Most client reports require Universal Analytics (GA4 alone is not sufficient)

Published by Vic Drover on

Google Analytics Reporting Api And Watchful

Version 3 of Google Analytics is called Universal Analytics. It provides traffic and keyword data that are popular in the white-label reports here at Watchful. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) launched recently, but for the foreseeable future most client reports will require Universal Analytics.

Here’s why.

How does Watchful obtain site data from Google

Before we dig into this topic, some background is in order.

If you are using Watchful to generate reports for your clients, then it’s very likely that you rely on Google Analytics. Client reports that include Google Analytics data might look something like this:

White Label Report Builder
Sample client report showing data from Google Analytics.

Watchful integrates with Google Analytics via their Core Reporting API. This allows our client reports to include website data such as traffic levels, popular pages, referring sites, and popular keywords.

What does GA4 have to do with anything?

GA4 was released in October and Google had been strongly encouraging Universal Analytics users to upgrade. While GA4 offers some advantages, there are numerous reasons why most sites should continue with Universal Analytics. Even if you do update GA4, we recommend running it alongside Universal Analytics.

Despite this, we have received a few feature requests for GA4 integration to support Watchful’s client reports. This requires integrating the (brand) new Analytics Data API so we spent some time doing feasibility analysis.

Most client reports require Universal Analytics

After a significant amount of research and testing, it appears that the Analytics Data API is still in the alpha stage. Additionally, the documentation is incomplete and official libraries that support GA4 for PHP are not working as well as they should.

Indeed, the API itself includes this warning:

This is an early preview version of the API and is subject to change. While we will try to notify you of upcoming changes, you should expect to encounter breaking changes before the APIs are publicly released.

Analytics Data API Overview

With this in mind, we decided to stick with the existing Core Reporting API. As such, Watchful’s client reports will require websites running Universal Analytics. As noted above, running GA4 in parallel with Universal Analytics is a relatively straightforward. We recommend this option for those interested in GA4.

But I don’t use Google Analytics in my reports!

Not surprisingly, only Watchful reports including Google Analytics data require Universal Analytics.

If you’re not using our white-label client reports, or you are using reports but have not integrated your Google Analytics account, then the Universal Analytics requirement doesn’t affect you.

Confused?

You’re not alone: the whole rollout of GA4 seems sloppy, rushed and disorganized. Feel welcome to post any questions below and we’ll do our best to answer them.


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