Google’s New Universal Analytics: Time To Upgrade

By Stevie Sleeter, Content & Social Media Manager

Published: March 5, 2014

“Universal Analytics is the new operating standard for Google Analytics. All accounts will soon be required to use Universal Analytics.” –  Google

If you keep an eye on recent Google news, you’ll notice increasing excitement for Google’s latest analytics update, Universal Analytics. Universal Analytics is the next step in Google Analytics’ evolution and has lots of people abuzz as to the business value new data elements of the system can bring.

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“Universal Analytics introduces a set of features that change the way data is collected and organized in your Google Analytics account, so you can get a better understanding of how users interact with your online content.”

What’s so great? Here are just a few new analytics features:

  • Get a new and more flexible tracking code that lets you collect data from any digital device. Universal Analytics introduces three new versions of the tracking code you can implement to meet your specific technical needs. “This means that you can add your own data from multiple sources into the UA platform.” Here are just a few examples of data that can be sent to UA and incorporated into reports like offline conversions (in-store foot traffic), kiosks, or social interactions.
  • Use simplified and more accessible configuration options. Universal Analytics gives you more configuration options that you can control from your account admin page like organic search sources, session and campaign timeout handlingreferral exclusions, and search term exclusions.
  • Create custom dimensions & custom metrics to collect data that’s unique to your business. Custom dimensions and custom metrics are like default dimensions and metrics, except you create them yourself. Use them to collect data that Google Analytics doesn’t automatically track.

Universal Analytics is the new operating standard for Google Analytics. All accounts will soon be required to use Universal Analytics. If you’re eager to get a head start, the system is open for beta use in many accounts. As Universal Analytics gradually moves toward coming out of beta, here’s the two-step process courtesy of Marketing Land for switching over.

  1. Log into your GA account and, in the admin section, you’ll have the choice to transfer your existing classic GA web property to UA. You can do this at any time, and GA will still keep on processing your old code; but, please note that if you’re currently using dc.js (or have in the past) to enable GA features like Remarketing, Google Display Network Impression Reporting, DoubleClick Campaign Manager Integration, and the Google Analytics Demographics and Interest Reports, you won’t see this option. That’s a good thing. These aren’t quite ready yet in UA, and if you fall into this category, you’ll want to hold off just a bit longer.
  2. Eventually, you’re going to have to change your tracking code from the old ga.js to the new analytics.js. I know, it’s not good news. But it’s not that bad. And, this is going to give you a great excuse to rip out all that old, disparate code from wherever it’s been collecting over the years and upgrade to a tag management solution. There are many out there, but one option is to use Google Tag Manager (GTM) to upgrade to UA. It not only supports Universal Analytics natively, it also helps you manage all your other tags (and bother IT less). By the way, make sure not to do Step 2 until the GA Interface tells you that it has finished with Step 1, otherwise you risk losing data; also note this transfer can’t be undone. But, upgrading a property will retain all your historical data, so don’t worry about losing anything. (Editor’s note: here’s a more in-depth guide to upgrading.)

Bottom line: UA is an exciting development that holds significant promise for solving some difficult issues such as multi-device measurement and online/offline integration. For now, what is desperately needed is broader experimentation in order to test UA’s promise in real-world situations.”