How to use BigQuery with GA4 and Looker Studio to bypass data transfer limits

  • Google BigQuery is great for marketers using Looker Studio to visualize data from GA. Recently, Google has introduced limits on how much data you can transfer from Analytics. And this can mess with Looker Studio reports. 
  • BigQuery is a workaround to these limits. This is because it has a built-in GA connector and collects massive amounts of data.
  • Because BigQuery can process massive amounts of data, it scales with your brand. And it collects data in near real-time with super fast query technology.
  • Follow the detailed instructions in this four-step guide to start using BigQuery with GA4. You’ll learn everything from setting up your first BigQuery project to linking the two platforms together.
  • This is part one of a two-part series explaining how to use BigQuery to get, and visualize, your analytics data in Looker Studio.
Connecting GA4 to BigQuery

Google Looker studio is one of the best resources to visualize your web analytics data — but as of November 2022, it’s become a little more tricky. That’s when Google announced they would implement Analytics Data API quotas. These quotas are limits on how much data you can transfer from Analytics. This has caused problems for Looker Studio users because their reports have hit the limits. And reports that hit the limit give errors. Making your  — or your clients’ — reports useless.

But don’t give up on Looker Studio yet. With a little help from BigQuery you can still get your data into Looker Studio. This is part one of a two-part guide into how you can work around these quotas and continue using Looker Studio. In part 1, you’ll find out how to connect GA4 to BigQuery. And in part two you’ll learn how to hook BigQuery up to Looker Studio. After following the steps in these 2 articles, you’ll be able to bypass Google’s data transfer quotas. But, be warned, you need some database and SQL knowledge to use BigQuery. If you don’t know how to write SQL, you’ll need help from a developer.

What is Google BigQuery?

Google BigQuery is a cloud-based data warehouse for storing, processing, and analyzing big data. With BigQuery you can analyze massive sets of data with fast SQL-like queries. Google claims you can query terabytes in seconds and petabytes (1PB = 1 quadrillion bytes) in minutes.

It can be hard to comprehend such large numbers, so let’s put that another way — there are around 3 trillion trees on Earth. If each tree was 1 byte, you could store 333 Earths in 1PB of data. Google BigQuery allows you to store massive amounts of data like this and analyze it in minutes without worrying about infrastructure like servers. And importantly for digital marketers, you can bypass the limits Google is enforcing on Analytics transfers and get your data into Looker Studio.

What are the benefits of using BigQuery for GA4?

  • Scalability. As your business grows, so do your data storage and analysis needs. But because BigQuery can handle such massive amounts of data, you can keep using it for your growing business. 

Usually BigQuery is more useful for enterprise companies collecting huge amounts of data. But with the recent quota changes, it’s becoming useful for smaller companies that use Looker Studio. Here’s why: Google Analytics Data API quotas can be a little confusing. But one thing to look out for is concurrent requests, which have a limit of 10. If your report is making more than 10 concurrent requests — not unheard of for bigger reports — you’ll get an error.

  • Real-time data. BigQuery has data streaming features built in. So as your data is collected by GA4, you can analyze in real-time.
  • Speed. BigQuery uses what’s called parallel queries. Instead of the query just running on one server, it runs on lots. Remember, BigQuery uses Google’s infrastructure. So when we say a lot, we mean a lot. With access to tens of thousands of servers, queries happen in minutes — even for huge data sets.
  • Integrations. As you’d expect from a Google product, BigQuery plays nicely with other Google platforms. You can link it to Analytics, Ads, and other Cloud services. 

How to link GA4 and BigQuery: Four-step instructions

Before we can crack on and set up BigQuery for GA, there are a few prerequisites. Here’s what you need to get started with BigQuery and GA:

  • A GA4 property. Make sure Analytics is set up and running on the site or app you want to analyze.
  • A Google Cloud organization. As long as you have a Google Workspace or Cloud Identity account, you don’t need to do anything special. Just log into Google Cloud for the first time and it’ll automatically create your organization.
  • A BigQuery project. Before we can move on, create a BigQuery project. Open Google Cloud, click BigQuery on the left. On the screen, you’ll see an option to create a project.

If you follow these steps, BigQuery should be connected to your Analytics in less than 30 minutes. It’s pretty simple to set up BigQuery for GA. But when it’s time to start querying your data and sending it to Looker Studio, you need some technical knowledge of databases. This could mean hiring a developer to help you with the SQL coding needed for requests. 

How to link GA4 and BigQuery

Time needed: 10 minutes

  1. Enable BigQuery API

    First of all, you need to confirm the BigQuery API is enabled. From the Google Cloud click ‘APIs & Services’ on the left of the screen. If you can see ‘BigQuery API’ on your enabled list, you’re good to go. If not, navigate to the ‘Library,’ search for BigQuery API and turn it on.

  2. Link your GA4 account to BigQuery

    Now it’s time to open up Google Analytics. Navigate to the property you want BigQuery to work with. In the bottom left corner, click ‘Admin’ and you’ll see the setting for your property. Scroll down until you see ‘BigQuery Links.’ Click this and then on the next page, click ‘Link’ and the ‘Create a link with BigQuery’ page will appear. 
    ga to big query link accounts

  3. Configure your settings and data frequency

    Choose the project you created earlier and choose the location. Here it’s important to select the location you’ll be running queries in. When that’s done, click ‘Next’ and you can configure your settings.

    At this point you can choose which data streams and events you want to send to BigQuery. And how often — a once-a-day import or a continuous stream. If you want to include advertising identifiers, make sure you click the checkbox. When that’s done, click ‘Next’ and then ‘Submit’ on the next page to finish the setup.configure big query settings

  4. Set the correct permissions for the service account

    At this point you can choose which data streams and events you want to send to BigQuery. And how often — a once-a-day import or a continuous stream. If you want to include advertising identifiers, make sure you click the checkbox. When that’s done, click ‘Next’ and then ‘Submit’ on the next page to finish the to bigquery step 4

Your connection is now set up. It might take a little while for your data to appear in BigQuery. But when it does, you can start querying your data. Just remember that to do any querying, you’ll need technical knowledge of databases. 

Read part two of this series to find out how to connect Looker Studio to BigQuery. Then you’ll be able to bypass the new data transfer quotas and get all the analytics data you need in Looker Studio.

GA4 to BigQuery FAQs

What is BigQuery used for?

BigQuery is used for storing a massive amount of data. Because it’s a cloud-based service, you don’t need to worry about setting up expensive infrastructure like servers. But it’s not only for storing data, using its queries you can analyze your data.

Is BigQuery easy to use?

Yes. Because you don’t need to install software and Google takes care of the infrastructure, you can get started pretty easily.

Can I use BigQuery to analyze digital marketing data?

Of course. You can link it with Google Analytics to gather and analyze your customer behavior data. And you can link it with Google Looker Studio for data visualization.

Are there any useful resources for BigQuery on the byMarketers marketplace?

Sure! Take a look at the best data studio templates. There’s bound to be something you can use to boost your digital marketing there.

Can I set up BigQuery for GA4 myself?

Yes, if you follow the steps in this article, you can set up BigQuery yourself. But, if you want to do any querying of the data, you’ll need technical database knowledge or a developer.

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