The deadline to remove your data from Universal Analytics (UA) is coming up quickly — after July 1, 2024 you will no longer be able to access the UA interface. You’ll need to export your data from UA to keep it, but annotations aren’t included in the UA export options. Follow these steps to learn how to export annotations from UA.

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What Are Google Analytics Annotations?

Annotations were a feature available in Universal Analytics where you could add tiny notes to your reports that showed on the timeline. You had the option of private or public annotations, and they were attached at the view level, not the property level — meaning that you could have a custom view just for yourself or your agency, outlining all the things that were important for someone to know when analyzing that website’s traffic.

For example, annotations were very useful in identifying events that could have led to traffic changes — such as “site migration” or “business mentioned on Oprah”. Why was this important? Because while you might remember when Oprah talked about you, you’re absolutely going to forget exactly when your website team accidentally removed Google Analytics from your website.

List of annotations in Google Universal Analytics account

Are There Annotations in GA4?

No, GA4 doesn’t have an annotations feature. There haven’t been any rumours or news about annotations being added in GA4 — it’s best to assume that you can’t have annotations in GA4 and will need to figure out another solution.

Our Analytics for Agencies course does include details on what we’re using at Kick Point for annotations, but there are lots of options out there.

The problem we’re faced with now is what to do with all those old UA annotations? You don’t just want to lose them. Instead, let’s export them to a Google Sheet.

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How to Export UA Annotations

First, we’re going to need a Chrome Extension — we use Table Capture.

 

Once you’ve installed that extension, open up the UA property that you want to export the annotations from.

To view annotations in Universal Analytics, open up the Admin and then under the View column, select Annotations.

Universal Analytics Admin Dashboard view with arrow pointing to Annotation

Now, on the Annotations screen, show all the rows by clicking the “show rows” drop down and select a value larger than the number of rows (for example in this screenshot, we need 250 rows as there are 198 annotations).

Show rows view in UA Annotations feature

Now that you have all the rows shown that you want to export, right click on the annotations table and from the context menu that pops up, select “Table Capture”. If you see the option “Refresh this page before using”, refresh your page, and then right-click again.

Context menu from right clicking on computer

Then, select the “Display Actions Inline” option. You’ll see a brief “flash” of orange around your table — make sure that it is surrounding the annotations table (as shown below) and not the “new annotation” button area.

Then, select the “To Google Sheets” option.

UA Annotations copied to Google Sheets in Take Capture extension

A new sheet will open, and as soon as you click on the sheet, you should see the message Table Capture: Just paste from your clipboard to import your data.

Paste from clipboard

Click OK, and then paste (CTRL + V on Windows, Command + V on Mac, or Edit > Paste).

Your annotations are now pasted into the sheet:

Google Sheets file with data

Don’t forget to give your new Google Sheet a useful name so you can find it later!

How to Display Annotations in GA4

Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to include annotations in GA4, but what you can do is show them in Looker Studio. This is particularly useful if you are blending your Universal Analytics (UA) data with GA4 data in Looker Studio.

If you’d like to display your UA annotations inside Looker Studio, Mehdi Oudjida has a resource on how to do this.

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Black and white portrait of Dana DiTomaso

Dana enjoys solving problems that haven’t been solved before. With her 20+ years experience in digital marketing and teaching, she has a knack for distilling complex topics into engaging and easy to understand instruction. She brings this skill to prominent digital marketing conferences around the world (ie. SMX, MozCon, WordCamp, or American Bar Association), LinkedIn Learning courses, teaching at the University of Alberta, and hosting the technology column on CBC Edmonton AM.

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