Understanding GA4 Reporting: Layout Essentials – Part 1

Nicholas Hooker - January 29, 2024

Can you believe it’s been just over six months since the sunsetting of Universal Analytics (UA)? Transitioning to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) can be challenging, especially considering key differences like GA4’s event-based data model compared to UA’s session-based model, and the emphasis on user privacy and data streams in GA4.

If GA4 still seems like a foreign language, don’t worry – we’ve got your back. We’re here to fast-track your comfort levels with Google Analytics 4. In this series, we’re taking you on a tour of GA4’s default reporting layout. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your analytics journey, we’ll break down the essentials.

At first glance, navigating the interface may feel like a daunting task, but once you know where to look, your day-to-day data pulls become easier! The interface is divided into four sections: Home, Reports, Explore, and Advertising.

This guide focuses on the “Reports” section, which houses pre-built standard reports that offer valuable insights into your business. One thing you’ll notice is that many of these reports can be customized, except for a few (denoted by the pencil icon at the top right corner of the report). The layout of the reporting section may differ for each of you based on various factors, as we’ll discuss more in Part 2 of this series.

For now, let’s dive into reports that remain consistent across the board.

Reports Snapshot

When you click into the “Reports” section, you’re instantly directed to the “Reports snapshot”. This summary report provides insights into all subsequent reports found below, including the Realtime report, Life-Cycle collection reports or Business Objectives collection reports, and User collection reports.

Consider this section as your quick data glance into current reports, presenting data through “Summary Cards” linked to the actual report it originated from. It’s your go-to hub for a quick overview of essential insights into the customer journey and your users. And yes, it’s customizable!

You’ve likely noticed that every summary card includes a data availability status, which can be categorized as either an “Unsampled report” or a “Thresholding applied report”.

An “Unsampled report” is based on 100.0% of available data for the selected date range, seen by the green check mark status. While “Thresholding applied report” limits your access to the data being viewed. This is because Google wants to prevent anyone from viewing a report that may infer the identity or sensitive information about an individual user based on demographic details, interest information, or other signals present in the data. This is indicated by the maroon triangle status.

The data availability status is system-defined, meaning it’s a parameter you can’t alter. However, there are strategies to minimize the occurrence of Thresholding applied reports. One way is to refrain from enabling “Google Signals”. Keep in mind, though, that opting out of Google Signals comes with trade-offs, such as losing access to remarketing features, and detailed demographic reports, as we will discuss in more detail later in this post.

Realtime

Similar to Universal Analytics (the predecessor platform), the Realtime report lets you monitor activity on your website or app as it is currently happening. The main difference is that you now have insights into the last thirty minutes, as opposed to five. This section is great to immediately and continuously monitor new campaigns launches and site changes that may affect traffic.

It’s important to note that the GA4 interface doesn’t operate in real-time. Typically, it takes 24 to 48 hours for data to be processed and reflected in reports. The Realtime report is the sole exception where you can see website visitor activity as it’s happening.

User Library Collection

The User Library Collection reports help you understand your visitors who use your website or app, including demographics, such as age and location, as well as details about technology they employ, including browser version and app version.

It’s important to highlight that without enabling the “Google signals data collection” policy, you’ll lose visibility to user demographics reports, specifically those detailing age, gender, and interests. If you plan on enabling this setting, we recommend reviewing the policy with your legal team.

For more information about the Google signals data collection policy click here.

Moreover, a recent addition to this collection is the “Audiences” report, providing insights into key performance metrics associated with particular audience groups. Given GA4’s ongoing enhancements, don’t be surprised if you see interface modifications or report add-ons.

Conclusion

To wrap up Part 1, we’ve covered the Reports snapshot for a quick overview, delved into the Realtime report for immediate insights, and touched on the User Library Collections for comprehensive user analysis. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll dive deep into advanced reports and customization features of GA4. Our next installment will explore the Life Cycle vs. Business Objectives Collections and offer practical tips for effective campaign analysis.

If your team needs help with GA4, including custom training or setup, reporting, or configuration, reach out to us at info@morevisibility.com for tailored assistance.

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