Universal Analytics is finally out of BETA so it's full steam ahead for online advertisers looking to embark on the next phase of their Google Analytics adventure; but how, when and is it really worth the effort?
We’ve compiled the highlights. This certainly doesn’t cover all the reasons why you should look to upgrade to Universal (though we absolutely think you should!), but it will definitely help point you in the right direction.
So first things first, what exactly is Universal Analytics?
- Universal Analytics is the new version of Google Analytics and we love it!
- The product officially came out of BETA early April and we’ve been getting loads of questions from our clients.
- Lots of advertisers had been holding back from upgrading as previous functionality, including remarketing and audience demographic reporting was not available, it is now and the floodgates have opened with clients keen to get a slice of the action!
- At Jellyfish, we’re seeing clients pushing to migrate so that they can take advantage of the extra functionality offered by UA.
- As it’s out of BETA, it’s also now supported by an SLA for GA Premium clients, great news for enterprise level clients, and as a Google Analytics Premium reseller we can help with those too.
With all the publicity surrounding UA, Jellyfish have been getting lots of questions from clients about the transition, how they can approach it and what they need to do to capitalise. We’ve put together a whistle-stop guide.
1. Why migrate?
UA provides levels of visibility not previously available in GA. If you want to take advantage of a fantastic free product with a development roadmap unfolding with the momentum of a runaway train, get onboard sooner than later.
There are more flexible data collection methods that let you track any digital device:
- Analytics.js library for websites
- Mobile SDK’s for Android and iOS
- The Measurement Protocol for other devices such as game consoles and in-store kiosks
- Dimension widening
One of the most eagerly awaited functions is the ability to connect multiple devices and engagement data through the user ID. It looks pretty cool, but it will really be of most benefit to users where some form of login takes place.
This will ultimately enable advertisers to create multi-channel ‘funnel’ type Cross-Device Reports of the journeys taking place online and the overlap between devices, and even better be able to see the level of overlap between users.
As stated, this will be most beneficial to sites where there is activity that happens when an account is signed into in some capacity.
This is going to be really useful to site owners who have return visitors wanting to access content which makes it perfect for sectors like online education, ecommerce and publishers where content consumption is key.
In addition, for those of you that have to maintain your GA configuration and general data quality, there are some nice evolutions that make this even easier:
- Simplified configuration options that will make your reports more customisable and easier to set up.
- These are located under the ‘Tracking Info’ option, click into the admin section and you’ll find it in the left nav.
- Some of the things we used to tackle by making changes to the tracking code can now be configured in the console.
- For example you can use the ‘Organic Search Sources’ function to define what traffic you would like to appear as organic in your reports (some of the less known search engines may previously have shown as referrals)
- Or exclude keywords using the ‘Search Term Exclusion List’ from what appears in your organic reports (e.g. would you prefer brand shows as something else).
- Click here to clarify which search engines GA defines as organic by default.
Create custom dimensions and custom metrics unique to your business
Have you ever wanted to measure something that wasn’t pre-configured in GA? Custom dimensions and metrics in UA allow you to be more flexible in defining the information that gets sent into GA so that you can segment and report on exactly the data you need…very handy!
- Under the admin tab you’ll see the ‘Custom Definitions’ option
- You can set hit, session or visitor level ‘Custom Dimensions’
- Or Integer, currency or time level ‘Custom Metrics’
- When you go into the configuration you will navigate through the options and eventually get presented with this screen
Think of these in a similar light to what has always been called a ‘Custom Variable’, the benefit being now that they are easier to set up and you also get twenty in the free version of UA and 200 in GA Premium, versus five and 50 in 'old school' GA.
Alternatively, if you can’t create what you need, you also have the option to upload custom data sources which can be used to upload things like click and cost data for other search engines. We see this as being a major plus for big search advertisers and certainly a long awaited option.
2. The migration process
This is the bit that everyone is really keen to understand. What exactly will be involved in upgrading to UA?
These are the steps you’ll need to consider:
- All GA properties will soon be required to use UA. Ultimately you will have to upgrade, although Google are giving you up to two years to do so.
- Any unmigrated accounts now offer a process you can follow to upgrade your classic GA properties into UA without changing account settings or losing data.
- You should be seeing the option to migrate under the admin section of your account.
The migration is a two step process:
- Transfer property
- Go into account admin section.
- You’ll see the option to transfer to UA (don’t go pressing this button unless you’re ready to go, there’s no option to back-pedal to old GA).
- Implement UA tracking code
- In some cases this might just mean you change the base tag, but for most it will require a little more thought and planning.
- Jellyfish recommend you create an implementation plan that includes all GA features you use, like ecommerce or event tracking, then review what tracking you will need to implement for UA to still work. Jellyfish can help you with this is you don’t fancy going solo.
- When you implement the UA tracking code, you'll need to update the tracking code tags for features that require additional setup.
- If you also utilise items such as events or custom variables further code changes will be required.
- We’re strongly recommending to clients to also implement Google Tag Manager as part of the upgrade.
- For now step two is optional, but you only get the full benefits of UA after you implement the new tracking code, even if you’re not ready to migrate, we recommend you start thinking about it.
3. What happens if I don’t upgrade?
This is another common question we’re being asked by our clients. If we don’t migrate then what happens? Will everything stop working? Will we lose data? The short answer for now is no. Don’t panic, you have time to complete your migration (two years to be precise). But if you hang around, you will not be getting the most out of Google Analytics (GA) as new features roll out (and seriously, there’s some good ones coming!)
- If you don’t hit that upgrade button, eventually you will be automatically transferred to UA in the future. We don’t know when this will be just yet.
- If you don't complete Step 2 of the upgrade process, you will continue to send data to GA from a non-UA collection method.
- This data will continue to be processed for up to two years, you really want to make sure you’ve upgraded by this point or you will have some serious problems!
- If you continue to send data using GA past the two year mark, it simply won’t work anymore.
Google have also advised that a number of other features are being retired. The most common being custom variables, if you use these start working on your migration plan now.
4. Should I learn to use a new tool?
Jellyfish offer GA training courses and we would love to speak to you about how to get the most from UA, whether you’re looking for help with the technical implementation and upgrade, or just want to talk through what new stuff you might be able to track and analyse.
5. Does Jellyfish support Universal Analytics?
- Absolutely, Jellyfish have been through the migration process with a number of clients already.
- We’re one of a limited number of agencies that have been accredited as a Google Analytics Certified Partner.
- And have Google Analytics Premium Reseller status.
We’d love to help you with your Universal Analytics upgrades.
For more information about what you can do with Universal Analytics, get in touch with the Jellyfish Analytics team.