The 24-48 hour delay for data to show up in Google Analytics is due to the time to process the collected data. However, there are also some workarounds to access your data faster…
How often is Universal Analytics data updated?
It takes 24-48 hours for UA to process your data. This means that your reports for the previous 2 days may not be (fully) complete.
The lag makes total sense. In contrast to Looker Studio, or any other data visualization tool, GA does a lot with data:
When a lot is going on, a lot can go wrong.
For instance, a bad internet connection may interrupt a visitor’s journey on your site. The data is then sent to GA at the moment the connection is restored. The delay takes place during the data collection process.
Moreover, GA also cleans up collected data before it appears in your reports. Think, e.g. of traffic from spam bots.
Finally, from the moment your UA account exceeds 200K daily sessions, your reports will only be refreshed once a day.
How often is Google Analytics 4 data updated?
GA4 uses the terminology data freshness, as opposed to data processing latency for UA. There is a vast difference between these key concepts and that makes it difficult to say how long before your GA4 data is fully processed and shown.
It is, however, safe to assume that this would not be longer than the 24-48 hour time window that also applies to UA.
Is Google Analytics updated in real time?
Although Google Analytics has a real-time report, most data is shown with a delay. You won’t see today’s data and even the data from yesterday may be incomplete.
In fact, it’s bizarre that the option show “today” in GA exists. If you choose it, your report will be empty.
There are, however, a few options to use GA as a limited real-time reporting tool. With “limited”, I do not only mean limited data but also limited accuracy.
#1 GA4 real-time data
Real-time data in GA4 is limited to users of the last 30 minutes. This includes both new and returning users. If you don't see any visitors there may be an issue with the real time report which has it's own set of solutions.
To access the real-time report in GA4, go to Reports in the menu on the left and click on Real-time.
The Acquisition Overview and Engagement Overview also contain a real-time card. As you can see in the screenshot below, they show different parameters for visitors that are busy exploring your site:
#2 Universal Analytics real-time data
To view real-time data in UA, click on Real-time under Reports in the left menu.
#3 Google Analytics API real-time reports
If you have a team of developers, you can create your own real-time GA reports. A good starting point is this page from the official Google documentation website for developers.
#4 BigQuery real-time
You can connect GA4 to BigQuery for free. To get real-time data, you need to use Streaming instead of Daily export.
Data updates in GA from other Google products
You can link Google products to your GA account. You can then, for instance, have direct access in GA4 to data from
- the query search report of Google Search Console.
- Google Ads, which you can find back in the advertising space
These products have different data processing times.
GSC, for instance, has a delay of two days.
Google Ads updates data faster. This is logical because businesses can’t wait for days to see if their investment is worth it. The speed at which data is updated in Google Ads itself depends on many factors, such as the attribution model.
Obviously, the respective GA4 reports can only receive updates the moment it is available in the Google products itself.
Final note: how important is today’s data for you?
To make smart data-driven decisions, you need reliable data. That implies both correct and complete data. GA puts one characteristic most marketers lack to the test: patience.
Google Analytics 4 is, in general, more accurate and reliable than Universal Analytics. But the data in reports lags in both GA versions.
The built-in GA real time reports are not 100% reliable. Besides, they only show data from the last 30 minutes. If you need more reliable real-time data, you can use another web analytics tool, use the GA API, or BigQuery.
However, if your site doesn’t depend on the most recent data, the safest thing is to analyze data until yesterday, or when you still rely on UA, the day before yesterday.