Universal Analytics is the new version of Google’s popular Analytics tracking platform, designed to give online marketers, analysts and business owner’s better insights in to their online presence. Along with a host of new features, UA will be Google’s platform going forward. By upgrading you will continue to benefit from new functionality and tools as they are released.
Upgrading your Google Analytics account to UA
The upgrade process is optional and requires you to initiate a transfer process to the new platform. Before doing this you should always check the set up and tracking already present on your site. If there are any customisations, it is likely that these will have to be modified to work with the new tracking.
The first step of the upgrade is to trigger the transfer process within you GA account settings. Once triggered, this process will take 24-48 hours to complete. Once the transfer is finished, your site will continue to track as before with the old tracking code still in place, however to get the benefits of UA, the tracking code will have to be updated. You can find the complete guide on upgrading here – https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/upgrade/guide
Key new features available with Universal Analytics
Custom dimensions and metrics
Custom dimensions and metrics can be set up within UA to track additional data that isn’t collected automatically. A dimension is used to describe data and a metric is used to measure data. For example, a custom dimension might be what brand a product is on a page that is viewed and a custom metric might be how many times a size guide was opened. Once this additional data is being tracked, you can use them to create custom reports. Free Google Analytics accounts allow you to configure up to 20 custom dimensions and metrics.
User centric analytics
Google Analytics as standard uses an anonymous ID to track users when browsing a site, however UA allows you to pass a user-ID instead which allows you to identify how users engage with your site across multiple devices and sessions. This gives you some great insights in to how individual user’s browses your site over multiple visits. Especially with ecommerce sites, understanding the buying cycle users go through before they purchase is crucial.
Import offline data
Universal Analytics allows you to import offline data and sync it with your online data to gain additional context to your reports. For example you could pull in Point of Sale (POS) data so you can track online and offline sales all from within Google Analytics.
Google Analytics counts each link from a referrer as a new session. If for example your site redirects users to an external payment gateway such as PayPal, the user is counted twice. The second time the visitor will be counted as a referral visit from PayPal. With Universal Analytics you can exclude certain domains from being counted as referrals to prevent any miscounting of visits.
Organic search term exclusion
A common sight when looking at your search terms in GA is your company or website name. More and more people are now simply typing your company in to the search to load your site as it is quicker than typing the domain name. This skews your organic search figures as these users were in actual fact just trying to go directly to your site. Universal analytics now allows you to exclude certain search terms in a similar way to excluding referral domains. Any traffic that comes from a search term that you exclude will now appear in GA as direct traffic.
The upgrade to universal analytics is currently optional, but eventually all Google Analytics accounts will be automatically upgraded. It is a great idea to plan this upgrade in earlier to avoid any potential issues and to start benefiting from the new features.