Tiny Bites: Don’t Lose Your Universal Analytics Data

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An orange photograph of someone working at a laptop with the title of this episode of Tiny Bites by The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Don't Lose Your Universal Analytics Data.'

Welcome to Tiny Bites from the Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Ben Holland from Clariti about the upcoming deletion of Universal Analytics data — and what you need to do about it.

As we all remember, on July 1, 2023, Google stopped collecting data for Universal Analytics. At that time, Google changed how they collect traffic data and connect users to each other. GA4 represented this shift in how they both collect and present data.

Universal Analytics Historic Data Deletion

We’ve all spent the last year discovering how to navigate GA4 and now, on July 1, 2024, all Universal Analytics data is… going away! That’s right, all historic data from UA will be deleted on this date.

A screenshot of GA4 with the alert banner about UA data deletion.

If you’ve been blogging for more than a few years, the odds are pretty good that you might want access to that UA data for historical analysis at some point. So what can you do about it?

In this episode, Bjork and Ben walk you through a few possible solutions — including a DIY option and an easier option using Clariti software.

With Clariti, there is no data cliff between the UA and GA4 data transition. Clariti pulls and stores page views, sessions, and visitors by page for your site (and will continue to show the historic UA data even after July 1, 2024).

If you’re already a Clariti user, make sure to sync your UA and GA4 accounts ASAP (with as much wiggle room as possible before July 1). If you’re just signing up for Clariti, you’ll also want to connect both UA and GA4 accounts to enable this feature.

If you’re not yet a Clariti user, we have exciting news! Head to clariti.com/google to get access to a special deal for podcast listeners — your first month of Clariti for just $1!

Learn more:

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

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Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: Ben, welcome to the Tiny Bites podcast episode. This is going to be a short and helpful one, but welcome to the podcast.

Ben Holland: Thanks for having me here. I’m excited to talk about this.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so you’ve been talking about this a lot with the Clariti team. You’ve been doing some webinars, a lot of questions about it. It’s kind of right squarely in the world that Clariti operates, which is data and analytics. But before we get into the specifics of this problem of Universal Analytics data going away, let’s roll the tape back a little bit and just give some context for who you are, maybe a little bit of background on Clariti, and then we can dive into some of the specifics here.

Ben Holland: Yeah, sounds great. So my name is Ben Holland. I’m the general manager for Clariti. I’ve been here since 2020, I think is when we started working together. And the idea behind Clariti is really to help those that create content get better insight into what’s going on and to help them manage it. I have a background in data analytics, so I got my master’s degree in business analytics from Arizona State University. And I will also add, I joke about this all the time, that even though I have a data analytics background, it’s still challenging to figure out what things mean in Google Analytics, but that’s beside the point.

Bjork Ostrom: But a lot of the reason why Clariti exists, we’re bringing in Google Analytics data, bringing in Google Search Console data, bringing in WordPress data, and then that’s a lot of data. And then what you and the team work on is how do we make that as actionable and as simple as possible? Because as we all know, more information, more data, more complexity doesn’t always necessarily mean better. And so it’s taking all that information and distilling it down into actionable, insightful information. And we could talk ad nauseam about all the ways to do that within Clariti. But one of the things that we want to focus on right now is specifically the toolset of Universal Analytics in GA4, so Google Analytics 4, and then Clariti’s ability to merge those. But also before we talk about that problem and solution, let’s talk about why that’s important to even do that. So what’s happening, it’s right around the corner here, what’s happening and what should publishers, bloggers, anybody who uses Google Analytics be aware of that’s right around the corner here.

Ben Holland: Yeah. Yeah, so good question. So Google released Universal Analytics a long time ago, and they’ve had different versions of it. Right now, what was called GA3 is also referred to as Universal Analytics. If you were a content creator in the last year or so, then you remember that last year in 2023 in July 1st, Google stopped collecting data for Universal analytics. And there was a big push to basically set up GA4, if you have Google Analytics installed on your site, you probably got a lot of emails, a lot of notices, “Hey, you need to connect the GA4 property,” things like that.

The purpose behind it all is Google is changing the way they collect traffic data and connect users to each other. And so with GA4, it’s a pretty big shift in the way that they collect data and present it. And so there wasn’t really a simple, “Hey, yeah, this old version just kind of translates into the new version of how we collect it,” they wanted to make a clean break. Last year they said, “Hey, you got to set up GA4, or you’re not going to see any data,” on July 1st of last year.

Bjork Ostrom: And people can remember that there’s this big transition over, you had to make sure that you had it set up. And then for anybody, if you’re envisioning Google Analytics, it’s not like that data just then merges with your old data. It’s like a new instance of your Google Analytics data. So you look and at your old data UA4, it’s like all of your traffic, and for a site Pinch of Yum is like 10 years of traffic, and then it just, there’s a cliff and it stops. That’s when data went away, collection around UA, Universal analytics, and then similarly, as soon as you set up when that started. And so for some people, hopefully most people, they set up their GA4 instance before Universal Analytics stop collecting data. So there’s some overlap there. So you could kind of bounce back and forth between those two. So let’s talk about as far as you know, what does that mean? July 1st, 2024 Universal Analytics data is going away? Does that just mean then you log in and it’s not there anymore?

Ben Holland: Yeah, so good question. So last year we spent a lot of time on the Clariti side really trying to figure out how do we make sure that this is a seamless experience. So UA data, like you said, there’s a cliff, and then GA4 data will begin collecting whenever you connected it. And so we tried to make that a very seamless experience. It is a separate property, like you said. So GA4 is its own property. The old UA is its own property.

Bjork Ostrom: In Google, Google Analytics.

Ben Holland: In the Google Analytics Console, yeah. And what Google, I guess during all of this evaluation and investigation, we realized that Google really doesn’t like to store old data. They don’t like to waste the storage space. So in a lot of ways they do sampling to get away with that. They’ll keep just parts of data to give you directionally what’s happening, but they don’t always store all data that’s ever been captured. And so I think it’s with that mentality that Google is coming a year later now. So on July 1st, 2024, Google will be straight up deleting all UA data. All of the data that has been collected for could be over a decade, like you mentioned with Pinch of Yum is just going away. It’s getting deleted and there’s red alerts everywhere. Make sure you migrate it, make sure you do something with it. And that’s sort of where we are seeing that, hey, we kind of thought about this a little bit ahead of time with Clariti, knowing that this could potentially be the case.

Bjork Ostrom: And let’s talk about two different ways to approach it. One is, let’s say if somebody doesn’t use Clariti, that’s not a tool that they have. Or maybe if people do use Clariti and they want to be redundant or get as much of that data as possible, we went through this process, you helped with this where we essentially did a data dump. Even if we’re not going to actively use that data, we want to have it available just in case it’s kind of a technical process, but maybe people have somebody technical on their team that they work with and they want to make sure that they reserve this data. Let’s talk about that instance. Can you talk about what that looks like, how that works, kind of at a high level? You don’t obviously have to get into the technical elements of what it looks like.

Ben Holland: So if you log into the analytics console, analytics.google.com, you’ll see a red pop-up often with a countdown timer, it’s very ominous looking, and there’s a button that’s like, “Learn more how to migrate your data.” And we spent quite a bit of time kind of exploring all of the options. The thing that I think is frustrating is that Google doesn’t really give you this one click button download everything. And I think a lot of the reason for that is that their data is so complex and multifaceted, multidimensional behind the scenes. So when we started going down paths of, okay, well there is data we still know we want to store somewhere. We have the traffic in Clariti. Clariti does store its own version of that. So it’s not going to disappear on July 1st, but there’s all these other reports and dimensions and metrics that we wanted to capture. So Google has some instructions to use a Google Sheet, add-on that, the Google Analytics, Google Sheet add-on, probably the most user-friendly. The challenge is you have to know how to build a report because essentially what Google says is you can download a report, but you can’t just download the raw data.

You have to create a report and a report is created using a dimension, which is usually you think of it as the pivot point. So a date would be a dimension or a page would be a dimension. And that really tells you, okay, what is each row? What separates each row? And then you have to select the metrics. So those would be things like sessions, page views, users, bounce rate, things like that. So those would be a lot of times just a number. So in the Google Sheets you can do that. You have to do it in sections because the Google Sheets does have a limit of number of rows. I think it’s 5,000 rows. So if you have an older site or if you pick a dimension that goes pretty far back, you’re going to hit your limit really fast. There’s also, I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds on this one, but there is, if you do have a friend who’s technical or knows anything to do with data, there is a company called Fivetran. It is a data extraction and transformation and loading tool, it’s F-I-V-E-T-R-A-N.com And they do have a Google Analytics connector, and we ended up going this route. What you need to do is set up the Google Analytics connector in Fivetran, and then you also need to create a Google Cloud BigQuery database. Again, I am sure people’s eyes are glazing over, but.

Bjork Ostrom: Most people have fallen asleep by now. No.

Ben Holland: Yeah, most. You can do it that way.

Bjork Ostrom: We were actually, as a quick side note, I was watching the Apple event with a friend. I was like, let’s do lunch and watch the Apple event. This is a friend, Nate is actually Nate who does Snackdive with Lindsay. I was like, “Oh, it’d be really fun.” And at one point they were talking about the new features and updates, and I heard him pretend snoring next to me. But I think it’s important to point out because it’s not like somebody who’s listening to this, who’s a food creator and doing the photography and recipe development will then know Fivetran and BigQuery and the connection. But to your point, to have that information if they do have somebody who knows this or is technical to say to point them in the right direction. So I think it’s important to point it out.

Ben Holland: And that’s generally as deep as I’ll go on that. We do have some Clariti workshops that do go a little bit deeper and we have some videos if you want to reach out to the Clariti team, we’ll absolutely send those out. I don’t necessarily want to overload Fivetran by any means, but it is an opportunity. And the only problem is it does take some time. So I think it took us about a week to get all of the data syncing because Google has API thresholds and other things, and we’re troubleshooting different reports. But the Google Sheets Connector is pretty quick. It is challenging to kind of configure and set up the reports you want, but then the Fivetran to BigQuery, if you’re just the kind of person that like, “Hey, I just want to take this and store it in the attic and I don’t know if I’ll ever look at it ever again, but I want it,” then the Fivetran is another good option if you have somebody technical that I can help you with that.

Bjork Ostrom: And that’s kind of like you said, it’s taking all those files, almost like I think of it in the world of taxes. It’s like you don’t want to get rid of them. It’s not like you throw them out every year because you might need to keep it around and refer back to them and who knows the reason why, but it’s just nice to have that data. But you also don’t necessarily want to spend a bunch of time fine-tuning another instance to allow you to analyze all of that data if it’s going to be resource intensive. So you talked about the Google Sheets option, where there’d be a connection there. There’s the BigQuery, Fivetran option that would be more of a connection into Google Analytics and exporting that, storing it. Clariti also has the ability to bring in some of that data and smooth it over and have that available for historical analysis. Can you talk about what that looks like and maybe the parameters around how much data is being brought in for anybody who is a Clariti user?

Ben Holland: So we are proud of the fact that Clariti does pull in its own version of your traffic data. So we’ll pull in page views, sessions and visitors as far back as we can go. Through trial and error, we have kind of determined, I mentioned a sampling thing that Google does. We’ve kind of determined that Google kind of stops storing page-level data past about 26 to 36 months. It’s really fuzzy. We’ve kind of loosely correlated it with a default setting of sampling data. So we’ll go back as far as we can. Oftentimes it’s only about 27 to 36 months. And then what we’ll do in while you’re setting up your Google account is we’ll also blend it with your GA4 property. So we’ll ask you for your UA property and then your GA4 property. And then Clariti is smart enough to kind of know when does one stop collecting and when does the other start.

And then it kind of blends it together. So you’ll see in Clariti, and our existing Clariti users are super excited about this and use it all the time, that there is no Cliff. There’s no gap in data unless you took some time after July 1st of 2023 to set up your GA4 property and there wasn’t data being collected, Clariti automatically smooths it over and your data is there, your UA property and your GA4. And the best part is after July 1st in a few weeks in 2024, Clariti will continue to show that UA data. So it is-

Bjork Ostrom: Clariti brings it in, stores it. So it’s kind of like a light version of that data dump whereas much as possible it brings in. Can you say that again? It was page view session and?

Ben Holland: Page view sessions and visitors by post or by page. So all page level data for those three metrics.

Bjork Ostrom: As much of that that’s available. And like you said, Google does some purging of that data over time where you might not have that information to bring over, but if it is over, if it is available, it’s brought over essentially.

Ben Holland: Yes. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. And the key here, in that instance, if anybody is a Clariti user, number one, it’s important for them to make sure that they have both their UA connection and their GA4. So let’s say if somebody signed up recently and you had Google Universal Analytics and a GA4 account, would your recommendation be, “Hey, make sure before July 1st that you connect your UA account as well so that data can be brought in before it goes away?”

Ben Holland: Yes. I would highly recommend that you do that as soon as possible. We don’t know exactly the time of day or when on July 1st that Google will delete the UA data, but we do know that it can take up to 48 hours to sync all of your data. So-

Bjork Ostrom: Into Clariti.

Ben Holland: Into Clariti. So we would encourage you to do it as soon as possible.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. And then if somebody signs up new, make sure that you connect both accounts as well and ideally before July 1st when that would go away because you want to bring that in and then also have GA4 set up going forward. Is that right?

Ben Holland: That’s right, that’s right, yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Ben Holland: And we have a special offer for those who are not Clariti users currently. Anyone that wants to join Clariti here before July 1st, if they go to clariti.com/google, they’ll get access to a special promotion and be able to get their first month of Clariti for $1. So you can pull in all of your UA data and get access to Clariti can reach out to the team, join one of our workshops, get the most out of Clariti, but we just want people to be able to save this data before it’s too late so you can get your first month of Clariti for $1.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Yeah, we talked about this idea of how do you set up a situation that’s kind of like no-brainer, and this is one of those. It’s like there’s no contract. You don’t have to use it moving forward. You can make that connection, bring it in, get a feel for it, and if you’re like, “Ah,” figure out another solution for the data, or if it’s not the right tool for you, no pressure, but there’s a lot of folks who are using it, really enjoy it. And you and the team have done a great job building that out through the years.

So super important information. Obviously some different approaches for it, depending on your level of need. Number one for the data, there might be some people who are like, “Whatever, I don’t need it.” But generally speaking, as much as possible, if you have that data, you never know when you might want to use it, how you might want to use it in the future.

So figure out some way to do your best to store that, have access to it moving forward. We talked about the Google Sheets option, BigQuery, Fivetran, which we used. Clariti, making that connection, and then that deal clariti.com slash Google if people want to check that out. And then the date coming down the line, July 1st, 2024. My guess is there might be a handful of people then who’d have questions about it, or maybe the people who did fall asleep for 15 minutes and they’re just waking up now and they’re like, “What did I miss?” If they want to reach out to you, the team, if they did have some follow-up questions, if they’re maybe confused about it, you also mentioned the webinar that you’ve done and being able to send that out if people want to watch it. Just whatever we can do to help people out. What’s the best way for people to connect with you or the Clariti team if they do have additional questions?

Ben Holland: Yeah, probably the easiest thing is if you go to clariti.com, C-L-A-R-I-T-I.com and click on the little chat button you could get directly connected to one of our team. You can also send a note to [email protected] or [email protected], and one of us will respond to you there. In the link that I mentioned, clariti.com/google, we will have a link to our upcoming workshops. We have I think one or two more workshops on this particular subject coming up this month. So we’ll have those on the calendar there where you can sign up. So a lot of different ways. We love talking to our users, we talk to them all the time, and we want you to reach out. So don’t be afraid. Don’t be shy. We’re here to help.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s great. You and the team have done a great job with Clariti, Ben, and if there’s one thing that we’ve learned as long as we’ve been doing this, it’s like this is just kind of the world we live in. Technology changes, software changes, you have to adapt to it. And as much as possible, if you can find the solution that makes it as easy as possible, you’re in a much better place. So for those of you who are creators, solopreneurs, or maybe have a really light team, that you can focus on doing the thing that you’re really good at. And for most of us listening, we’re not really good at data or data science or working with BigQuery and Fivetran. We’re good at the content that we create or thinking strategically in that world. And so it’s great to hear as solutions like this that make it a little bit easier. So I’ll just say that one more time, clariti.com/google, we’ll put it in the show notes. And again, reach out to the team if you have any questions. Thanks so much for coming on, Ben for the Tiny Bites episode. Really appreciate it.

Ben Holland: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

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