GA4 analytics update

On July 1, Google's analytics platform switched from Universal Analytics (UA) to GA4. As a result, all CSE websites now have two analytics dashboards. The new GA dashboard looks the same as the UA one, but a few metrics are no longer available—the CSE Communications and Marketing Team is working to replicate some of the old metrics in the new system.

To help units navigate this change, here are some insights about the project and actions you might want to consider for your old UA data:

Data Retention

  • The old UA analytics dashboard will remain active for six months, preserving all past metrics. After this period, Google will delete the old data.
  • If you require access to historical data, we recommend downloading the necessary reports before the old data is removed from UA at the end of 2023.
  • There is a two-month data overlap between the old UA dashboard and the new GA4 dashboard.

Data Storage and Access

  • GA4 will only retain data for the past 14 months (and this could be shortened in the future).
  • Quota limits have been introduced to access data from GA4 from external platforms, including Google's software.
  • Because of these policies, we have implemented Goolge’s data warehouse, BigQuery, to store our GA4 metrics to store our data beyond their 14-month range.

Data Flow

  • The data storage flow is GA4 > BigQuery > Looker Studio. Previously it was UA > Looker Studio. 
  • BigQuery now handles the storage of GA4 and some of CSE's past data from UA. However, the extent of UA data retention will depend on associated policies and costs—pretend it's not real until you hear otherwise.
  • Unlike the real-time data updates in the UA dashboard, the GA4 dashboard is processed and updated every 24 hours in BigQuery and exported to Looker Studio as daily reports. The daily reporting doesn’t include the current day.

GA4 and UA Differences

  • GA4 uses an event-based measurement system, whereas UA was session-based. This is a very different model, meaning there aren’t straightforward one-to-one comparisons of metrics between the two platforms.
  • Some metrics previously tracked in UA are no longer available, and a few aren’t available outside the GA4 platform due to privacy laws.
  • To minimize the impact of this fundamental shift on you all, the CSE Communications and Marketing team has written code in our data warehouse to replicate UA metrics for the GA4 dashboard. It's important to note slight variations between the dashboard metrics. Currently, there is an industry standard of single-digit variation in UA to GA4 for custom-coded conversations and as high as 20+ percent for unaltered metrics—we don’t have any unaltered data in our GA4 dashboard and are in the single-digit differences camp.

Missing Metrics

  • The following metrics aren’t currently available in the new dashboard: age, gender, average time on the page, time of day, site search data, load time, and scroll.
  • Age and gender data have been locked down because of privacy laws. The other metrics have proven difficult to replicate, but we are hoping to do so soon.