Universal Analytics: The Long Goodbye
For those of us who are old enough to remember Y2K, it sort of seems like the end of Universal Analytics (UA) on 30th June 2023 had a similar 'fizzle' feeling.
Google had told us that the 30th June was going to be the end, but a few months on and it seems like UA is still collecting data. We do know at some random point UA is going to be removed and your web analytics history will be gone too. I am starting to see more business users starting to ask the question:
“How can I continue to view my analytics history once Universal Analytics is removed?”
There are 3 steps to providing historic Universal Analytics reports:
The way that user analytics tracking works is that every time a user lands on your website and requests a page or performs an action a message is sent to UA which is recorded behind the scenes in a data warehouse. When you login to UA what you see is a summarised version of that raw data. You can see the total number of users that performed an action, or came from a specific referrer, or were on a mobile device. You don’t have the ability to see user X and how they individually interacted with your site. UA (unless you are using the paid UA360) will never give you access to the raw data.
What this means is that you need to be very clear about the types of reports you want to be able to create on your historic UA data when you extract the historic data. You need to know exactly the grouping of data and the drilling into the data you will provide.
The way that I recommend that you define your reporting requirements is to review exactly how you have set up UA. Consider what reports you currently use and which fields you want to drill into. This will allow you to define the dimension and measures that you need to extract in a group.
This step is absolutely critical. If you do not get all the dimensions you need in a single group, you will not be able to create your end reports and once access to UA is removed, that data will be gone for good.
“This step is absolutely critical. If you do not get all the dimensions you need in a single group, you will not be able to create your end reports and once access to UA is removed, that data will be gone for good.”
A little while back I wrote a blog post on your options for extracting historic data from Universal Analytics. When you are looking for a large historic export, you are going to need to use the Universal Analytics API.
Large historic loads do present the additional challenge of handling big volumes, which is going to mean paging (multiple calls to get smaller chunks of data at a time). Building your own data pipeline for this process will take a considerable amount of work and there are a number of existing tools that can assist or talk to us if we have done this work already.
The final stage of the process is to create the final dashboards. The dashboards are going to provide your end users with a method for viewing your historic data and the ability to drill into the data by the dimensions that you identified during the define phase of the project.
In conclusion, as we bid farewell to Universal Analytics, it's essential to prepare for the inevitable removal of this platform and the potential loss of your valuable web analytics history. To continue accessing your historical data, remember the three key steps: Define, Extract, and Create.
Defining your reporting requirements is the first critical step. Understand how you've set up UA, identify the reports and data dimensions you rely on, ensuring you capture all necessary information.
Next, extraction is crucial for large historic data exports. Utilise the Universal Analytics API to obtain the data you need, recognising that handling significant volumes may require careful data pipeline management.
Finally, the creation of informative dashboards empowers your end-users to explore and analyse historical data based on the dimensions identified earlier. By following these steps, you can ensure a smooth transition from Universal Analytics and maintain access to your valuable analytics history.
If you would like to discuss how to salvage all of your historical UA data, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.