Custom Real-Time Insights with GA4's Streaming Export and Looker Studio Pro

2024-02-06 | Article | Insights

Instant access to real-time insights plays a crucial role in diverse use cases, such as assessing whether a campaign is boosting traffic to your site or app, keeping an eye on sales, and other important KPIs, or product-level performance. The need for real-time data arises because prompt actions can be taken based on insights or to identify potential issues on your website and address them immediately.

The GA4 interface provides a real-time report, showcasing information such as the current number of users on your site, their geographic locations, and ongoing conversions. However, this feature is limited to the last 30 minutes, offering only a brief overview rather than a comprehensive daily analysis.

The good news is that we have the ability to create our own real-time dashboard by using the intra-day export for GA4 data to BigQuery and leveraging the new capabilities added to Looker Studio within the Pro version.

The intra-day tables in BigQuery from GA4 streaming exports typically store data collected throughout the day, offering a more detailed and real-time perspective compared to the daily export tables. To locate these intra-day tables in BigQuery, you'll need to activate the streaming export feature within the GA4 admin section. Subsequently, this table can be used to compose queries, acting as a data source for Looker Studio Pro. These queries can then be scheduled using BigQuery scheduled queries to run every 5 minutes or more. In cases where comparing today's data with previous time periods is beneficial, you can join the intra-day table with the daily export table to get a comprehensive view.

Once we identify the data source, the next step is to integrate it into a dashboard with automatic refresh functionalities. This feature is not part of Looker Studio but the Looker Studio Pro provides this by enabling the auto-refresh feature, which initiates repeated attempts to reload the data within your report. If the data exceeds the freshness setting of your data sources, Looker Studio retrieves fresh data from the underlying data connection. It's important to note that auto-refresh is initially turned off for each report. Once enabled, users can choose a refresh interval, ranging from every 5 minutes or more.

Pairing GA4's Streaming Export with Looker Studio Pro lets you easily create personalised real-time insights. Dive into your website's performance right away and make on-the-fly decisions for potential instant improvements.

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