Universal Analytics is the next generation of Google Analytics. Announced in October, 2012, and previously available in Beta form, it is now rolling out to all new Google Analytics users.
Just to be clear, as of March 2013, Universal Analytics is a choice when you create a new web property. You can use the current version of Google Analytics or choose the new Universal Analytics platform. Existing accounts are not transitioning to Universal Analytics yet.
When you create a new web property in Google Analytics you will now have a choice:
Before you decide to use Universal Analytics you should consider all of the features in the product and the work required to implement them.
Here’s a list of things you should consider when implementing Universal Analytics.
Currently Supported by Universal Analytics
Standard website metrics: All of your favorite metrics, like visitors, visits, pageviews, time, etc. will be in Universal Analytics. And it will also collect standard information like geographic location, referral sources, marketing campaigns, etc.
Ecommerce tracking: You can still collect ecommerce transactions with the new Universal Analytics.
Event Tracking: Event tracking, that insanely useful feature that you can use to track all sorts of visitor interactions, like reading an article, is supported by Universal Analytics.
AdWords Linking: You can still link an AdWords account (or mulitple accounts if you’re working with a bigger client) to Universal Analytics.
Custom Variables: Custom variables will be replaced by a new feature called Custom Dimensions. There are two main differences. First, you get 20 custom dimensions. Second, there is a little less coding to set up a custom dimension. More on these very, very, soon.
Custom Metrics: In addition to the new Custom Dimensions there are also new Custom Metrics. A Custom Metric is a custom count of something that is specific to your business. More on these soon.
Finally, another important factor is that Universal Analytics is THE Google Analytics platform. New features will be rolled out to the Universal Analytics code base.
Coming Soon to Universal Analytics
While most Google Analytics features are supported by Universal Analytics there are some features that are not yet supported. If you are a heavy user of these features you might consider waiting.
Content Experiments: At launch, the Universal Tracking code does not support Content Experiments. If you plan to run a lot of tests you may want to wait until UA supports content experiments.
Remarketing with Google Analytics: I must admit, this is one of my favorite features in Google Analytics. Unfortunately, at launch, Universal Analytics does not support the Remarketing feature.
AdSense Integration: Currently you can import your AdSense data, like revenue, into Google Analytics. This will be added soon to Universal Analytics.
Cross device tracking: This is a core component of Universal Analytics and will be launched soon. It’s going to be insanely useful and help organizations measure customers not sessions.
That’s it. Almost everything is supported by Universal Analytics.
If you’re currently using Google Analytics you’re probably wondering if Universal Analytics uses the same tracking code. It does not.
Universal Analytics uses the new
analytics.js tracking code.
For those that are just starting out this is no big deal. But for existing users you will need to consider a migration plan when Universal Analytics rolls out to existing accounts.
Check out my post on the tracking websites with Universal Analytics. It provides an overview of the new tracking code and how it’s different that the existing tracking code.
Universal Analytics and Google Tag Manager (GTM)
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with all of this you may want to consider using Google Tag Manager to implement Universal Analytics.
You can also use Google Tag Manager to track events, ecommerce transactions, etc. In general, using GTM, or any tag management tool, is strongly suggested. It creates a much easier way to manage your data collection.
If you do decide to use a tag management tool, don’t forget to consider adding a data layer.
It’s All About the Platform
And one more thing, Universal Analytics can be used to measure almost any type of technology thanks to the new Measurement Protocol. It’s a true platform that can give you deeper insights into your customers, their cross device usage, and their long-term value to your company. That’s a lot.
Universal Analytics is going to dominate the conversation when it comes to Google Analytics. I’ll do my best to keep everyone up to date on the features and platform updates. It’s going to be fast and furious :)