My SEO agency manages the organic search capability of websites with customer data records that are of extreme value.

For purposes such as remarketing and newsletters, email list databases are worth literally tens of thousands of pounds in annual revenue.

Because comparing Year over Year organic traction is so important for effective tracking and reporting of SEO performance, the May 25th GDPR regulations and the right to keep data were a bit of a hot topic. Firstly, I think it’s worth pointing out that Google jumped on the GDPR bandwagon a little too eagerly, attempting to use the fallout from GDPR as a Trojan horse method to clear out old data analytics that take up costly server space.

In Google Analytics, a setting which results in all GA users losing historical analysis capability any further back than March of 2016 was applied by default on all accounts.

In the weeks leading up to May 25th 2018 users saw an advisory message popping upon logging into their GA console saying as much.

At my agency, we advised clients to turn off this default as there was no legitimate reason for deleting the data (GA data isn’t private). GA users’ ability to run ad-hoc reports on data prior to 2016 would’ve been eliminated if they’d have allowed the auto-expire function to remain on.

At the time Google communicated that “aggregated data would be safe”: The opposite, if anything, was true; with the auto-expire function applied, all ad-hoc data over 2 years’ old was permanently delted.

I don’t think Google’s decision to implement data retention controls was a direct consequence of GDPR but rather Google taking advantage of the opportunity to clean house on expensive historical data storage.

If you’ve been impacted by this and didn’t realise at the time, you can still alter the auto-delete function.

To change the settings on your GA account from the default of 26 months, change to ‘Do not automatically expire’.

To set the options to turn GA data auto-expire off

You need to have Edit permission for the property to set these options.

    1. Sign in to Google Analytics.

    1. Click Admin, and navigate to the property you want to edit.

    1. In the PROPERTY column, click Tracking Info > Data RetentionGA Screenshot

  1. User-data retention: select “Do Not Automatically Expire”.
    5. Leave the ‘Reset on new activity’ to the default ‘ON’.

There’s further guidance here:

GA Data retention aside we left responsibility for overseeing other GDPR obligations to the lawyers. Banners advising users that our website uses cookies were visibly displayed. Every subscribed user on the system was reminded their email address and contact data (ethically obtained in the first place) was on file and links to request its removal were also supplied.

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Dylan owns and runs SEOYates.


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