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Do you remember what you did on November 14, 2005? What about every second of every day for almost 18 years? I don’t either. But Google Universal Analytics (UA) does for your website. 

Every link click, every new user, every meaningful interaction between “the Internet” and your brand’s website was tracked and neatly organized from the moment you installed Google’s little piece of code until June 30, 2024. 

And unless you take action soon, it all disappears this July. 

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Here’s what’s up. In 2023, Google forced all of us to switch over from UA to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). For context, for almost two decades we have used these tracking tools as a source of truth for our marketing performance data. Marketers have countless data streams — Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads, organic, social, referral — but Google’s analytics tools have always been there to lead us in the right direction and tell us where our investment of time and money are falling short in producing the greatest ROI. 

Historically, we had a seemingly endless lookback window. Want to know how your new website impacted lead generation this year compared to last? No problem, just adjust the date range in Analytics. But soon that will no longer be the case. 

Two things are at play here. One, UA data disappears July 1, 2024. That may be a tough pill to swallow, but that’s just some data lost, right? We still have our old quarterly reports to compare anything before that cutoff, or we can download a bunch of CSV exports from UA and be fine. Nope. Because, two, GA4 only has a 14-month lookback window, so starting September 1, 2024, any of the data you have as far back as July 1 the previous year goes away too. 

So what’s a marketer to do?

Here’s where the “customer data platform,” or CDP, comes in, and it’s so much better than what we’re used to. A CDP extracts data from multiple channels, loads it into a warehouse, and gives you the opportunity to transform data points from across channels into actionable insights. 

This setup is better because it can bridge the gap between where UA data stop and GA4 data begin. Rather than cobbling together answers from fragmented data, you can adjust the date filter on your line chart and compare performance now versus 18 months ago for KPIs. What’s more, it can gather, organize, and give you insight into cross-channel performance. 

So here’s where we are. UA historical data go away next month, GA4 cuts off your access to current data starting in September, and Logical is now able to provide access to such insight for the long-haul. We are able to securely store relevant information and provide resources you need to draw comparisons over time and determine what to do next.

Logical’s Google UA Supply Chain (AKA Customer Data Platform)

It might sound complicated — and implementation certainly is — but the concept is pretty simple. Think of your data as a raw resource, like corn or wheat. Data need to be shipped from the “field” (i.e., your marketing platforms, including your website) to a place for storage and processing (i.e., a data warehouse) so they can later be consumed by you and your team (i.e., your marketing performance dashboard). This analogy also helps us account for the valuable nature our data have once it is refined from a raw material into insight.

Universal Analytics Data Extraction

Logical uses a tool called Airbyte to extract data from UA. If data points are our raw, unrefined resource, Airbyte is our fleet of trucks that move them from the field, which in this case is UA, to our warehouse and refinery. 

This tool is important because it handles all of the security protocols and allows us to connect data from the source to our storage and processing facility using Google’s application programming interface (API). Could someone set all of this up without Airbyte? Yes, but it would be really time-consuming and likely not very secure. 

Our Analytics Data Warehouse

We then use Google’s BiqQuery as our data warehouse. There are other options available, like Snowflake and Amazon Redshift, but we prefer BigQuery because it’s fairly easy to use and comparatively very fast — we want to ensure our clients’ data are as immediately accessible as the marketing world can often be. 

Within our data warehouse, in addition to keeping information extraordinarily secure, we’re also able to process it using SQL, a coding language specifically created for asking questions from large amounts of information organized into tables. 

Using SQL, we’re able to refine rows of information in UA, converting them from numbers in cells to a stream of actionable insight. It doesn’t do anybody much good to see that one person accessed a product page in 2018, but it is good to know how many new users accessed a group of product pages and made purchases from 2018 to 2024, and what trends we can see throughout that period. 

Data Visualization

Finally, we use Tableau as our visualization tool, which makes data a consumable resource. Once our team has refined data and converted it into information we can make decisions from, it is important for our clients to be able to see what’s going on. Rather than produce a single box with an up or down arrow, our visualization tool makes it easier to share and digest information with teams.

Customer Data Possibilities

By storing UA data, Logical’s clients have peace of mind that their in-depth record of marketing activities are safe, secure, and accessible. By syncing this historical stream with GA4 data, our clients are able to clearly see how marketing efforts are driving greater ROI over time as a result. This also makes it possible to identify opportunities for improvement and perhaps even highlight new directions for clients’ marketing strategies. 

That’s just for website data, but there’s so much more we can do. And I hope you can see where I’m going here. Yes, ensuring our clients don’t lose years of valuable insight from how their marketing channels have performed is extremely important, but UA and GA4 are just two angles. What if we could sync data across advertising, organic search, referral, and even traditional media channels? UA and GA4 insights are downstream in the customer journey. 

By pulling data into your warehouse from all channels, you gain direct line of sight on your full marketing supply chain, which makes it possible to:

  • Build revenue attribution: Ensure you can confidently answer the question, “What channel has the greatest ROI?” — a clear marketing map helps you gain a deeper understanding of your marketing channels and identify where multiple touchpoints throughout your customers’ journeys have had the greatest impact
  • Identify gaps: See where you may have tried something that didn’t initially work and how things could be streamlined to improve results another time around
  • Forecast what’s possible: Data science is largely about predicting what will happen based on what has already happened, and it’s only possible thanks to large data sets; data warehousing makes more reliable predictions possible

And so that’s where we’re going, centralizing data from all of our clients’ marketing channels so we can refine it, identify what’s really going on, and determine what to do differently. Think: What if we could see the true interplay between your Google Ads investment and the value of your organically ranking keywords as a result of content optimized for search? Or what if you could leverage insight from how your marketing email assets are performing to improve them and then relaunch them on Google Ads and LinkedIn? All of that’s possible with CDP as a service from Logical.  

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Logical’s culture is built on solving complex problems with the hopes of achieving even better results. Yes, up to 18 years of UA data disappear on July 1, 2024, and sure, our out-of-the-box reporting in GA4 is limited to 14 months. So why wouldn’t we want to build a CDP for our client partners that gives them the actionable insight they likely lacked even before this “datapocalypse” presented itself?

We’re determined to preserve historical data so our clients don’t lose information they have relied on for years. Moving forward, we are eager to create a new and improved marketing map by collecting data from various marketing platforms, centralizing them in a data warehouse, and “refining” raw data into actionable insights with the help of improved data visualizations. 

If you’re interested in joining Logical as we embrace what’s possible with centralized insight — or if you simply need to save your UA data — schedule a conversation with me today.