Understanding Data Sampling in Google Analytics 4


icon Get in-depth insights

Step-By-Step Guide - How to Set up [GA4] to BigQuery Export

icon Get in-depth insights

Step-By-Step Guide - How to Set up [GA4] to BigQuery Export

Data sampling in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a significant roadblock for accurate web analysis. This guide talks about the details of data sampling in GA4, about its impact on the quality and accuracy of your dataand following decision-making.

We'll explore how to identify when your data is being sampled and provide practical to minimize its effect.

Understanding these elements is very important for digital marketers, data analysts, and business owners who rely on GA4 reports for insights. This knowledge ensures more reliable and actionable data, enhancing the effectiveness of your web analytics efforts.

What is Data Sampling in Google Analytics 4

There are two types of reports in Google Analytics 4: Standard Reports and Advanced Reports.

Standard reports are limited, however, you can always get the report based on unsampled data - all of the data available for the selected date range.

However, the other advanced reports might be sampled based on the amount of data you select for the specific report. 

Data sampling is applied to  technique that examines a portion of traffic data, rather than the entire dataset. 

This method simplifies the process of data analysis, making it quicker and more manageable. Grasping the concept of GA4 sampling is important for the accurate and efficient interpretation of analytics reports. Understanding this approach helps in making more informed decisions based on web traffic insights.

The Reason Behind Data Sampling in GA4

To efficiently handle large data volumes, Google Analytics 4 uses data sampling. This method activates when data reaches a specific size, allowing GA4 to lessen server load and quicken report generation. While this approach aids in faster data processing, it's crucial to be aware of its potential impact on the accuracy and detail of your analyzed data.

Data Sampling and Its Impact on Data Accuracy

Data sampling in Google Analytics 4 is a method that speeds up data processing by analyzing a smaller subset of data. However, this approach can sometimes reduce the accuracy of reports, as it makes estimations based on partial data. This is particularly noticeable in reports that are highly detailed or segmented. Understanding how sampling might affect data accuracy is essential for correctly interpreting these reports.

Understanding Different Report Types in GA4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) tailors its reports to different analysis needs, offering unique insights into web data. For quick, general overviews, GA4 provides standard reports, while its advanced reports are designed for deeper, more detailed data analysis.

This range in reporting reflects GA4's progression from Universal Analytics, which stopped processing data on July 1, 2023. GA4's advanced approach to web analytics includes new features not found in Universal Analytics, significantly improving the effectiveness and accuracy of web data analysis.

In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the report types are divided into two main categories:

  1. Standard Reports
  2. Advanced Reports

    Standard Reports in GA4

    These reports are pre-configured, providing efficient analysis with less data sampling. They are user-friendly and deliver swift insights into various aspects of website performance.

    The key Standard Reports in GA4 include:

    1. Real-time: Displays immediate data on current user activities and interactions on the site.
    2. Life Cycle:

      • Acquisition: Analyzes how users find and come to your site.
      • Engagement: Tracks how users interact with your site.
      • Monetization: Examines revenue-generating activities like e-commerce purchases
      • Retention: Focuses on how effectively your site retains users over time.
    3. User:
      • User Attributes: Provides insights on user demographics and characteristics.
      • Tech: Details the technological aspects of user interaction, such as device types and operating systems used.

    Optimized for quick and effective performance, these reports are designed to minimize data loss due to sampling, making them reliable for foundational data analysis.

    Advanced Reports in GA4

    Advanced Reports in GA4, on the other hand, are more susceptible to data sampling, especially when dealing with large datasets or complex queries. They provide in-depth insights into user behavior and interactions.

    1. Free-form: This flexible report allows for custom analysis, where you can create unique combinations of dimensions and metrics as needed.

    2. Funnel Exploration: Analyzes the steps users take, helping to understand the user journey and identify where users drop off.

    3. Segment Overlap: Examines how different user segments intersect and interact, providing insights into overlapping behaviors.

    4. User Explorer: Provides detailed insights into individual user behaviors and their interactions over time.

    5. Cohort Exploration: Studies groups of users with shared characteristics over time, helping to understand user retention and lifecycle.

    6. User Lifetime: Tracks the user journey over their entire engagement period, offering insights into long-term user behavior.

    Understanding these reports is crucial for a comprehensive analysis of web data.

    How to Differentiate Sampled and Unsampled Data in Google Analytics 4

    Identifying whether data in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is sampled or unsampled is fundamental for precise analysis. Here's a simple way to distinguish them:


    Sampled Data

    Unsampled Data

    1. Detail Level

    Provides a general overview

    Offers detailed, precise website interactions

    2. Data Volume

    Based on a subset of total data

    Encompasses the entire dataset

    3. Accuracy

    Estimates trends, less precise

    Highly accurate

    4. Best for

    Quick insights, larger time frames

    In-depth analysis, and specific queries

    Benefits of Unsampled Data for Business Insights:

    • Accurate Reporting: Offers exact figures for reliable decision-making.
    • Detailed Analysis: Allows for in-depth examination of user behavior.
    • Improved Strategy: Enables more precise marketing and business strategies.
    • Better Segmentation: Aids in creating targeted user segments for marketing.
    • Comprehensive Insights: Ensures a full understanding of website performance.
    • Enhanced Forecasting: Facilitates accurate predictions based on precise data.

    Differences Between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics (UA) Sampling

    Google Analytics 4 (GA4) introduces notable changes in data sampling compared to Universal Analytics (UA). Google Analytics 4 vs Universal Analytics highlights the key differences, helping you understand how these changes impact data analysis and reporting, ensuring that you're equipped with the knowledge to adapt to GA4's new analytics landscape.

    Sampling Based on Report Types

    In Google Analytics 4, the approach to data sampling varies with the type of report you're using. Standard reports generally experience less sampling, offering quick and easy access to data. This is ideal for basic analysis.

    On the other hand, more complex, custom reports, such as those with detailed segmentation or longer time frames, often undergo more extensive sampling to efficiently manage large datasets. Understanding the sampling likelihood of different report types is crucial for accurate data interpretation. 

    For deeper insights and access to raw data, exporting data from GA4 can be crucial.

    Uncover in-depth insights

    Step-By-Step Guide - How to Set up [GA4] to BigQuery Export

    Download now

    Bonus for readers

    Step-By-Step Guide - How to Set up [GA4] to BigQuery Export

    Understanding Events Limits

    In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), there are defined limits on event tracking, which can influence how data is sampled. Here is the breakdown:

    • For instance, GA4 has a limit of 2000 as the maximum number of GA4 properties (per Analytics account) and 100 as the maximum number of Analytics accounts (per Google user). 
    • The GA4 property can have a maximum of 50 data streams, however in the case of App streams it is limited to 30 streams. 
    • Under events, marked conversion-events (user-defined) the limit is 30
    • If your Google Analytics Account has more than 25 billion events, it will automatically change the data retention settings from 14 months to 2 months.  Additionally, there is a limit of 25 uniquely named events per app instance. 
    • There are also multiple limits for character length, dimensions, links, etc. A business can create up to 25 user-level dimensions. You can have up to 24 characters for each name and 36 characters for each value. For dimensions at the event level, there's more flexibility: you can create up to 50.

    These restrictions are designed to enhance both performance and data accuracy. When events exceed these set limits, GA4 may resort to sampling for efficient data processing. Understanding these event limitations is crucial for a clear insight into how your analytics reports might be affected by data sampling.

    Analyzing Sampling Thresholds

    Thresholding, a privacy protection measure in GA4, is applied to prevent the identification of individual users. It usually comes into play when reports have low user/event counts or contain sensitive user-identifying information. Expanding the date range of your reports can sometimes help mitigate the effects of thresholding.

    In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), understanding sampling thresholds is essential. These thresholds are set based on the volume of your data. When the amount of data exceeds these pre-determined limits, GA4 employs sampling to speed up report creation. Knowing these thresholds is beneficial as it enables you to predict the small details and preciseness of your analytics reports, particularly important when dealing with extensive datasets.

    Cardinality and Its Impact on GA4 Data Sampling

    Cardinality also plays a significant role in GA4 reporting. It refers to the number of unique values a dimension can have. High cardinality, like in dimensions with numerous unique values, can lead to the 'other' row appearing in reports, indicating that the row limit for the report has been exceeded. This can obscure data details, especially in high-volume situations.

    High cardinality in your GA4 data fields can lead to more frequent sampling. Cardinality, which measures the uniqueness of data values, plays an important role in how GA4 processes data. When dimensions like page URLs or user IDs have a wide range of unique values, it requires more quantitative or numerical resources, prompting GA4 to sample data.

    To ensure higher accuracy in your reports, it's beneficial to monitor and manage the cardinality levels in your data, as this can help reduce the likelihood of sampling impacting your analysis.

    Strategies to Minimize Data Sampling in GA4

    In Google Analytics 4, minimizing data sampling is key to obtaining precise analytics. This section introduces effective strategies to reduce sampling's impact, ensuring your data is as accurate and insightful as possible. To enhance web traffic and strengthen sales, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a crucial tool. These simple yet powerful approaches will enhance your GA4 experience, leading to more reliable data interpretation.

    Leverage Google BigQuery Export in GA4

    When you integrate Google BigQuery with GA4, you can analyze large datasets more thoroughly. This integration bypasses the typical limitations of data sampling. By transferring raw, unsampled data into BigQuery, you get the ability to run complex queries for deeper insights. This is crucial for strategic decision-making based on detailed data analysis. This approach improves your analytics capabilities significantly beyond standard GA4 analytics.

    Uncover in-depth insights

    Step-By-Step Guide - How to Set up [GA4] to BigQuery Export

    Download now

    Bonus for readers

    Step-By-Step Guide - How to Set up [GA4] to BigQuery Export

    Maximize Insights with Standard GA4 Reports

    Leveraging GA4's standard reports is key for effective data analysis. More of that - those always comes unsampled.

    These reports are tailored for high performance and experience less data sampling, enabling quick and reliable insights. Ideal for routine analysis, they allow users to gather essential data insights efficiently and accurately. 

    This focus on standard reports in GA4 offers a practical approach to understanding web analytics with greater clarity.

    Optimizing Date Ranges to Reduce Sampling

    To limit data sampling in Google Analytics 4 (GA4), selecting appropriate date ranges is crucial. Short date ranges typically encompass less data, thereby reducing the likelihood of sampling. This approach allows analysts to improve the accuracy of their reports, ensuring a more faithful representation of user activity on the website. By carefully choosing these ranges, you can achieve a clearer and more precise view of website interactions.

    Use Parallel Tracking To Enhance Efficiency

    Parallel tracking in Google Analytics 4 enhances efficiency for websites with heavy traffic. It optimizes the way data is collected, leading to quicker and more effective processing. 

    This method lessens the burden on servers, which in turn reduces the need for data sampling. The result is a more accurate collection and reporting of data, which is particularly important for sites experiencing a lot of user activity.

    Uncover in-depth insights

    Server-Side Tracking: Monitoring User Behavior Without Pixels

    Download now

    Bonus for readers

    Server-Side Tracking: Monitoring User Behavior Without Pixels

    Simplify Your Reports for Better Data Clarity

    Simplification of reports in GA4 is an effective way to enhance data clarity. By reducing complexity in report structures and queries, the need for data sampling decreases. This approach leads to more precise data, allowing analysts to draw clearer, more accurate conclusions from their analytics efforts.

    Upgrade to GA360 (ex. Premium) for Advanced Insights

    Switching to Google Analytics 360, previously known as Premium, offers enhanced data handling, especially for large-scale analytics. This version minimizes the reliance on data sampling for complex reporting, ensuring more precise and detailed insights. It's particularly beneficial for businesses managing substantial data volumes, as it provides more in-depth analysis capabilities essential for comprehensive data understanding.

    NOTE: According to Google, all users, including those accessing 360 properties, will lose access to the Universal Analytics user interface and API starting on July 1, 2024. Please keep that in mind if you are considering this option to reduce data sampling.

    Start your OWOX BI Free Trial

    Integrating OWOX BI with Google Analytics 4, one of the prominent Google Analytics 4 alternatives, significantly enhances data accuracy

    With OWOX BI, you can add non-Google advertising costs to your GA4 reporting. 

    Measure CPO and ROAS in GA4

    Automatically link your Ad Platforms cost data to Google Analytics 4 conversion data, so you can analyze your marketing KPIs and make fully informed decisions

    Start Free Trial
    Measure CPO and ROAS in GA4

    OWOX BI simplifies the unique data requirements of GA4, guaranteeing precise data imports and high-quality analytics. It handles data cleaningremoves duplicates, and takes care of structuring and preventing common import mistakes. This process results in acquiring raw, unsampled data for in-depth and long-term analysis. 

    Ultimately, the OWOX BI and GA4 combination offers a holistic solution for efficient marketing data collection and analysis, leading to more informed business decisions.


    Expand all Close all
    • Why do we need sampling?

      Sampling is needed because it makes data analysis more manageable and cost-effective, especially when dealing with large datasets. It allows for quicker processing and analysis without the need to review every single data point. Sampling is particularly useful in fields like market research, opinion polling, and web analytics where working with entire populations is often impractical or impossible.
    • What is an example of data sampling?

      An example of data sampling could be analyzing website traffic. Instead of reviewing every single user's session data over a month, a sample of data from a representative subset of user sessions during that period might be taken to infer general trends or behaviors.
    • How to analyze data in GA4?

      To analyze data in GA4, you can use various reports and tools provided within the platform. This includes real-time reports, user acquisition reports, engagement analysis, and more. GA4's flexible approach allows for custom report creation, segmentation, and trend analysis to derive actionable insights from website data.
    • What is thresholding in GA4?

      Thresholding in GA4 is a method used to maintain user privacy. When report data is at risk of revealing individual user identities, GA4 may apply thresholding to mask or aggregate the data. This ensures that user data remains anonymous, particularly in reports with small user counts or high granularity.
    • What is data sampling in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

      In Google Analytics 4, data sampling refers to the process of analyzing a subset of traffic data instead of examining all user interactions on a website. This happens especially when dealing with large data sets or complex reports, to speed up the process of generating analytics insights.
    • What do you understand by data sampling?

      Data sampling is a statistical analysis technique where a subset of data is selected from a larger data set for the purpose of making inferences about the whole population. This process helps in analyzing large volumes of data more efficiently, especially when it's impractical to work with the entire set.

    icon Get in-depth insights

    Step-By-Step Guide - How to Set up [GA4] to BigQuery Export

    icon Get in-depth insights

    Step-By-Step Guide - How to Set up [GA4] to BigQuery Export