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.
In UA, views were used to support a wide variety of use cases. As a result, many GA users are concerned about moving forward without views. However, nearly all use cases for UA views are accounted for — in one way or another — via various features of GA4. In this article, we address in detail some of the most common use cases for UA views, and how to manage them as part of your migration to GA4. In addition, we provide an exhaustive list of UA views use-cases at the end of this post, with the corresponding approach in GA4.
A brief recap of views and properties in Universal Analytics
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 counterproductive if settings across views were applied inconsistently. For example, goals not being configured consistently in all views, Ads accounts not being linked, and inconsistent query parameter exclusions are common examples of inconsistent configurations.
In addition, views — if not used carefully — could actually distort data in a negative way. A common example is a subdomain inclusion, where a view would ignore many hits that occurred prior to the inclusion criteria, leading to data quality issues like incorrect channel reporting, incorrect bounce rate, etc.
The common best practice views we recommended for Universal Properties were:
- 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 included:
- 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
As you can see, views in UA could be used for a variety of purposes. Knowing views are not going to be available in GA4, let’s examine a few GA4 features that will support some of the above use cases.
Google Analytics 4 Features to Address “Views” Use Cases
Use Case 1: 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. This feature allows you to delete development hits so it doesn’t land in reporting but less desired as it’s important to have a place to UAT data before it is live.
Use Case 2: Include (or exclude) a specific hostname, functional area, or business unit.
Solution 1: Use report filtering
As I mentioned above, get your GTM ducks in a row to be ready to take advantage of report filtering when it comes 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 for performance reasons, but sending hits to multiple data streams will allow you to use the “Data Stream” dimension for filtering options.
Use Case 3: 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 GTM to detect internal traffic and pass a custom parameter, then use that parameter to build an audience to include or exclude traffic.
Use Case 4: 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 5: Exclude query parameters
Solution: Data Transformation via site code or tag manager
The only option available today for excluding query parameters is to transform thee “page_path” field to remove query parameters which cause cardinality..
Here is an example where you can modify your Configuration tag within GTM by mapping page_path to a variable that collects the Page Path:
Use Case 6: Exclude bot traffic
Good news – GA4 excludes bot traffic by default.
Use Case 7: Lowercase / normalize values
Solution: Lowercase at data collection
Currently, GA4 doesn’t allow for data transformations such as lowercasing values of a given dimension. However, this can be managed via GTM.
Use the Format Value options to clean data:
Use Case 8: Limiting Access to Data
Solution: Use subproperties (GA360 feature)
Subproperties is the closest feature that resembles views within UA properties, but it’s not a direct, 1-to-1 replacement. This is the only feature that allows one to restrict reporting data within a given property.
Note: this is only available to 360-enabled properties and will impact billing if used.
Are there use cases we didn’t cover? Feel free to get in touch to explore how GA4 can help you achieve similar needs. To learn more about reporting and analysis in GA4, visit our Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics 4.
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