Universal Analytics public beta, the latest iteration of Google Analytics, has been available for nearly a year. Universal Analytics represents a complete redesign of Google Analytics’ tracking code. This new version will completely change how we measure and analyze user activity.
Although the update is not mandatory yet, it should definitely be in your plans for the next year. There are a number of unanswered questions at this point. Should you upgrade to Universal Analytics now? What are the main benefits? Here’s what we have to say.
The main appeal of Universal Analytics is that it can measure far more than visits to a website. In fact, UA can link user data across multiple platforms and devices. With Universal Analytics, all visitors now receive what Google calls a Client ID (or CID), which is essentially a unique ID that will stay with a user as long as possible (or 2 years when the cookie expires). What are the benefits? Now you can measure a user’s actions on every platforms they use (mobile, tablet, desktop), and even measure its actions offline.
The great strength of Universal Analytics also lies in the fact that it allows for the measurement of activity of its users offline and links this activity to their online activities. Universal Analytics can measure activity on any connected device, including websites and applications, as well as POS terminals.
For many businesses the buying process often starts online but the final conversion occurs offline. Tracking the ClientID of a user when they submit their information in a form (for example, in an online auto insurance quote), you can trigger an Google Analytics event when the quote is completed by telephone, triggering a conversion and recording the attribution of this conversion.
Here’s another example: Universal Analytics is able compile data from a RFID chip equipped ski pass. This way, we can link the digital activity of the skier even before his arrival at the mountain and know, for example, by what digital channels he interacted with before he came to the mountain. UA would be able to track his entire conversion funnel; UA would know that the user purchased a ticket online after consulting an offer via an ad on Google, and eventually came to ski 38 other times during the season. Ain’t this a marketer’s fantasy? UA is able to calculate the ROI of a digital channel in extremely precise ways.
Analytics now allows several adjustable settings. These settings can be customized directly into the Analytics interface, instead of via code. For example, you can now adjust the length of a session and a campaign, which by default were locked at 30 minutes and 6 months respectively. Another example is that you can now also exclude certain search terms to make them appear as direct visits instead of organic visits. This is very useful for excluding branded terms, which many already agree that they should be considered a direct visit.
It is now possible to create your own custom metrics and dimensions in Universal Analytics. For example, you might be interested in creating a dimension for visitors who are connected to your site, and one for visitors who are not connected, and then you can compare the behaviour between the two. These two new features are intended to replace the Custom Variables that are currently in place in Google Analytics.
The new Universal Analytics tracking code can work alongside the old tracking codes inconsequentially. This means that when you decide to migrate to the new one, you can continue in parallel to collect data on the existing profile, making sure you not losing any data in the migration process.
There are many other reasons to switch to Universal Analytics and this list is far from exhaustive. This new version may not necessarily be the one that best suits your business model. Indeed, we recommend you do not migrate to Universal Analytics if you use DoubleClick or Remarketing lists in GA since these features are not yet supported by Universal Analytics. It is important to assess the work required for such an update, especially if you have a complex site with a significant amount of customization in your current Google Analytics configuration. Therefore, it is imperative to evaluate all options in advance before making the jump.
Do you have any questions about Universal Analytics? Would you like to implement it for your business? Do not hesitate to contact us for further advice.