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How is data retention affected by migrating to Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?

As Google Analytics (GA) transitions to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), businesses need to understand how their data retention will be affected. In this article, we’ll explore what data retention means, what happens to your data when GA4 comes, and FAQs about GA4 and data retention. We’ll also provide recommendations to help businesses optimize their GA4 data tracking and retention settings.

What is GA4 data retention?

Data retention refers to the length of time data is stored in your analytics platform. With GA4, data retention settings affect the “Explore” section in GA4, which provides users with insights and visualizations of their data. Data retention settings can be set for either 2 or 14 months, depending on the business’s preference. The data retention setting for gender, age, and interest data is always set to two months, regardless of GA4 settings. However, it’s important to note that data in your standard reports will remain unaffected by data retention.

What's happening to your GA Data when GA4 comes

As GA transitions to GA4, businesses need to understand what’s happening to their Universal Analytics (UA) data. All data collected in GA3 will remain accessible in GA3. However, you cannot port over this data into GA4. The good news is that there are tools and resources to help with the transition. Additionally, there is no reason for users to panic, as everything will be alright once UA is sunsetted.

A reminder of the data Universal Analytics is sunsetting:
UA will no longer receive any new information at the end of June. All new information will be sent only to GA4.

FAQs about GA4 and Data Retention:

Reporting in standard reports will be unaffected by data retention. The explore section in GA4 can retain data for up to 2 or 14 months, depending on the data retention setting in GA4.

The data retention options for GA4 are 2 or 14 months.

GA4 data is stored in Google servers located throughout the world. Personal data is first anonymized before being stored.

The migration settings will mostly be focused on standard events, and custom events will need to be manually edited and created.

This depends on what Google is working on in GA4 at any given point. Currently, GA4 updates happen about 1 to 3 times per month.

The default data retention period in GA4 is 2 months.

Yes, under Data Settings - Data Retention, you can change the data retention settings. The options are 2 months and 14 months.

After the retention period expires, user and event information is removed from the “Explore” section in GA4. Standard reports will not be affected.

Retention data should apply retroactively. According to Google, “when you increase the retention period it is applied to data that you have already collected.

The primary difference between GA4 data retention policy and Universal Analytics (UA) data retention policy is the maximum amount of time that data can be retained. In Universal Analytics, data can be held for up to 50 months, while in GA4, the maximum retention period is 14 months. 

Marcel Digital for your GA4 Needs

The transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 is an essential process that website owners and digital marketers must prepare for. Data retention is one aspect of GA4 that is essential to understand, as it determines how long your data will be available for analysis. While GA4 has a default data retention period of 2 months, it can be extended to 14 months through the Data Settings - Data Retention option. Marcel Digital experts recommend setting the retention period to the maximum of 14 months to ensure you have access to all relevant data for as long as possible.

The transition to GA4 may seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and expertise, it can be a smooth and straightforward process that can help improve your website's performance and digital marketing strategies. At Marcel Digital, we are committed to helping our clients make the most of their digital presence, and we look forward to assisting you in any way we can. 

Our team of experts can help you transition from UA to GA4 seamlessly and set up actionable reports to help you get the most out of your data. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about GA4 and how Marcel Digital can help, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Got more questions about GA4 and Data Retention?

Our team of experts is here to help. We've already successfully migrated organizations just like yours to GA4. Don't wait until it's too late!

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About the author

Dan Kipp

Dan Kipp is the Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager guru at Marcel Digital. He loves traveling, cooking, sports, and spending spare time with friends and family.

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