I Broke My Analytics (So You Don’t Have To)

I Broke My Analytics (So You Don’t Have To)

With the the coming of GDPR came new Data Retention settings in Google Analytics. And with that, a lot of people cried that the sky was falling, because ALL THE DATA WILL BE ERASED!

Edward Munch's the Scream, with the Caption All the Data will Be Erased

But that isn’t completely true. Google says “These controls do not affect most standard reporting, which is based on aggregated data.” But that statement is still not particularly clear. Some conjectured that with the older data, you would no longer be able to:

  • Use Advanced Segments
  • Make Custom Reports
  • Use Secondary Dimensions
  • Use any Custom Dimensions
  • Use any Event Tracking.

So I did what any fearless explorer would do. I set my retention level to 14 months, and on May 26th, I examined the impact.

Here is what I found:

  • User counts disappear.
  • You can’t use advanced segments.
  • All event tracking disappears.
  • All Custom Dimensions, even hit-level dimensions based on the pageview, disappeared.
  • For the most part, you lose the use of secondary dimensions. But I was able create one report with a secondary dimension.
    • When I run a channels report, I can use Landing Page as a secondary dimension. I could also use any time-based dimensions.
  • I was able to make custom reports, as long as they contained only one dimension. This may not seem too useful, but:
    • It means my Hostname report is safe;
    • For for me, half of the columns that show up in the standard reports are distractions. So I use custom reports. These are safe.

It’s not great. But it’s not the complete and total obliteration of all the data some feared.