Google is phasing out Universal Analytics (UA), and in response we have already transitioned all Veridian collections that use Google analytics to use Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This change has important implications that affect the type of reports and data that will be accessible going forward.
This article contains important information about:
- When UA stopped collecting data, and when historical UA data will no longer be available.
- Some fundamental differences between UA and GA4.
- GA4 user-specific (disaggregated) data versus aggregated data.
- Where user-specific (disaggregated) data and aggregated data can be accessed in GA4.
- What this all means for Veridian collections, including the fact that reports you may be used to may no longer be available.
- Next steps for Veridian collections, including options for retaining data.
When did UA stop collecting data, and when will historical UA data no longer be available?
UA already no longer collects new data as of July 1, 2023. Google has now provided notice that all users will lose access to the Universal Analytics user interface and API starting on July 1, 2024. Google recommends that you export your historical reports before this date.
How is Google Analytics 4 is fundamentally different from Universal Analytics?
- UA uses a session and pageview oriented or hit-based model, whereas GA4 uses an event-based model where any interaction can be captured as an event.
- The UA data model is organised around four levels:
- Interaction / Hit
- Product (if implemented for a property).
- The GA4 data model is organised around two levels:
- Event (Sessions exist, but they are tracked as events).
- The GA4 data model is designed to offer greater flexibility in terms of what you can track, and to be more adaptable to the contemporary multi-platform environment.
These fundamental differences mean that:
- UA data does not directly translate into GA4 data, and Google does not import historical data from UA properties into GA4 properties.
- Reports that you may be used to, available in UA, are not necessarily available in GA4.
GA4 user-specific (disaggregated) data versus aggregated data
It is important to understand the nature and difference between two different types of GA4 data. GA4 has user-specific (disaggregated) data and aggregated data, and each are retained for differing amounts of time:
- Aggregated data is retained indefinitely.
- User specific (disaggregated) data is only retained for two months by default (this can be changed to 14 months).
What is the difference between these two types of data?
The difference between user-specific (disaggregated) data and aggregated data is to do with the level of granularity and detail of the data collected and stored.
User-specific (disaggregated) data refers to data points collected on an individual user level. This type of data includes detailed information about user behaviour, such as page views, events, and conversions, tied to a unique user ID or device ID. Disaggregated data allows for in-depth analysis of individual user behaviour, and is valuable for understanding and optimising the user experience on a granular level.
Aggregated data, on the other hand, is a summarised version of the user-specific data. It involves combining and averaging data points across multiple users, sessions, or time periods to create high-level insights. This type of data is useful for identifying overall trends and patterns in user behaviour and comparing performance across different segments or time frames.
Where can these different types of data be accessed?
- Aggregated data is primarily displayed in the standard GA4 reports found under the 'Reports' section in the left-hand navigation menu.
- Disaggregated (user-specific) data is available through the 'Explore' section in GA4, where you can create custom reports and analyses.
What does this all mean?
The GA4 'Reports' section includes a number of reports, but these reports are currently not very customisable compared with UA reports, and they only contain aggregated data.
The GA4 'Explore' section has more varied and customisable possibilities for reports based on disaggregated data, but in order to create reports that can see back more than 60 days, the "User and event data retention setting" needs to be changed to 14 months.
Reports that you may be used to in UA are not necessarily available in GA4.
Therefore, we are setting the data retention period for user-specific (disaggregated) data to 14 months for all of our Google Analytics 4 properties. This allows the ability to create and view useful custom reports over a reasonable time span as required.
- As a client, unless you let us know you want to opt out, we will set the data retention period for 'User and event data retention' to 14 months for all Veridian collections. Note that without this 14 months setting, custom reports created and viewed in the 'Explore' section will only be able to include data from the last 60 days.
- We suggest that you test the GA4 interface in the coming months to ensure you can extract your required statistics from the 'Reports' (aggregated data) section. It is important to note that if you need statistics from the 'Explore' interface, the data period will only be two months (and up to 14 months after we switch over).