Now’s the time to export your data so Google’s sunset of Universal Analytics (UA) doesn’t put your business in jeopardy.

Here, you’ll find: 

  • How Google’s sunsetting of UA threatens your historical data
  • Why it’s vital to act now to back up Google Analytics data
  • How to export Google Analytics data from UA manually
  • Why HawkSEM’s exporting service and ConversionIQ are an ideal solution

Universal Analytics (UA) was probably your home away from home — that is, until Google released Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Switching from platform to platform got tedious, but at least we got the best of both worlds, right?

Not anymore, since Google’s decision to sunset (or shut down) UA in July 2023. Brands now have limited time to save Google Analytics data before it’s lost forever.

We chatted with HawkSEM Director of Marketing Operations Jenny Palmer about how brands can get ahead of saving their historical data, options to efficiently export Google Analytics data, and a unique solution that takes care of it all.

Breaking down the UA Sunset and GA4

Universal Analytics (UA) is a version of Google Analytics, while GA4 is the latest version launched in 2020. The two platforms co-existed since GA4’s launch, but brands could never view past data from UA alongside new data from GA4. Instead, they’d have to switch back and forth.

GA4 combines most of UA’s functionalities with Google’s mobile development platform, Firebase. Even since its 2020 launch, GA4 has seen extensive updates centered around its machine-learning base. It’s essentially an improvement of UA, with new functionalities like:

  • Combined web and app data in one property
  • Cross-platform analytics
  • Attribution measurement (data-driven vs. performance-based)
  • Deeper report data from machine learning
  • Deeper Google Ads integration
  • Advanced-level data control
  • Event tracking
  • Custom reports
  • Anomaly detection

Check out Google’s article for more insights on differentiating UA and GA4.

Over a year ago, Google announced a sunset of UA in an effort to make GA4 the prominent Google Analytics version for everyone. To expedite this process, Google automatically started creating GA4 accounts for brands that hadn’t done so yet in March 2023. 

UA stopped processing data on July 1st, 2023. But just because UA stops processing data doesn’t mean you can’t access your old data, right? Unfortunately, no. This is the most important item of your concern: 

You will have 12 months to access your UA data after July 1, 2023. 

That means you have from now until July 1, 2024 to export your UA data before it gets lost in the digital ether. 

If all of this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry: We’re not going to leave you hanging. This article will walk you through the entire process of migrating your data. 

Why export Google Analytics data from UA?

As long as you have your GA4 account sorted, you might wonder why the UA sunset is a concern. So do some of our clients. Which begs the question: What do brands have to lose?

“Losing the data means brands have no way to analyze website performance as a whole from the past,” says Palmer. “You’d lose visibility into year-over-year trends and performance information.”

So, what does it actually mean to lose the ability to conduct data analysis on past data and trends?

“You’ll find yourself starting from square one on some of your digital marketing initiatives. Plus, you’ll have fewer insights into where you should be focusing your time on optimizations.

One question we continue to get is the relevance of UA data for companies who already have a GA4 property automatically with Google. Isn’t everything set up, then? Not quite. 

The thing is, Google tried to create GA4 properties for everyone who hadn’t already, attempting to merge some of the data. The problem?

“Google didn’t configure things properly,” says Palmer. “No custom events, conversions, or audiences. Default settings are not best practice. Google set up a bunch of GA4 properties that were essentially only halfway set up.” 

In marketing, you can’t accept a one-size-fits-all performance assessment, and you shouldn’t rely on Google’s automated property. Instead, add your own custom events, conversions, and audiences. (We can help with that.)

Alright, ready to make the great migration? Let’s get started.

How to export Google Analytics data: 4 main options

You have a solid few months to export all that data, but it’s wise to choose your strategy now. Here, we’ll walk you through your options, starting with a series of routes informed by Google’s tools. 

Option 1: Manually export Google Analytics data from the dashboard

Google has some advice on this and recommends exporting individual reports from your Universal Analytics property. 

First, select the date range for the data you’re looking for. You can also select website traffic filters, like by source, as shown below: 

GA4 website traffic filters

See the red-boxed “export” button in the top right corner? Click it. 

GA export button

You can export data into a few different formats, including: 

  • CSV file
  • TSV
  • TSV for Excel
  • Excel (XLSX)
  • Google Sheets
  • PDF

Here’s what it would look like in a Google Sheet:

google sheet data

What if you want to analyze data from all traffic compared to specific Google Ads traffic? Or by conversion, or specific campaign? Here’s what you can export via your UA dashboard: 

  • Behavior reports
  • Pivot tables
  • Keyword maps
  • Unique organic terms
  • Page view data
  • Users and sessions data
  • Site speed suggestions
  • Site traffic
  • Visitor flow
  • Goals by hour
  • “Most active users” data
  • Account lists

All you have to do is toggle these filters on the left-hand sidebar. 

You can download Google Analytics data in the same way, and it’s not too complicated, but it’ll eat a lot of hours and digital space. 

Why? Because you’ll need a report for every single one. 

You could stick a thousand Google Sheet documents into a Drive folder. But we all know the sense of dread of having to search for each one and analyze them against new data

“A big limitation here is that you’re limited to a single chart or time period,” said Palmer. “It seems like you could never export all your data efficiently because for every single month or chart, you’d need a ton of different exports.”

A simpler way?

Option 2: Use the Google Analytics API

The Google Analytics Reporting API offers access to UA data from your UA property. 

But you’ll need some Javascript and PHP skills. If you’re unfamiliar with those, this might not be the best option. That’s because extracting reports via API requires a serious programming background. 

Of course, if you have someone in-house (or partner with an agency), you could do a lot with this tactic. Custom reports, visually appealing dashboards, report automation, data integration — the world is your oyster, but it’ll cost you time and resources. 

Here are the main reporting APIs offered by Google: 

  • Core reporting: Majority of GA data
  • Multi-channel funnels: Conversion and user data
  • Reporting API: UA data
  • Data API: GA4 data
  • Real-time API: Live data

Option 3: Export Google Analytics data via a Google 360 account

Google Analytics has two types of accounts: the free account and the paid 360 account. The latter allows you to export UA data easily and merge it with your GA4 data for a smooth transition.

Google notes that properties on 360 Universal Analytics are eligible for a one-time processing extension to July 1, 2024. In other words, 360 account holders have a whole new year to access that historical data. Still, they specify that you must have an active 360 order for this perk. 

What’s more, Google 360 pricing is pretty steep for many businesses. While you get a ton of functionalities out of it, that monthly $12,500 might be better invested elsewhere.   

Option 4: Use third-party analytics tools like Supermetrics

Tired of the limited rows on a Google Sheet? That’s a serious limitation to manual exporting on the GA platform. 

Supermetrics to the rescue

This software helps you export raw data from more than 100 different platforms (including UA) into a Google Sheet, just like you can with manual exports on GA.

The difference here is that you have the option to export data to a data warehouse like BigQuery. This helps you back up Google Analytics data within one file. 

google analytics supermetrics

Are there drawbacks to this strategy?

“There’s still a lot of architecture involved in using third-party tools,” explains Palmer. “You need a deep understanding of compatible dimensions and metrics.” If not, she warns you might mix incompatible dimensions, resulting in broken reports.

Another limitation of Supermetrics is the cap on total dimensions per query. You’ll have to do the legwork to decide how to best extract and segment the information without sacrificing any important details. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2023.

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