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12 Dec 2022

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Google Analytics 4

What are data streams in Google Analytics 4?

For many years, users of Universal Analytics have become accustomed to the account > property > view structure.

  • An account is the highest level in the Universal Analytics structure, and is made up of at least one property.
  • A property represents a customer touchpoint such as a website or mobile application. A property is made up of at least one view.
  • A view is where you analyse and interrogate your data in Universal Analytics. Filters can be applied to views to provide subsets of data. For example, you have a view that tracks all website activity and another view that excludes data from specific IP addresses.

With Google Analytics 4, the above structure has changed in the following ways:

  • The Google Analytics 4 hierarchy contains account and property levels only. Views do not exist in Google Analytics 4.
  • Google Analytics properties are more flexible thanks to a consistent data schema across web and app, and the introduction of data streams.

In this article, we will explain: 

What is a data stream?

A data stream is the collection of data from a customer touchpoint, like a website or an app, into Google Analytics 4. 

For example, if you are using Google Analytics 4 to measure traffic to your website, you will have a web data stream configured in your Google Analytics 4 property. This data stream collects data from your website and sends it to your Google Analytics 4 property.

A Google Analytics 4 property will always contain at least one data stream. In fact, a Google Analytics 4 property can have as many as 50 different data streams! This affords many more options for consolidating and unifying data across different customer touchpoints, which we explain later on in this article.

What types of data streams are there?

Within Google Analytics 4, there are three different types of data stream

  • Web data streams, which collect and process data from a website
  • iOS data streams, which collect and process data from an iOS app
  • Android data streams, which collect and process data from an Android app

A Google Analytics 4 property can be made up of a mix of the above data streams, up to a limit of 50 data streams with no more than 30 being app streams.

For example, you can now configure a single Google Analytics 4 property containing data streams for your website, your iOS app and your android app!

This unification is not possible in Universal Analytics, as data streams do not exist. Tracking web and app data was only possible in Universal Analytics by having separate distinct properties for each. Google Analytics 4 data streams provide a new and exciting way to consolidate your web and app data into a single property.

If you do not have an app, don’t worry as your Google Analytics 4 property will function perfectly normally with just a web data stream.

Where can I find data streams in Google Analytics 4?

Within the admin area of Google Analytics 4, under the property settings, you will see a data stream option. 

Click on this to review the data streams that are configured for your Google Analytics 4 property, where you will see a screen similar to the below.

This example (and all subsequent examples provided in this article) have been taken from Google’s demo ‘Flood-It’ Google Analytics 4 property.

This shows you how many data streams are associated with your Google Analytics 4 property, what data stream types these are and whether each data stream has been receiving data in the last 48 hours.

You can see in this example that the Google Analytics 4 property has different data streams for web, iOS and Android.

Each data stream has its own unique data stream id, which are the 10 digit numbers you see next to each data stream in the example above.

There are two dimensions captured in the Google Analytics 4 data schema which allow analysis by platform and data stream. The platform dimension will provide a segmentation of web vs iOS vs Android and the stream name dimension will provide a dimension breakdown by data stream id. 

There is also the functionality to create new streams, should you wish to add a new data source to your Google Analytics 4 property.

Web data streams

There are plenty of options available to customise your web data streams, so they are collecting the data that you need.

You can view these options by clicking on the web data stream within the admin settings above, to give you a screen similar to the below:

Some examples of customising your web data streams are listed below:

  • Configuration of enhanced measurement such as outbound clicks and scroll tracking. This tracking is now handled within the data stream for easier configuration.
  • Modify incoming events (e.g. changing the event name) or create custom events.
  • Creating cross domain measurement, excluding IPs and unwanted referrals, including user defined data and adjusting session timeout. These can all be managed via the configure tag setting menu.

Google Analytics 4 has made customisations such as cross domain measurement and enhanced measurement such as scroll tracking and outbound link clicks much simpler to implement. These no longer require complex measurement solutions in Google Tag Manager, and can be handled directly within the Google Analytics 4 interface.

App data streams

Configuring app data streams is handled within Firebase, which is Google’s app development platform. Firebase allows the collection of up to 500 distinct events giving plenty of bandwidth for implementing customised measurement.

If you are already using Firebase for your app, you can use your existing project to integrate the data into a Google Analytics 4 property. The data streams are created using the Google Analytics integration module within Firebase.

If you are not using Firebase for your app, you will need to set-up a firebase project first, connect your app to the project, and implement the Firebase SDK. Then, use the Google Analytics integration module within Firebase to create your app data streams and push the data into Google Analytics 4.

An important consideration when integrating Firebase and Google Analytics 4 is that the linking is only available on a 1:1 basis. In other words a Firebase project can only be linked to one Google Analytics 4 property. This needs to be considered carefully if you are a business operating across multiple territories and need to factor in country level reporting. It is important that the way you configure your Google Firebase projects aligns with your tracking requirements for the website, to take full advantage of the unification capabilities Google Analytics 4 has to offer.

Reporting on web and app data in Google Analytics 4

So, you have followed the steps above and have a Google Analytics 4 property containing data streams for web and app.

Here are a few ways to get started with analysing your data in the Google Analytics 4 interface.

Firebase overview report

When you have implemented app data streams in your Google Analytics 4 property, you will observe a Firebase overview report is available in the Google Analytics 4 interface. 

This report is a handy overview of all your core app performance stats in a single reporting view. The data in this report is app only.

Games reporting

When you have implemented app data streams in your Google Analytics 4 property, you will observe a ‘Games reporting’ menu module appear in Google Analytics as below. You will not see this reporting module if your Google Analytics 4 property only contains web data streams.

It is important to note that the data in all the reports under this module combine both web and app data. This is verified above by us adding the ‘platform’ dimension as a secondary dimension.

Lifecycle reporting

The lifecycle reporting module is available in all Google Analytics 4 configurations.

If your Google Analytics 4 property has data streams for web and app, then the data reported in this suite of reports will be a combination of web and app.

Using either the platform or the source name secondary dimensions will allow you to split out the different data streams for segmentation.

The example below shows the traffic acquisition report with platform added as the secondary dimension.

Tech overview reporting

The tech overview reporting module is available in all Google Analytics 4 configurations.

If your Google Analytics 4 property has data streams for web and app, then the data reported in this suite of reports will be a combination of web and app.

Below is an example output of the tech overview report.

Explorations

The explorations module in Google Analytics 4 provides a way of creating customised reports using a variety of visualisations and reporting templates.

The data in exploration reports will be an aggregation across your data streams. Use the platform dimension to either filter by a specific data stream type, or to add as an additional dimension to increase granularity.

The example exploration below shows event count, by event, isolated to the iOS data stream only.

Key takeaways and closing thoughts

Data streams in Google Analytics 4 are an exciting and welcome development. 

Thanks to a consistent event based data schema across web and app, Google Analytics 4 data streams allow the consolidation of web and app data into a single property.

Here are the key points to be aware of when using data streams in Google Analytics:

  • A data stream is the collection of data from a customer touchpoint, for example a website or an app, into Google Analytics 4.
  • There are three different types of data streams in Google Analytics.
    • A web data stream, which collects data from websites
    • An iOS data stream, collecting data from iOS apps
    • An Android data stream, collecting data from Android apps
  • A Google Analytics 4 property can have as many as 50 different data streams, of which a maximum of 30 can be app data streams.
  • Data streams can be managed and customised within the Google Analytics 4 admin.
  • Web data streams can be tailored to include enhanced measurement, exclude unwanted referrals and configure cross domain measurement without the need for complex measurement configuration in Google Tag Manager.
  • App data streams are configured using the Google Analytics integration module within Firebase. 
  • A Firebase project can only be linked to a single Google Analytics 4 property. Careful consideration is required to the structure of your Firebase projects if you operate across multiple territories or websites.
  • With app data streams, you get access to two additional reporting modules in Google Analytics 4 named ‘Firebase’ and ‘Games reporting’. Note that the ‘Games reporting’ module contains an aggregate of web and app data if your Google Analytics 4 property has both web and app data streams.
  • There are two dimensions in the Google Analytics 4 data schema which can be used to segment data across data streams. The platform dimension provides a broader split of Android vs iOS vs Web and the source name dimension provides a split by data stream id.

Please speak to us if you have any questions around data streams in Google Analytics 4.