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GA4 Data Delay: Everything You Need To Know

Paul Jarvis · May 28, 2024

Are you frustrated by the delays in your GA4 data reporting? You're not alone. Many marketers, analysts, and website owners face a 24- to 72-hour data delay that can hinder timely decision-making.

In this article, we will explore the reasons behind GA4 data delay, explain the intricacies of data processing, sampling, and reporting in GA4, and provide actionable solutions to keep your analytics efforts on track.

Why is GA4 Data Delayed?

There are several reasons why some website owners experience a delay in data with Google Analytics. However, according to Google, data delays in GA4 are completely normal and happen due to the following reasons:

  • Data processing time: Google Analytics takes time to collect and process events from your property. If this process takes 20 minutes, for instance, the data freshness is 20 minutes. However, Google allows for a data processing delay of 24 to 48 hours. This means that even though events may be collected promptly, it might take up to 48 hours for them to appear in your reports.
  • Offline event storage: When a user's device goes offline, such as losing internet connection while using a mobile app, Google Analytics stores event data locally on the device. This data is then sent to Google Analytics servers once the device is back online. Events that arrive within 72 hours after being triggered are processed, but events arriving after this period are ignored.
  • Data Import: Data uploaded via Data Import follows a different timeline. It usually becomes available within 24 hours of being uploaded.

What About GA4’s Real-Time Report?

So, the general GA4 report is inherently delayed, but what about the real-time report? In practice, the real-time data report in Google Analytics 4 offers the ability to monitor website or app activity as it unfolds.

However, GA real-time monitoring can sometimes be subject to delays or discrepancies for several reasons.

Firstly, there's a delay in data processing, meaning that even though the report aims to show data as it happens, there can be a slight lag between events occurring and their appearance in the report.

Also, the Realtime report primarily focuses on user-centric dimensions and metrics, particularly those related to how users are initially acquired, potentially omitting certain events or dimensions until they're processed. Finally, technical issues within the analytics infrastructure, such as server downtime or tracking code bugs, can also impact the accuracy and timeliness of the Realtime report.

Other Reasons Why GA4 Data is Delayed

There are additional reasons for Google Analytics 4 delays beyond the normal operation of the platform:

  1. Changes in events or tags: When modifications or new events are implemented in GA4 or Google Tag Manager, it might take a few days before the data reflects these changes, hindering the ability to track them as conversions promptly.
  2. Year-on-year and month-on-month data updates: Comparisons of data over different periods, such as year-on-year or month-on-month, may experience delays in updating. This delay can lead to fluctuating numbers in comparative reports, particularly in the initial days of each calendar month.
  3. Values during data processing: While GA4 processes data, you may encounter (not set) values, especially for custom parameters, until the processing is complete.
  4. Integration delays: Integrating GA4 with other platforms like Google Ads can introduce a lag in data synchronization, resulting in significant discrepancies and delays between the two platforms' data sets.
  5. Differences in filter mechanisms and data availability: Explore reports in GA4 yield different results compared to standard reports due to variations in filter functionalities, data sampling, and the availability of certain dimensions and metrics. This can lead to discrepancies in reported numbers between the two types of reports.

How to Deal with GA4 Data Delays

The GA4 delay is a relatively new problem that users have been constantly reporting. In the old version of Google Analytics (Universal Analytics), data showed up almost right away (based on hits).

In GA4's event-based data model, there's a 72-hour delay before you can see event data for analysis, which many say was a strategic decision by Google to enhance data accuracy and reduce data sampling issues.

The most important thing here is how we deal with this delay in reporting so that it doesn’t affect the regular operations of our website and marketing efforts.

1. Setup Fathom Analytics

Using an alternative web analytics tool, such as Fathom Analytics, can provide immediate access to real-time analytics data without the delays. Unlike GA4, where data is sampled and can take 24-48 hours to appear in reports outside of the "active user" view, Fathom offers instant access to analytics data without any processing delays.

This means that you can access real-time insights into website performance, user behaviour, and traffic patterns without having to wait for data to be processed and reported.

Fathom's real-time analytics data is free from bot traffic and machine learning adjustments. Unlike Google Analytics, Fathom shows real data from real humans only, without guessing or sampling, providing an accurate picture of user interactions on your website. By switching to a third-party tool like Fathom, you can completely eliminate the frustration and limitations associated with data delays in GA4, allowing you to make timely and informed decisions.

2. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is important when dealing with data delays in GA4. Anticipate processing times to adjust reporting schedules and ensure accurate analysis. Set clear expectations with stakeholders and establish regular reporting schedules based on processing times.

It’s also important to document changes to your tracking setup to track progress and monitor data freshness metrics. This helps manage expectations and frustration caused by GA4 delays, in case you are still considering dealing with this inherent issue.

3. Focus on long-term trends

Focusing on trends in GA4 gives a broader view of user behaviour and performance. Analyzing long-term trends helps uncover deeper insights that short-term data delays might hide.

Instead of getting caught up in short-term fluctuations, look at overall patterns over time. This approach helps mitigate the impact of data delays and provides a clearer picture of user engagement and performance metrics.

Need Better Analytics Without Data Delay? Try Fathom Analytics

We know that dealing with GA4 latency in data reporting can be frustrating. Thankfully, there are better options available for real-time analytics.

Fathom Analytics is a great choice for immediate and accurate insights into website traffic and user behaviour. Fathom does not use data sampling or machine learning adjustments, prioritizing accuracy in reporting.

Best part? You can run Fathom Analytics along your Google Analytics script. If you are ready to switch from GA4 to Fathom, you can also use the Google Analytics Importer to move all your analytics data to Fathom and prevent data loss.

Fathom provides real-time data updates, offering instant visibility into website activity without delays. This makes it a top choice for addressing these challenges by offering transparency, accuracy, and real-time insights.

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Paul Jarvis

Paul Jarvis, author + designer

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