Google Analytics 4 Data Retention: Finally Explained

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Google Analytics 4 Data Retention: Finally Explained

Are you looking to make the most of your Google Analytics 4 (GA4) data? As of July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics (UA) is no longer operating. Marketers and business owners are still figuring out how to set up Google Analytics 4 and preserve their data. 

 

We all know saving and analyzing your user and event data in GA4 is crucial, and Google’s documentation regarding this task can be complex. But don’t worry! We’re here to simplify things and explain what these new rules mean.

 

Without further ado, let’s dive right in!

GA4 Data Retention Explained

Data retention controls let you decide how long Google keeps your user data. In GA4, it’s set to two months by default. Now, accessing your historical data is crucial. With it, you can perform analysis, compare current and past performance, and make predictions. You may not need to make changes if you’re only using standard reports daily. However, if you want to perform in-depth analysis over time, extending your data retention to the full 14 months is a good idea.

Setting up Data Retention in GA4

This is essential for any business to collect and analyze customer data. GA4 offers enhanced data collection, providing better user behavior, engagement, and conversion insights. Let’s start setting up your user and event data retention in GA4.

 

  1. In your GA4 account, go to the Admin panel. 

admin panel in GA4

2.In the Property column, find Data Settings. 

data settings

  1. Under Data Settings, click Data Retention. 

data retention in GA4

By default, GA4 sets the event data retention rate at two months. This is great if you only care about short-term analysis. However, unless your website or online store is brand new, you probably want access to older data to do well in the future.

 

  1. To track more than two months, manually select the “14 months” option in Data Retention and click Save.

data retention saving

It’s important to note that this change affects the data you can see in Explorations but doesn’t affect what you see in the standard reports. You can access reports in Exploration and other reports. These reports allow you to choose specific dates to see data. 

Explorations in GA4

 

You can pick dates from the day you started collecting data for predefined reports. However, for Exploration reports, the data you see depends on the data retention setting. Standard reports show aggregated data.

In Exploration reports, the data range depends on your data retention policy.  So, if you want to see more data in Exploration reports, you must change the data retention setting in the Admin panel, as we explained.

 

GA4 will take 24 hours for these changes to come into effect. You can start using your new data retention settings and make the most of your data. Use it to understand customer behavior, create customer segments, and develop marketing strategies.  

 

In Exploration reports, the data range depends on your data retention policy.  So, if you want to see more data in Exploration reports, you must change the data retention setting in the Admin panel, as we explained.

 

GA4 will take 24 hours for these changes to come into effect. You can start using your new data retention settings and make the most of your data. Use it to understand customer behavior, create customer segments, and develop marketing strategies.  

What About Data That Goes Beyond 14 Months?

In Universal Analytics, you could choose how long your data was kept, ranging from 14 months to 50 months or indefinitely. But what about GA4? Can you see data older than 14 months? You can, but there are some limits, especially regarding user data. 

You can check data older than 14 months in aggregated and custom reports. However, you can only go up to 14 months for exploration reports. Fortunately, within GA4, there are two alternative solutions at your disposal. Let’s check those out!

1.  Enable the “Reset User Data on New Activity” Option

Below the Event Data Retention section, you’ll find a toggle button that enables you to reset user data when new activity happens. 

reset data retention in GA4

By enabling this option in the data retention settings, the selected period (2-14 months) will restart whenever a user returns to your site. This implies that their data will remain intact as long as a user returns within those 14 months. 

 

Yet, if users don’t visit the site for 14 months, their data will be automatically erased. This option is excellent but limited to one user’s data. So, you may still lose historical data for users who don’t return within the chosen retention period.

2. Data Retention With BigQuery

For marketers, the best way to keep their old data safe is to use a data warehouse like Google BigQuery. In the past, most big companies used BigQuery for their marketing data. But now, with GA4, this is becoming an option for a broader range of professionals who want to preserve their older digital marketing data. Beware that BigQuery is only partially free for use. Before setting it up, go to the pricing section of BigQuery and check how much you will end up paying. 

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Key Takeaways

We hope our article helped you better grasp data retention in Google Analytics 4! To sum everything up, here are the main points you need to keep in mind:

  • Retaining user and event data in GA4 is crucial for businesses. Historical data is essential for analysis, performance comparison, and future predictions.
  • GA4 has a default data retention period of two months. For standard reporting and short-term analysis, this may suffice. However, we advise you to extend data retention to the full 14 months for more in-depth analysis over time.
  • To set up data retention in GA4, access the Admin panel, navigate to Data Settings, and click on Data Retention. You can manually select the “14 months” option to extend data retention.
  • For data retention longer than 14 months, you can restart the selected data retention period (2-14 months) whenever a user revisits your site. This is done with the “Reset user data on new activity” option. Data is retained if the user returns within the chosen retention period.
  • Using Google BigQuery as a data warehouse allows you to keep older data safe. This option is becoming accessible to a broader range of professionals but may have associated costs.

Unlock the Full Potential of GA4 with Our Expertise

In a digital landscape where data is king, handling and analyzing it can make or break your success. As we’ve seen, GA4 offers powerful features for data analysis, but optimizing them can be a complex task. If you seek guidance on getting the most out of your GA4 setup, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Play Media.

 

Our team of experts is ready to help you navigate the intricacies of GA4, ensuring you have access to the insights you need to drive your business forward. Contact us today, and let’s unlock the full potential of your data together!

 

 

 

 

 

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