Thus, the public beta of Universal Analytics was opened to all. We saw a lot of discussions about the benefits of Universal Analytics. Google provided specific instructions on how to move to Universal Analytics. Google Analytics loyalists also soon followed up with more detailed and user-friendly explanations to help the millions of other Google Analytics users.
Yet, I have noticed that there are still a lot of Google Analytics users who need at least one very good reason to make the upgrade. Through this blog, I hope to reach out to all those who have doubts and concerns about upgrading to Universal Analytics. I would try to highlight few important points concerning Universal Analytics and try to help you derive at least one use case to answer that vital question – Why should you upgrade at all?
Google Analytics has made it clear that all further product updates and new features will be available only for Universal Analytics properties. So if you are still on Google Analytics, you would easily miss out the latest technological advances, in addition to the already innovative ways of data collection that Universal Analytics currently offers.
Eventually, all Google Analytics properties will be transferred automatically to Universal Analytics. But you wouldn’t want that to come as a surprise one fine day. So get into it when you can plan, instead of seeing any future message in your next Google Analytics login “Google Analytics will not support the classic tracking code, ga.js, after 30 days. Please upgrade to Universal Analytics and start using the Analytics.js tracking code before your Google Analytics property stops receiving any data”. Of course, this is hypothetical!
You might have noticed this message whenever you visit the Admin section of your Google Analytics Account. Notice in the second statement that says “To start the upgrade, transfer a property to the Universal Analytics processing technology”. You don’t have to transfer it yourself manually. You don’t even have to write any specialized lines of code to upgrade.
Google Analytics has made it so easy for you that you just select your Google Analytics property and click. Everything else is taken care of at the backend. If you have edit access to the Google Analytics Account or Property, you would notice another interesting option or message right below the Property dropdown menu.
The mechanism of tracking in Google Analytics was based on cookies, which are basically set for each browser, instead of the actual visitor. This way of tracking is fine to some extent, but marketers’ and businesses’ concern is not about browsers, they are interested in knowing the number of people who visited. One of the major technological upgrades in Universal Analytics is that it has moved ahead from the ‘visit’ oriented tracking in Google Analytics to ‘visitor’ oriented tracking in Universal Analytics.
What does it mean for you? It still uses a cookie – one cookie, instead of multiple cookies used in Google Analytics. This creates a unique Client ID that is used by Universal Analytics servers to distinguish the visitors and perform all the processing necessary to calculate visitors along with other usual measurements. Note that it is still non Personally Identifiable Information (non-PII). You can identify how many unique visitors saw your campaign promotions, and could try to use the aggregate data with non-clickstream data. With this, you would be able to identify quality leads, improve your ROI and focus on channels which have lesser cost of converting visitors to loyal visitors.
Until now, you would have been happy with tracking all those website visitors, including the mobile site. But there was the CRM data which you would have always wanted to tie along with the Google Analytics data. Companies have built internal data warehouses to bridge this gap, and thereby created their own platforms. Universal Analytics has addressed this in a smart move by introducing the Measurement Protocol. Companies that cannot easily afford to build their own data warehouse can now rely on this single platform.
Using the Measurement Protocol of Universal Analytics, data collection is possible from multiple platforms, ranging beyond mobile or web browsers to other sources like information kiosks, point of sale systems, game consoles, additionally; data in CRMs continues to be a major attraction point. There are many other digital devices as well, from which data can be sent to Universal Analytics, for instance, you can – track access cards usage, track goods movement, track devices usage patterns, etc.
When you would have data from multiple platforms, Universal Analytics could lead to unearthing patterns and trends which weren’t available due to lack of this data sync.
You can now make your clickstream data richer with additional information (the clicks and cost data) which comes from other vendors who run your campaigns. You might already have cost data from Google’s campaign management tools integrated, no doubt! But what about the campaigns which were handled by non-Google vendors? Universal Analytics has opened the window to upload impression and cost data from these other vendors by configuring your own custom data sources.
End result – you can now compare how Google and non-Google campaigns are performing against each other.
Have you faced challenges in tracking visitors moving across some or all of these situations using Google Analytics – your primary domain, sub-domain, your blog in another domain, your shopping cart in another sub-domain, or an iFrame from another domain loading in your primary domain? In Universal Analytics, this has been made easier and somewhat better. Cross-domain tracking is now supported with an auto linking plugin. Did I say ‘auto link’? Yes, that’s a step far from the messy coding and errors that happens with a lot of Google Analytics customers.
This is another great feature that could expand the possibilities of using Universal Analytics in a larger context. If you are familiar with SAINT classification in SiteCatalyst, this may ring a bell. Yes, you can import additional Meta data which could not be tracked but can be expanded by referencing to a single key.
Here is a use case – If you had wished to see a detailed breakup of products that were sold in terms of the color, shape, size, features, and build, etc., you can now import this additional data into Universal Analytics. The reports you would see in Universal Analytics after uploading these additional attributes would just overwhelm you.
Once you are upgraded to Universal Analytics, this part becomes so much easier that it has become child’s play. You would realize how a powerful setting as this has been left for you to decide. It could be a child’s play but remember – with great power, comes great responsibility!
Good news on this one. Configuration was good enough in Google Analytics but it provided basic options to customize. Some of the configurations were possible only through advanced code placements in the site. It was high-tech and not everyone’s cup of tea. In Universal Analytics, Google has made it more flexible for you. Now you can manage certain features readily in the Admin section.
Do you want to add more search engines to the default Organic Search Sources?
Do you often see referral links to your site which are drawing in rapidly increasing traffic, and want them to be excluded from analysis, but couldn’t see any way of customizing it?
Are there certain search terms that are so specific, that you want the visitors using these search terms to be identified as direct traffic?
Well, life has been made easier in Universal Analytics with possibilities for these kinds of customizations.
Google Analytics provided its customers with Custom Variables but it had its own limitations. With Universal Analytics, there is a great improvement on this front in the form of Custom Variables and Custom Metrics. This, as you can understand, can be configured as per your business requirements.
The Property settings include defining your own Dimensions and Metrics, the way you want them to be. The better part is that you can now set up to 20 Custom Dimensions and 20 Custom Metrics.
Clubbed under Custom Definitions, both Custom Dimensions and Custom Metrics are easy configurations. These of course will have to be implemented in a way similar to Custom Variables. Remember! It’s still an extension of Custom Variables, but with extended capabilities.
This list of top 10 reasons is definitely not an exhaustive one. But, I hope it gives you some really good reasons to convince yourself, your team, and others to evaluate the benefits and decide what is best for your digital needs.