Google Analytics

GA4 User Properties

GA4 has made a load of underused old features in Universal Analytics suddenly gain new relevance. One of the biggies is User Properties in GA4 which you really need to get a handle on when designing your measurement plan.

One of the major stumbling blocks for people familiar with Universal Analytics when trying to get their head around GA4 is that they can’t find a bunch of the features they are used to. This makes the focus of many migrations “how can I do this old thing” which can take up so much energy that people forget to ask “what new stuff can it do”.

One of the really powerful new features we have available is the ability to set User Properties. Now, admittedly you could actually create user scoped custom dimensions in Universal Analytics too but in practice I didn’t see this too much, mainly because the inherent issues with cookie/session based analytics in a multi-device world meant that the data would be too patchy to be much use in most cases.

However GA4 is built from the ground up to be much better at handling cross-session and cross-device user activity, so we should be thinking a bit harder about how to use these things.

So what is a user property anyway? As Google simply put it:

An attribute of a user, such as age, gender, language, and country.

Google documentation

So it’s time to start thinking about what attributes it would be useful to store about our users. One way to think about this is to ask yourself what do our most valuable users do? On an ecommerce website, which is my speciality, this might seem obvious – they buy the most stuff (the macro conversion)- but there are other things that we might consider (the micro conversions) e.g.

  • Which categories are they browsing?
  • Have they subscribed to our newsletter?
  • Do they share our content on social media?
  • Have they created an account with us?
  • Do they shop full price or only when there is a discount?

There are loads of others but you get the picture. So identifying actions users take and understanding whether this has a bearing on your macro conversion could influence how you structure your marketing activity and could become a particularly strong tool in audience building. You would definitely bid more to ensure that your ads cut through to those valuable customers who also engaged a lot with your site wouldn’t you? And do you really want to burn budget announcing your new, exclusive range to those customers who only ever shop when you are on sale?

So you can see how tracking various user properties can give you far more interesting options when it comes to building your audiences, and optimising your website. So how do we do it?

Global Site Tag

If you are using gtag, aside from the fact that you really should be using Google Tag Manager, here’s how you send a user property to GA4, for example when a user subscribes to our email newsletter:

gtag('set', 'user_properties', {
  is_newsletter_subscriber: 'true'

Ask your devs to do this.

Google Tag Manager

If you are using Google Tag Manager, well done 🙂

You create your events as normal, but then you can simply add the User Properties in the event tag, which might look something like this

GA4 Event Tag with User Properties
GA4 share event tag

You don’t need to ask your devs to do it. Which is really handy if you want to do loads of events (and you will want to do loads of events)

Configure the GA4 Dimension

Doing the above will be enough to send these user properties to GA4, however you want to be able to access them in your reports and explorations too right? So you need to configure them in the GA4 interface like so

In GA4:

Configure > Custom Definitions > New Custom Dimension

Create a new User scoped dimension like so

GA4 Custom Dimension Setup

Save it and after 24 hours or so you’ll be able to import that dimension into your explorations, use it in your audience building (which means you can use it in Google Ads) and generally get a greater degree of insight into your website users.

Hopefully that’s inspired you a bit, what will you use User Properties in GA4 for on your website?

Need more info on getting you GA4 implemented? I’ve written a GA4 implementation guide here.

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