Ask the #highered Analytics Prof: How to Keep Historical Data After a URL Change

September 25th, 2012 Joshua Dodson No Comments

The following question was submitted by a reader via the Ask the Higher Ed Analytics Prof! contact form.

Question: Our college has recently changed their name and website address. If I create a new account for the new URL we will lose the old data. How do I retain the old while moving to the new?

There are reasons for keeping all of your site data (current and historical) in one location. It can reveal user trends, it can allow you to see if there are differences in how users interact with certain pages, and it can provide you with a good amount of information to asses how users get to your website. However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to use the same account when you change website addresses or domains.

If you change your URL, there is no need to create a brand new account. You can just change your Website’s URL in Google Analytics. Go to Admin > Profile Settings and update the Website’s URL field with the new URL. You will need to do this for each profile that you are updating. You may also want to change the profile name, in case it was associated with the previous URL.

Something to keep in mind as you make this change is that you may have new and historical data in one place, but if your URL structure changes at all, it will still require extra work to compare pages and examine trends properly. If you switch content management systems (CMS), then it is possible that the page that used to be “/admissions.html” is now just “/admissions” (without the .html) or some other variation. Make sure that you do your homework on how the URL structure will be on the new site so that you can make comparisons that are accurate. After all, you will probably want to see what changes the new site causes.

Google Analytics Admin Screen

While you are in the Profile Settings, be sure that you have enabled Site Search and that you have added the appropriate query parameter. This is not essential for changing your site information (unless the query parameter changes), but it will provide you with very good data about how visitors use your internal site search.

To determine what the appropriate query parameter is, perform a search in your college website search box. Take a note of the URL that displays after you submit your search.

If you go to your website and perform a search for admissions, the URL might look like the following:

If your URL looks like this after a search, then your query parameter would be “q” since your query is “admissions.” Put “q” as your query parameter and Google Analytics will start to provide you with excellent site search information.

Now you will be able to get a lot of great information about your website and how visitors use both the new and the old version.

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