How to get Unsampled Data from Google Analytics

How to get Unsampled Data from Google Analytics

Posted by on Sun, Nov 17, 2013
Filed Under | Google Analytics


For those of you who are using Google Analytics Standard on a website that receives over 500,000 visits a month, you are likely hitting a frustrating obstacle in your analysis; sampled data.

Want to make good business decisions? You need data you can trust. You can’t trust sampled data.

While you evaluate upgrading to Google Analytics Premium, you ask; what can you do about sampling?  Well there is a new solution that will help you easily obtain unsampled data from Google Analytics. And currently, we are offering free access to selected testers. Read on to learn more…

Why Sampled Data is a Problem

First keep in mind that the majority of the default reports in Google Analytics are not sampled.  These reports have been pre-aggregated by Google’s processing servers and no matter your date range you’ll be looking at unsampled data.

However, when you start truly analyzing your data; you need to slice and dice it.  To do this you will often apply advanced segments and/or secondary dimensions, which will often result in report sampling.  Yet another trigger is when you want to use dimensions and metric combinations that are not available in standard reports (and are thus not pre-aggregated by Google during processing).

Key Takeaway: Three Main Triggers of Sampling (when combined with date ranges that include 500k visits or more):

  1. Advanced Segments
  2. Secondary Dimensions
  3. Custom Reports (with dimension and metric combinations not pre-aggregated by Google)

This sampling can be a major problem because a higher sampling rate (meaning less of your actual data is used) combined with certain types of metrics leads to less reliable reports to use to make important business decisions.

Many analysts are frustrated with sampled data hindering the quality of their analysis.  In this Twitter conversation (below), they are publicly sharing their concern of “…reliability going down the drain.”

Unsampled data Tweet - reliability down drain

Analysts simply need data they can trust.

Sampled Data Accuracy

Google does do a great job in the sampling of certain data metrics.  But be aware that the accuracy of sampled data varies substantially between different types of metrics.

Accuracy is Good for:

  • Visits
  • Pageviews

Accuracy is BAD for:

  • Revenues
  • Transactions
  • Goal conversions

If you are interested to learn more about the particulars of Google Analytics sampling, and how it specifically affects the accuracy of your reporting; read our post “Can you trust your Google Analytics data?

Ecommerce Reporting Scenario

There are some things you can’t report with sampled data; ecommerce is one of them.  Let’s imagine a situation where you need to report on something as simple as…

Ecommerce transactions and revenue. We would use the following dimension and metrics:

  • Dimension: date
  • Metrics: Transactions, transactionRevenue

If your website receives more than 500k visitors a month, you will get a sampled data warning similar to this when using a month long date range:

Google Analytics Sampling

In the scenario above, no matter how much we increase the precision (by moving the precision slider), data will always be sampled. Reporting sampled ecommerce data is not an option.  This is where Blast’s Unsampler comes in.

What is Unsampler?

Unsampler is a SaaS product built by Blast Analytics & Marketing that allows you to extract unsampled data from a Google Analytics Standard profile.  It breaks your query into smaller date ranges and aggregates them again, thus avoiding sampling.

Obvious questions; “Why did we build Unsampler when other tools already exist to get unsampled data from Google Analytics?”  The answer is simple. Existing tools did not provide reliable data or in some cases failed to work. We needed a reliable solution.

Unsampler is more expensive than competing tools because we developed it as an online tool versus desktop software (that has to be installed and is more complex to use).  If you aren’t ready to upgrade to Google Analytics Premium, Unsampler is a great way to access unsampled data with less investment.

How does it work?

Using Unsampler is pretty simple.

  1. Login
  2. Select your Google Analytics Account
  3. Select your Google Analytics View (aka Profile)
  4. Name your report
  5. Set the start and end date
  6. Add desired dimensions
  7. Add desired metrics
  8. Optionally, select segments from your account
  9. Click “Generate”

After the report is finished processing, you can preview the report, and download a CSV file with all the unsampled data.

Google Analytics Unsampler

Exporting Google Analytics data with More than Two Dimensions

One of the other major benefits of using Unsampler is the ability to include up to 7 dimensions and 10 metrics in a single Google Analytics data export.  Your ecommerce analysis will definitely benefit from the additional information provided by more dimensions.

We can use Unsampler to build a data extract with the following dimensions and metric:

  • Dimensions: date, sourceMedium, transactionId, productSku, productCategory
  • Metric: itemRevenue

Do you want to try Unsampler?

Unsampler is fully functional but in alpha stage.  If you’d like to be considered for selection as an alpha/beta tester, drop us a line at sales@blastam.com with the subject: “I want to test Unsampler” and provide the following information:

  • your name,
  • company,
  • job title,
  • how you would use it (i.e. what data you would export from Google Analytics),
  • why you want to use it,
  • and why you would make a good tester.

Whatever you do, don’t keep suffering with sampled data like Brandon (and other analysts):

(Tweet) Sampled Data will be my life today

Get easier access to unsampled data!

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This post was written by:

has written 2 posts on the Web Analytics Blog.

Joao is an Analytics Strategist at Blast Analytics & Marketing. His almost fifteen years of experience in the web industry provide a cornerstone to answer business questions through data analysis. Creativity, divergent thinking and continued will to learn are his trademarks.

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  • Cyril Gantzer

    Hello Joao,
    thanks for the post and thanks for the tool. I haven’t used it yet but I’m still curious about one thing: the speed of Unsampler. This looks like you’re doing a lot of requests for one single report asked, cutting it into smaller date ranges, so I assume it might take up to 1min+ (a lot more for big requests) to get the report back. Or am I missing something? The delay to get unsampled reports is the major pain point of GA Premium, and there’s nothing worse than asking for a report, waiting 6hours to get it, only to find out I wanted a different time range and wait for 6 hours again… I am afraid Unsampler would behave the same. Great idea though! Thanks BAM

  • http://joaocorreia.pt/ João Correia

    Hi Cyril,

    Yes, depending on the date range and number of dimensions extracting the data will most likely take more than 1min.

    Be prepared to work with millions of rows and files over 100MB.

    When using Unsampler it is important to first establish which metrics and dimensions you need, to do this you can first run a report on a smaller date range, which run pretty fast.

    You can then run one large date range, let’s say 2 years back, then re-run the report on a weekly basis, which will run must faster.

  • http://lroy.nl/ Elroy van Ouwerkerk

    Hi Joao,

    I am seriously looking forward testing the tool. We have a lot of data and even more sampling ;)

  • http://joaocorreia.pt/ João Correia

    Hi Elroy,
    Please drop us a line at sales@blastam.com and we’ll be happy to set it up!

  • http://lroy.nl/ Elroy van Ouwerkerk

    I already did. The same moment I wrote this comment ;)



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