As we alluded to an earlier post, Google Analytics 4 looks a lot different than GA3, a.k.a. Universal Analytics.
On the one hand, GA4 is a lot more accessible than Universal Analytics. If you don’t have a data and analytics background, the UI is more intuitive.
However, if you’ve been using Universal Analytics for years, a lot of the customizations and workarounds you created to get the data just how you like it won’t work anymore (at least not how you intended).
This is especially true if you relied heavily on the views feature in Universal Analytics. This feature no longer exists in GA4, and is replaced with the new data filters feature.
In this post, we’re sharing how you can filter data in GA4 as well as a couple of workarounds now that views are gone.
What Are Views in Universal Analytics?
One of the best practices in Universal Analytics is to create three separate views: raw, test, and official.
- Raw view – this is an unfiltered view of all your data. This way, you can revert back to your original data if another view gets messed up.
- Test view – this is where you can experiment and make changes without impacting your existing website data.
- Official view – this is the view you use for your marketing analytics.
Many advanced marketers created additional views based on their specific goals and needs.
Moving away from views is one of the reasons why some aren’t switching to GA4 yet.
Another reason is that while Google Analytics 4 is easy to understand, there is a high setup cost, especially since data isn’t measured the exact same way (Read: there will be data inconsistencies for a while!).
In fact, nearly 73% of our survey respondents who made the switch to Google Analytics 4 said it takes time to get everything working properly.
What Does GA4 Use Instead of Views?
As we alluded to above, GA4 replaces views with data filters.
Here is how to set up a data filter in Google Analytics 4.
Go to Admin. Then, click on Data Settings and Data Filters.
Then, select Create data filter.
You’ll be presented with two different options: Developer Traffic and Internal Traffic. (We’ll go over the differences later in this article.)
If you want to filter out traffic from your developers, you’ll select developer traffic.
The first time you set up a filter, it is important to select testing mode to preview what your filtered data looks like. This is important since you cannot revert back to your original data once you change it to active mode.
Pro Tip: According to Google, you can only set 10 filters per property.
However, most marketers shouldn’t have to worry about maxing out the number of data filters (at least not yet), since there are only two official data filters right now: Developer and Internal.
Since data filters are permanent and can’t be reversed, an alternative approach is to use filter states/modes based on custom events.
For example, Sasha Matviienko of growth360 adds, “One way I find useful when using GA4 filters is using different filter states to test the data. This feature, compared to Universal Analytics makes it easier to see how applying a certain filter will change data as it can be applied in a testing state. Using this approach with GA4 filters, you don’t need to switch between views in Google Analytics and can see potential impacts, all in one view.”
However, this comes with its own drawbacks, including:
- There is a steeper learning curve.
- You will need to have some familiarity with Google Tag Manager.
- There are extra steps to ensure that all stakeholders are seeing the same “filtered view” as you are.
Pro Tip: Are You Successful at Attracting Website Visitors from Different Channels?
To better understand how your website performs in terms of customer conversion and acquisition, you probably use Google Analytics 4 to learn how people are finding your website, what your most profitable traffic sources are, and how successful specific marketing campaigns are in attracting website visitors. You may have to navigate multiple areas and reports within GA4 to get the data you want though. Now you can quickly assess your website performance in a single dashboard that monitors fundamental metrics, such as:
- Total users by country. Where are your website users coming from? By mapping out your customers, you can adjust your strategy to determine which tactics work best with a specific demographic.
- Users by source. Which channels drive the most traffic? Stay focused on the marketing channels that are driving the best results and make adjustments to those that are underperforming.
- New users. How many new users visit your website? Track how many new users your website attracts during a certain time period.
- Total revenue. How much revenue has your website generated? Monitor this metric to make sure you’re acquiring new customers, and that your conversion rate numbers are increasing.
Now you can benefit from the experience of our Google Analytics experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template that contains all the essential metrics for understanding how successful you are at attracting visitors from different channels. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in management reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your Google Analytics 4 account with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
How to Use Data Filters in GA4
While most marketers recommend enabling both data filters in GA4, their overall satisfaction with the filtering options was a mixed bag.
Small businesses tend to be more satisfied with the new GA4 changes than larger businesses that might have more complex data needs.
Let’s use a couple of examples to illustrate why this is the case.
For example, if you are a small business with less than 50 employees and most employees aren’t visiting your website several times a day or making a ton of “test” form conversions, you don’t need to worry about creating an internal data filter to weed out visits from your company’s IP address. The impact of employees’ visits to your marketing reports will be minimal.
Alternatively, if you have a large corporation with 5,000+ employees spread out across several offices, you are going to want to filter out the IP addresses, using the internal filters, associated with all of your primary office locations from your data. This ensures that employee data isn’t skewing your results in an overly positive or negative way.
The only caveat where a smaller business will definitely want to set up a data filter is if they are building any software. You’ll want to create a developer filter to ensure that your developers aren’t triggering new data points every time they make any changes or are doing QA.
For example, Jordan Brannon of Coalition Technologies adds, “Excluding Internal Traffic as well as Developer Traffic from the GA4 allows us to exclude our internal (employee) traffic and provides us accurate Analytics data.
Along with that, GA4 automatically detects and excludes data from bots or spiders that can skew Universal Analytics data.
Internal Traffic is defined as traffic from the website’s internal team / non-target audience members such as company employees and partner agencies. By default, GA4 defines the internal traffic as event data with the traffic_type parameter having value as ‘internal’.
The Second Filter is Developer Traffic that is generated while debugging the analytics implementation. GA4 defines developer traffic as an event with parameter name ‘debug_mode’ or ‘debug_event’ with parameter value ‘1’ The developer traffic filters allow us to exclude test transactions or test form submissions from analytics data.”
This will allow you to get a better understanding of your real visitor numbers without bots, employees, and developer activity clouding your data.
However, it is worth repeating that you should always test your data filters in testing mode before you launch them. Once you enable an internal or developer filter in GA4, you can’t undo it.
While GA4 has a lot of useful features, there are some big differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics. It is best to run both versions in parallel for a while before you fully switch over.