Determining how and when Google Analytics 4 collects website event data
With Google Analytics 4 (GA4), Google’s next generation of Analytics, replacing Universal Analytics (UA) in July, it’s crucial to learn and analyze how GA4 processes data as well as its time frame.
Why is tracking event-based data in GA4 important for search engine optimization?
With GA4, we can analyze events and conversions in reports. We are also able to view pages on the website that are receiving the most traffic as well as how many events/conversions are being tracked on that page. With this data being tracked, we can report back to clients how landing pages are performing, what internal/external links users are clicking on, how many form submissions are being filled out, etc. The number of events and conversions can help determine what SEO efforts need to be made for an overall improved ranking.
Analyzing how GA4 tracks new events
To test GA4 event tracking, we created a new page on a sample website as well as added an outside link on that page. We ensured that this website had a GA4 property tagged to accurately track the data. To track this link click event in Analytics, we created a new GA4 Event Tag in Google Tag Manager with a trigger that fired when that specific link was clicked. Once the event is created, it takes around 24 hours for this new event to appear in GA4.
How long does it take for event data to track in GA4?
By using this new event we created, we can test the timeframe for this data to appear in GA4. Over the course of a few weeks, we would click the link a few times and monitor GA4 to see how soon the new data would appear. After several trials, the new data for the event seemed to appear in GA4 around 16 hours after clicking the link twice.
Why should we monitor data processing time?
Up-to-date data, also known as data freshness, is important to identify trends, patterns, and user behaviors as they occur. This is especially important when using the data for reporting, for example in Google Looker Studio. To see how data updates when used in Looker Studio, we created a new report with a chart of the event data to view how long it takes for the fresh data in GA4 to appear in the report. After testing, the data appears exactly as it does in GA4 as soon as GA4 is up-to-date. This may vary depending on data freshness settings in Looker Studio, but we have an idea of when you can expect to see this data in your report.
Keeping data freshness in mind, picking the right time frame for the most accurate data is important. For example, since our test calculated new event data won’t process until about 16 hours after it occurred, the data from the previous day is still being processed. To see what your website analytics numbers are looking like, the day before yesterday is the best time frame to view. It will be the freshest and most accurate data on your GA4 property.
Whether you’re reporting data or using data to improve SEO, it is important to ensure that the data is accurate and up to date. Based on our tests, once you’ve created a GA4 property or successfully migrated to GA4, you can expect to see fresh data in less than a day. Migrating from UA to GA4 can be an adjustment when it comes to data collection, so learning how/when data is collected in GA4 is a game changer when it comes to utilizing data for your campaign.
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