April 29 2014

A Primer on the New Google Universal Analytics

Google Analytics is one of the best free things out there. And, it just got better. Google’s next generation analytics platform, known as Universal Analytics, has left the beta stage and is now available to every Google Analytics customer. Universal Analytics offers a plethora of new features that could be extremely valuable to any business wanting to better understand its digital properties.

Why Upgrade from Classic to Universal Analytics?
According to Google, all Google Analytics accounts will eventually have to upgrade from Classic Analytics to Universal Analytics, so it’s important to understand the differences between the two, and why upgrading now is a smart move. Universal Analytics offers new page level customizations and reports, the ability to customize your data so that only relevant reports and tracking information is shown, and much more. Let’s explore some of these new features in more detail.

  • Business-Centric Metrics: Universal Analytics boasts more robust reporting statistics geared towards specific business goals, including the new user ID feature, cross device reporting, time zone based processing and measurement protocol. These innovative features allow marketers to analyze customers' journeys through the site across multiple devices and even intranets in a more timely manner. 
  • Organic Search Data Customization: This new feature allows users to simplify reports by hiding organic traffic data that is insignificant to their company. Users are now able to customize the search engines they monitor traffic from based on their unique business needs and goals.
  • Referral Exclusions: Universal Analytics offers the ability to exclude certain traffic sources, which can be extremely helpful in organizing what data is and isn’t meaningful to analyze. For example, if a business doesn’t want to count traffic from a specific source (e.g., internal company traffic, a specific website, or a third party website), it’s now very easy to filter that data from reports.
  • Search Term Exclusions: Universal Analytics lets users categorize certain organic keyword searches as direct traffic, enabling users to more easily identify and analyze meaningful traffic to their site. For example, if your company name is Geno’s Pizza, you might want all the searches for, “Geno’s Pizza,” to be considered direct traffic, as it can be assumed the searcher’s intent is to go directly to your site. This separation provides users with a better understanding of their organic search engine traffic, which is likely to give deeper insight into the performance of your SEO strategy (or lack thereof) and opportunities to increase your online visibility.
  • Timeouts: Google Universal analytics also introduces session timeouts and campaign timeouts:
  • With session timeouts, businesses can now define the length of time that is considered a “session,” with a minimum of 1 minute and a maximum of 4 hours, versus the current Classic Analytics session default time of 30 minutes. So, if a visitor doesn’t have site activity within that defined period of time, their next visit will be considered a new session.
  • Campaign timeouts allow for better tracking of campaign-driven traffic to your site. Campaign timeouts have been designed to support typical campaign timeframes and can be set with any range from 1 day or 24 months. So, if someone visits your site on the first day of your campaign, but doesn’t generate a conversion until the last day, that conversion will still be attributed to the campaign. This helps marketers more accurately track campaign success.
  • Offline Measurements: If your company has physical locations or any alternate ways of converting beyond your website, this new offline measurement feature will be helpful for you. Universal Analytics has the ability to track conversions generated by various offline activities; for example, the amount of people who made an in-store purchase after visiting your website, how successful your offline coupons were or even conversions from your phone channel. Such information will allow businesses to more comprehensively measure the performance of a particular campaign or marketing effort.
The Bottom Line: Initiate Your Upgrade to Universal Analytics Now

Upgrading from Classic to Universal Analytics is a two-step process that will require access to your site’s source code. Although updating from Classic to Universal Google Analytics requires a little work, it is well worth it. Universal Analytics offers enhanced tracking and means of analysis that can more accurately measure key performance indicators and provide greater insight into your overall digital presence. To learn more about upgrading your analytics, consult your digital agency or continue reading in the Google Analytics Upgrade Center.

posted by
Michelle Brown
Michelle Brown
VP of Sales & Marketing

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.