If you are involved in online marketing, odds are that you use Google Analytics as a valuable tool for keeping track of your websites. Google just released the beta version of Universal Analytics, which is an improved, upgraded version of Google Analytics. Making the switch to Universal Analytics is a difficult task, and this article will help you decide whether or not you should do it.
What’s Changed in Universal Analytics
While the interface looks almost exactly the same as Google Analytics, Universal Analytics has a few major improvements:
1. Easier Settings Customization
In Universal Analytics, you have access to change things in the interface that you would otherwise have to change by rewriting code. For example, you can change session timeouts for site visitors from the default 30 minutes to anywhere between 1 minute and 4 hours. In Universal Analytics, you can also customize campaign timeouts, search term exclusions, and referral exclusions. Additionally, if your site gets traffic from a search engine that Google doesn’t automatically track, you can add the search engine from your admin interface so Analytics will track it without you having to alter any code.
2. Custom Dimensions & Metrics
A metric is a count of a data type, like a pageview, that is summed up for you in Google Analytics. A dimension is used to break down the metrics by a particular factor, like pageviews coming from a specific city. In Universal Analytics, you can create custom dimensions and custom metrics to gain more insight as to how visitors are interacting with your site’s content.
3. Tracking From Multiple Platforms
Universal Analytics has a new Measurement Protocol which allows you to track more than just websites. You can now send data to your Analytics account from any digital device, like point of sale systems and call centers.
How to Switch to Universal Analytics
You will have to set up a new property for each account you want to switch over to Universal Analytics. You won’t lose your old data in Google Analytics, but you will have to start from scratch with your Universal Analytics data. As of now, Google has not created a way to migrate all your data from Google Analytics to the new Universal properties. For the time being, we recommend that you continue using Google Analytics and run both versions of the tracking code.
Step 1: Log into Google Analytics and click the Admin button
Step 2: Select the account that has the site for which you want to set up Universal Analytics.
Step 3: Click on “+ New Property”.
Step 4: Be sure to select the “Web Site” option. You will now have the choice to select either Google Analytics or Universal Analytics. Choose Universal Analytics.
Step 5: Enter the name you want to use for the website, the domain you’ll be using, the industry you’re in, and the time zone. After you’ve entered this information, click the “Get Tracking ID” button.
Once you’ve done this, you will have successfully created your first Universal Analytics property.
Step 6: You will be brought to a page with the new tracking code that you need to put into your website. Be sure to put it all in right before the </head> tag.
All the code for Universal Analytics has been updated and is different from the original Analytics code. This means that you will have to start from scratch with trackers in Universal Analytics. For now, you should keep the regular Google Analytics code in your website in case Google sets up a migration that is easy to use. If you do this, as you add the new code for Universal Analytics, you will be setting your website up to track everything twice – once in Google Analytics, and once in Universal Analytics. If you want to completely switch to Universal Analytics without continuing to use Google Analytics, simply delete the Google Analytics tracking code from your website.
Should You Make the Switch?
Switching to Universal Analytics is not easy. You’ll have to replace all of the Google Analytics code on your websites and start from scratch. Whether you should switch depends on how experienced you are with Google Analytics, and how much customization you’ve done with your tracking so far.
If you haven’t done much customization in Google Analytics, then making the switch will be easy, and we recommend you do it since Google will most likely phase out the old Analytics eventually.
For some websites, this switch will take a lot of work. If you have set up numerous events, custom variables, and modifications to the Google Analytics tracking code, starting from scratch is going to be time consuming. If this describes you, and you have either a team of people who can use Analytics or one person with a lot of time on their hands, get them started on making the switch right away.
If you have a lot of customization set up and spending the time on making this switch isn’t feasible for you, then you may want to wait until Google releases more features, and maybe even a good migration system to the new code. For everyone else, we recommend you start making the switch as soon as possible.