Google Analytics 4, the latest and greatest version of Google’s analytics tool, has a new account structure that differs from that of its predecessor, Universal Analytics. It’s designed to give you greater flexibility and control over how you manage your analytics data, but to make the most of it for your company, you need to understand how it works.
Figuring this out on your own in the Google Analytics Help Center can be daunting, as it requires you to know exactly what to search for and piece information from multiple pages together. We’ve written this guide as an alternative to help you get started.
GA4 Account Structure
Here’s an overview of the GA4 hierarchy:
|Link your GA accounts under one organization.
|Organize your GA properties in one account.
|Combine data from multiple GA source properties into one roll-up property.
|½ the cost of the events in each source property
|View, report on, and use data from one or more data streams.
|Collect data from one website or mobile app.
|Provide access to a subset of data from a source property into one or more subproperties.
|½ the cost of the events in each source property
The organization is the highest level of the GA4 hierarchy. It links all of your company’s Google Ads, Google Analytics, Tag Manager, Optimize, and Surveys accounts in one place, and lets you control access and take care of billing centrally.
You can manage your organization from the Google Marketing Platform. Normally, we recommend that one company organizes all of its accounts under one organization unless it has a clear and compelling reason not to (for example, a holding company may decide to create one organization for each subsidiary).
An account organizes one or more GA4 properties under one hat. As a golden rule, one Google Analytics account can have up to one hundred GA4 properties. However, one GA4 property can only belong to one Google Analytics account.
How you structure your accounts and properties is completely up to you. Typically, the account structure reflects the organizational design of a company. Small and medium-sized companies will have one account, and large corporations will have multiple accounts depending on how they are organized into subsidiaries or units.
A property is where you view, report on, and use data from the data streams for your websites and mobile apps. If you have one website, you need one property. If you have a website with multiple subdomains or subdirectories, or a website and a mobile app that serve the same purpose, you may also choose to keep their data streams under one property.
Why have many properties, then? More often than not, it’s because of the logical and physical fragmentation of data that they help you create. Companies that own and operate diverse portfolios of websites and mobile apps — for example, publishers and game developers — tend to opt for separate properties for each asset.
If you’re wondering where the roll-up properties and subproperties went, don’t worry. We haven’t forgotten about these, and we’ll walk you through them in a jiff.
A data stream is the flow of data coming from a website or mobile app.
One website or app is usually represented by one data stream, but not always. A multinational company or a consumer company with an umbrella website with many brands may choose to have unique data streams for each subsidiary or section.
The key thing to know here is that a single GA4 property can have up to 50 data streams, and only up to 30 of those data streams can be mobile-app data streams. So if you have a complex ecosystem that requires you to use a large number of data streams, you’ll need to design for a large number of properties and/or accounts.
Roll-Up Properties And Subproperties
Roll-up properties and subproperties are available for GA4 360 customers only.
A roll-up property lets you consolidate data from many source properties for reporting purposes. Subproperties, on the other hand, let you provide filtered access to data from a source property. These structures can be highly useful in large, multinational corporations if implemented right, but they require careful consideration to get right.
There’s also a cost to using roll-up properties and subproperties, and that cost can quickly add up. Each event processed by a roll-up property comes at ½ the cost of the event in the source property that it came from. Similarly, each event filtered in a subproperty comes at ½ the cost of the event in the source property it originated in.
To put it simply, if you collect 10,000,000 events in 10 source properties and consolidate them in 1 roll-up property, you’ll pay for 15,000,000 events at the end of your billing cycle. And if you collect 1,000,000 events in 1 source property and provide filtered access to 500,000 of them in a subproperty, then you will be charged for 1,250,000 events.
Putting It All Together
To help you put it all together, let’s take a closer look at an example.
Here’s a diagram for a company that’s structured its Google Analytics under one organization, two accounts, and four properties, each drawing data from two data streams:
Where do GA4 roll-up properties and subproperties come into play?
Well, suppose this company was a GA4 360 customer, and it had the following needs. First, it needed to provide a vendor with access to one data stream per property on the left. But it also needed to consolidate event data for its analytics team from the two properties on the right.
Here’s how the company could use subproperties (in yellow, bottom-left) and a roll-up property (in green, top-right) to address its needs:
Thank you for reading this far!
If you need a partner to help you design and setup your Google Analytics 4 accounts, no matter how complex your landscape, we’re here to help — scroll down for our contacts and don’t hesitate to reach out.