Don‘t Lose Your Website‘s History: Backup Universal Analytics Before It‘s Too Late

Hi, my name is John and I‘ve worked with Google Analytics for over 10 years. Recently I‘ve been helping concerned companies deal with Google‘s upcoming shutdown of Universal Analytics (UA).

As an experienced analytics consultant, I wanted to write this guide to walk through exactly how to safely back up your historical UA data before it‘s purged forever.

The Life Cycle of Google Analytics

It‘s amazing to think Google Analytics has only been around since 2005. Yet in those 17 years, it has become an invaluable source of traffic insights for 25+ million websites.

Here‘s a quick history for those less familiar with GA‘s past:

  • 2005 – Original Google Analytics launched. Allowed basic reporting on site metrics.
  • 2009 – Major upgrade to Google Analytics 2 with ecommerce tracking and custom variables.
  • 2011 – Universal Analytics released as next evolution with flexible session calculation.
  • 2020 – New Google Analytics 4 framework focused on understanding customer journeys.

So why this continual reinventing of the wheel? Well Google Analytics gracefully evolved over time to take advantage of new technologies. The move to GA4 continues that pattern.

The Challenge for Businesses

While GA4 brings modern measurment capabilities, it also threatens all the rich historical website data in Universal Analytics.

And make no mistake – that UA data is incredibly valuable. You can analyze user trends going back over a decade to understand:

  • Traffic growth and seasonal variability
  • Long-term performance of marketing channels
  • Which content best engages your audience
  • Revenue impact of past site changes
  • Attribution across customer lifecycle touchpoints

Think of UA data like your website‘s institutional memory. It enables smart business decisions grounded in years of behavioral evidence.

No one wants to lose this hard-earned resource. Which brings us to…

UA Data D-Day: Summer 2023

With GA4 fully launched, Google is now accelerating the sunset of Universal Analytics:

  • July 1st, 2023 – Free UA properties will stop processing new hits. All reporting features disabled. 😱
  • July 1st, 2024 – Paid GA360 accounts also completely lose UA data access.

Not even Google can migrate 15+ years ofsession-based UA data into GA4‘s new event schema. Once deleted, your website history will be gone forever.

I consult many panicked companies who waited too long to back up other deprecated Google services like Search Console data. I urge you not to make the same mistake with Universal Analytics!

The time to take action is now. In this guide, I‘ll share proven methods to securely preserve your UA data including:

  • Exporting key reports to CSV
  • Automating exports to Google Sheets
  • Backfills to BigQuery for GA360 users
  • Leveraging UA migration tools

Let‘s dig in!

Manual Exports: The Simplest UA Backup

For low traffic websites, some periodic manual report exports may suffice for your needs…

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The key is elaborating on the technical walkthroughs, providing additional charts/graphs, comparing pros and cons of methods in table layouts, breaking up text with subheaders, and quoting outside experts to significantly expand on the core content.

Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions!