname-based inclusive views – commonly used for reporting only on a blog subdomain.
  • Hostname-exclusive views – commonly used by marketing teams to exclude unwanted domains, such as product hits from existing customers who already converted
  • Excluding developer hits, or internal traffic 

While views come across as critical for migration to many, Google is addressing this by understanding the various use cases for views. This way we only need to adjust one view, which streamlines management in the long term.

Google Analytics 4 Features to Address “Views” Use Cases

Knowing views are not going to be available in GA4 properties, let’s discuss a few GA4 features that will support some of the above use cases.

Use Case: Exclude development hits 

Solution 1: Use a dev property
Development hits should be sent to an alternate property. This can be easily accomplished by using a dynamic variable that populates the appropriate measurement ID when the hostname matches the development site, or when Google Tag Manager (GTM) is in debug mode. The below variable template can help achieve this:

Solution 2: Use Data Filters
In cases where a dev property is not an option, a second choice is the use of Data Filters

Use Case: Include (or exclude) a specific hostname, functional area, or business unit.

Solution 1: Use report filtering
Though not yet widely available, we expect to see filtering options to customize standard reports. For now, configure GTM to pass internal traffic and developer traffic parameters so you’re ready to use them when they become available. 

Solution 2: Use multiple properties
In the cases where you have multiple brands or business units, sending all data to a single property may not make sense., There can be benefits of sending data to multiple properties. Rollup properties (a GA360 feature) or Data Studio reports can then be used for any aggregation needs.

Solution 3: Use multiple data streams
Google does recommend the use of a single data stream for all web hits due to performance gains, but sending hits to multiple data streams will allow you to use the “Data Stream” dimension for filtering options.

Use Case: Exclude internal traffic

Solution 1: Use Data Filters
Data Filters offer two methods to detect internal traffic that can then be ignored.

  • IP address, or IP range
  • A specific custom ‘traffic_type’ parameter via tag manager

You can also put the filter in “test mode” to verify the filter is working before traffic is actually excluded.

Solution 2: Use a custom parameter & audiences
Add logic within Google Tag Manager to detect internal traffic and pass a custom parameter, then use that parameter to build an audience to include or exclude traffic.

Use Case: Report on User ID/authenticated hits

Solution: Use audiences
Audiences is the best method of segmenting and reporting authenticated (or known) visitors as it will also include hits prior to authenticating.

Use Case: Exclude query parameters

Solution: Code collection
The only option available today for excluding query parameters is to expose a “page_path” value.

Here is an example where you can modify your Configuration tag within Google Tag Manager by mapping page_path to a variable that collects the Page Path:

Use Case: Exclude bot traffic

 

Good news – bot traffic is excluded by default!

Use Case: Lower case / normalize values

Solution: Lower case at data collection
As of current standing, there is no ability to force values to lowercase.This is only addressable via Tag Manager.

Use the Format Value options to clean data:

Use Case: Limiting Access to Data

Solution: Use subproperties (GA360 feature)
Subproperties is the closest feature that resembles views within UA properties, but is not actually a 1 to 1 replacement. This is the only feature that allows one to restrict data. 

Note: this is only available to 360-enabled properties and will impact billing if used.

Conclusion

I suspect the view conversation will be a frequent one across marketers. I hope this helps you rethink these conversations in terms of use cases instead of feature parity. Don’t let the loss of views prevent you from moving forward; UA deprecation is coming in 2023 and there are good reasons to implement GA4 tagging sooner rather than later.

Are there use cases we didn’t cover? Feel free to get in touch to explore how GA4 can help you achieve similar needs. 

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