In October, GA4 began rolling out a new calculated metrics feature. This feature will allow users with Administrator and Editor permissions to create metrics based on formulas utilizing other metrics. Once created, these calculated metrics are accessible in every place where reporting and custom metrics are available including in Reports, Explore, and the GA4 Data API (meaning that it should also be available to dashboard users as well). For a standard property, GA4 limits the number of calculated metrics to 5, while 360 properties get a limit of 50.
This new feature can potentially raise some questions for users looking to beef up their analytics with additional KPI metrics unique to their company, including the following:
Calculated metrics are necessary to utilize whenever you have a unique metric (not available in GA4 by default) that can be calculated using other metrics available in GA4. However, GA4 may not be the best location for these calculated metrics. The reason is that calculated metrics can be created using other tools that connect to GA4 such as Looker Studio and BigQuery. Given that standard GA4 properties provide a tight limit on calculated metrics, it’s best to first consider if these other tools are better options. This is especially important when the metrics are used for ad-hoc occasions or when they are only for performance overview purposes.
However, there are some occasions where a calculated metric within GA4 may be a better choice. This includes when a user wants to analyze the custom metric within Explore reports, take advantage of future changes to GA4’s predictive modeling, or utilize these metrics to create new audiences for remarketing.
Custom metrics are best utilized to convey the value of a single event or measure a particular attribute. For example, if someone were to complete an event that indicates a unique lifetime value for the customer, a custom metric based on a parameter of that event’s value. Another example could be measuring things like the number of seconds that videos were played or the number of views a video received.
Calculated metrics within GA4, on the other hand, work best when trying to convey the results of a formula involving metrics already set. These metrics can include both the predefined metrics set by GA4, and custom metrics. A good example of a calculated metric could be measuring the discount percentage of an items price or an event count metric that takes out common events like page_views or session_starts.
It is possible to utilize custom metrics to create calculated metrics. However, the process for doing that is usually more convoluted than the simple process that GA4 offers. Therefore, a user probably should only use custom metrics to create a calculated metric if they must have more than their limit of calculated metrics and they must have those metrics live in GA4.
This indicates that Google is not done tweaking GA4 nor is it done adding new features. However, this feature provides an easier way to implement something that can already be done using slightly more complicated means. It wouldn’t be surprising if they stick to only these small feature changes for now while planning on rolling out something bigger down the line, such as an expansion of predictive metrics. Even if these changes aren’t so big though, it is always best to keep an eye on them.
Determining how to best utilize calculated metrics and other features of GA4 is something that should be deliberated carefully. It is always best to have an expert to consult with in these situations to ensure you are taking the best approach possible. If you need to support for your organization, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.