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Universal Analytics to GA4: The Importance of Legacy Data and Tips to Export

Updated: Mar 7

Universal Analytics had been the standard for data analytics for many years, but with the introduction of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), Universal Analytics has been marked for retirement. Many domains have lost the ability to receive UA data already, but other still have UA data coming in, though this won't last for long.

notification that data will stop processing soon in UA

Because of the UA sunset, its a priority to save legacy data, especially for e-commerce and enterprise-level sites.

The Importance of Legacy Data

Historical data serves as a touchstone to understand past performance, user behaviors, and trends. For e-commerce sites, this data can provide insights into product performance, sales trends, user acquisition strategies, conversion metrics and more. Enterprise-level sites, with their complex structures and multifaceted user behaviors, rely even more on historical data to make informed decisions.

When migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4, businesses might discover that certain data points or the granularity of past data isn't readily available or replicated in the new platform. This is due to a hefty user interface change, but also due to the fact that they both have very different data models. Universal analytics utilized a session-based data model, where GA4 utilizes an event-based model. Because of this, data points won't always line up one-to-one when comparing your data either.

infograph of the different data models of UA and GA4

Even though things may not align perfectly, its still essential to save legacy UA data as it allows you to continue to track and understand long-term trends, especially when comparing year-over-year data or identifying seasonal trends.

When Will I lose My Universal Analytics Data?

On July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics properties started to processing hits, which included standard properties in accounts that also contain 360 properties. Some properties have continued to process data for a short period after this as Google stages the shutdown of Universal Analytics as a whole.

You'll be able to access your previously processed data in your Universal Analytics property until July 1, 2024. On this date, All users, including those accessing 360 properties, will lose access to the Universal Analytics user interface and API.

Key Data Points to Export

Here are some of the most critical data points you should consider exporting from Universal Analytics:

  • User Data: This includes new users, returning users, sessions, and demographic information.

  • Acquisition Data: Information about where your users come from, such as traffic source, medium, campaigns, and keywords.

  • Behavior Data: Pageviews, average session duration, bounce rate, and other user interaction metrics.

  • Conversion Data: Details of goals set up in Universal Analytics, e-commerce transaction data, revenue, and conversion rate.

  • Custom Events and Dimensions: Any personalized events or metrics that were created for specific tracking purposes.

  • Site Search Data: Insights into what users are searching for on your site.

  • E-commerce Data: Product performance, shopping behavior, checkout behavior, and sales performance.

Exporting Your Analytics Data

Seeking to archive your Google Analytics metrics for posterity? Universal Analytics offers several avenues for this. Hit 'Export' at the top of the page, and make sure you've chosen the right date range.

export options in UA

Start with the core reports - Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions. Extract yearly data, then systematically catalog them in folders by the year. This doesn't preserve month-specific figures, but it provides an overarching perspective.

Export Tips:

  • Adjust the date, then opt for maximum rows.

  • Month-view or week-view is preferable; daily views might not hold much significance later.

CSV, Excel or Google Sheets Export

You can save your data as CSV and excel file types, or even directly export to Google Sheets.

Google Sheets is RankRealm's preferred method as its fairly streamline and instantly adds the Google Sheet to your Google Drive, where analytics data can be easily analyzed and shared. You also have the ability to quickly rename and keep your data organized.

You can also connect Google Sheets data to Looker Studio with just a few clicks, so visualizing the data is even easier.

We typically don't recommend the PDF export option as this file type can't be integrated into visualization tools.

Advanced Export Options

If you require a more intricate data extraction mechanism, the Google Analytics API is your ally. This is especially potent for automating large-scale data exports. For those leveraging Google Analytics 360, you're able to directly back up your data with the Google BigQuery integration, which can facilitate advanced data analyses with SQL capabilities.

For an expanded guide, consult Google's resource: Analytics Report Export & Sharing.

Organized Cloud Storage

Post extraction, synchronize your data to your corporate cloud storage, whether it's Microsoft 365 or Google Drive. Implementing a systematic filename structure is crucial when archiving to ensure easy retrieval. Consider this structure:

[Report Category] - [Date Duration] - [DataType].csv

For instance, if you're cataloging website interactions for February 2022, your filename could resemble:


Utilizing Looker Studio with Your Legacy Data

Once you've exported your data, platforms like Looker Studio can be instrumental in analyzing and comparing it with GA4. Looker Studio is a modern data platform that makes it easy to explore, analyze, and visualize data.

looker studio dashboard for tracking traffic data from UA and GA4

You can import your exported Universal Analytics data into Looker Studio, as mentioned above. The platform supports a variety of formats, making it easy to integrate.

Once imported, you can create custom dashboards that showcase key performance indicators from both Universal Analytics and GA4. With side-by-side comparisons, you can quickly identify any discrepancies or shifts in user behavior.

Note: RankRealm is well-versed in building custom analytics solutions with Looker Studio. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you track the data that's most important to you.

Safeguarding Your Legacy Data

As Universal Analytics continues to sunset, it's important for businesses to safeguard their legacy data. This data is invaluable for long-term strategic decisions and understanding historical performance.

By leveraging platforms like Looker Studio, businesses can ensure a smooth transition between analytics platforms and continue to derive actionable insights from their data. Whether you're in e-commerce, enterprise, or any other sector, keeping a clear view of your past can only serve to illuminate your path forward.

Contact us today if you need any assistance with backing up your Universal Analytics data!



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