Feb 07 2014

Liberating Your Google Analytics Data

When should you export your data?

Google Analytics’ user interface allows you to slice and dice extensive amounts of data, but what if you want to do more? For example, you may want to merge backend eCommerce data for serious customer segment data mining, design beautiful and actionable dashboards, or combine Google Analytics Data with SEO keyphrase research to rank keywords. To perform any of these tasks, you will need to liberate your data by exporting it to a program.

Luckily, the data geniuses at Google foresaw the need to extract data from Google Analytics and have provided their users with several options to do so. If you’re looking for the easiest way to export data, sign into your Google account, view a metric (e.g. visits), then select an export type such (e.g. CSV, TSV, or PDF). Once you export your data, you can open it into your favorite analysis tool. This method takes only a few minutes and works for most situations. That said, it becomes time consuming if you need to export more than one metric on a regular basis. No need to compromise, though. Several tools can help you export this data in a more efficient manner. To make it even easier, we have compiled a list of tool types and their benefits to help you decide on the best tool for your business.

Using the Google Analytics Query Explorer

The Google Analytics API can be used in a more time-efficient method for repeatedly exporting data. Accessing your data via API may seem very technical and daunting, but there are paid and free tools available to ease the process. Using the Google Analytics Query Explorer you can design and test a query, which is a piece of code designed to retrieve certain information from a database. Once you have have a well-designed and tested query, you can access the query and data in an analysis program, such as Microsoft Excel.

Excellent Analytics Excel Plugin

While you could write each query on your own, access the Google Analytics API, and retrieve your data, we suggest using one of several tools available to directly input data into Excel. Excellent Analytics, a free Excel plugin, provides a nice user interface inside your worksheet and populates data directly into the worksheet. Once you have your data, feel free to analyze your heart out. You can create charts, graphs, and tables galore. If Excellent Analytics doesn’t suit your fancy, you’re not completely out of luck. You can find several other options in the Google Analytics Application Gallery.

Pentaho and Business Intelligence

Business owners who need a free option should consider Pentaho, a Business Intelligence (BI) tool that easily merges data from multiple sources and then performs statistical analysis on your data set. While a number of great open-source BI tools have a free community edition available (Pentaho, BIRT, Jasper Reports, etc.), only Pentaho Data Integration Community Edition (PDI CE) provides easy, seamless Google Analytics API data access. In addition to Google Analytics data access, Pentaho PDI CE allows you to import or export almost any imaginable data file type which becomes useful when you you want to look at data originating from multiple sources.

***As a bonus, you could use other Pentaho CE products such as Report Designer or an Excel-friendly export type to create striking dashboards and reports with actionable data. Your boss will love you!***

Paid Options

Google Analytics Apps provides many elegant, paid reporting solutions that integrate easily with your Google Analytics account. The benefits of paid tools include thorough documentation, easy setup, and customer support. Most apps provide readily designed dashboards. Some apps, such as BellaDati Business Intelligence or Bime (the base price for both apps is ≈$60/month), provide options to integrate Google Analytics data and data from other sources along with statistical analysis. With all these flexible data integration options, these apps now directly compete with open-source, desktop BI applications.

Which tool is right for the job?

The correct tool depends on your needs and limitations. Paid tools offer customer support. Pentaho lacks documentation and support, but the platform costs nothing and is incredibly flexible. Combining Excellent Analytics and Excel keeps the implementation simple and makes a blockbuster analysis tool.

Lastly, if you do not feel comfortable analyzing your own data, hire a professional. We love to play with numbers.

Other Analysis Tools

While we’ve highlighted what we think are the best options in the business, our list is by no way comprehensive. There are dozens of tools out there with a wide variety of applications. For all the data nerds out there, here are a few other noteworthy Analysis tools that you may find helpful:

Blue Acorn Experience

Blue Acorn regularly leverages the data export option to measure metrics which cannot be calculated in Google Analytics. For example, extracting data makes it easy to compare your average site speed with your eCommerce conversion rate. Clients can use the information we gather to determine if the cost of improving page load times is worth the increase in conversion rate. When we free these metrics, we further our understanding and enable our clients to make more intelligent business decisions.

Matthew Rickerby

Head of Marketing

Matt began his career in ecommerce at Blue Acorn over seven years ago. His areas of expertise include persona development, account-based marketing, and content marketing. He has co-written speaking sessions for Bronto Summit, DIG South, GIANT, and Revolve, and received multiple awards for videography, blogging, and copywriting.


Victor Mbazigwe
Feb 17 2014

Fantastic tips! I often get caught puzzled on how to organize my marketing strategies in google since I often don’t have any format on how to get things done – most especially doing SEO keyword relevant search. Luckily, I found the right manner on how I should settle the score by just simply liberating all the necessary data’s that I have, provided with great tools to use on. Thanks for sharing this Amanda! I’ll definitely bookmark this one.

Michael Pavey
Oct 16 2014

Hi Amanda,

Thanks for this really useful run-through. Pentaho looks like it could be an excellent option for our needs and I have begun playing around with it. However, it is far from straightforward and (as you suggest) the documentation is aimed at data science and system admin professionals. Do you know of any good beginner’s tutorials that show how to go from a fresh install to getting Google Analytics (and perhaps other) data into an actual report/dashboard?


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