For years, Google Analytics has been the go to tool for savvy webmasters and SEOs wanting to monitor the performance of their various websites. The information we gather through Google Analytics allows us to manage our websites more efficiently, and to evaluate the success or failure of new and existing marketing strategies. These metrics are vital to building, and maintaining, a website that delivers the kind of conversion rates that every webmaster wants.
But there is a new analytics tool that has been waiting in the wings, poised to become the gold standard for smart SEOs and webmasters. In 2012, Google rolled out Universal Analytics, an improved version of the well-known Google Analytics tool. Universal Analytics has just recently come out of beta version, and is slowly attracting more and more users. So, the question remains, “Is it time for you to make the switch to Universal Analytics”?
The Benefits of Universal Analytics
Universal Analytics offers several key features that allow you to get a clearer picture of how online users are interacting with your content. UA offers new tracking codes, the ability to track users across a variety of different devices, and a selection of new measurement protocols that will allow you to import data from both online and offline devices. These improvements over the classic Google Analytics provide webmasters with the kind of detailed information necessary to compete in an ever more crowded online marketplace. So let’s look at just what Universal Analytics has to offer.
New Tracking Codes
Universal Analytics offers three new tracking codes, designed to provide more specific and insightful data for the webmaster. These codes are more flexible than the classic Google Analytics code, and allow webmasters to collect data from any digital device.
- Google Analytics SDK (v2.x or higher) – This snippet allows you to specifically track your mobile apps.
- The UA Measurement Protocol – This allows you to collect data from both the web and the server, and to tie that data to both online and offline activity.
These new codes are easy to set up and customize, and will simplify the process of cross-domain and sub-domain tracking.
Improved Configuration Options
Universal Analytics provides webmasters with a greater range of configuration options, making it easier to target specific data. These advanced features allow you to get a more detailed picture of a website’s traffic stream.
- Organic Search Sources – Data in your organic traffic report can be edited to show search traffic from a single source. Search engines can be added or removed from your traffic report, and can be edited to appear as a source of referral traffic.
- Session and Campaign Timeouts – With UA sessions and campaigns are no longer restricted to a predetermined timeout. You can change the settings in UA to meet the needs of each of your individual sites, so that sessions and campaigns time out to your schedule.
- Referral Exclusions – This feature allows you to edit your traffic reports so that data from certain referral sources are excluded. For example, if you don’t want to monitor traffic coming from a specific website that data can be excluded in your regular traffic report.
- Search Term Exclusions – This allows you to exclude traffic coming from specific keyword searches. For example, you might want to exclude your company’s name as a search term. When people visit your website after searching for your company name, any visits will be logged as direct traffic.
Customized Metrics and Dimensions
Google Analytics has a set of predetermined default dimensions and metrics, sort of a one size fits all approach. While that data is certainly useful, Universal Analytics goes a step further by allowing webmasters and SEOs to create their own dimensions and metrics so that you are only measuring the data that is specifically important to your website or marketing campaign. These customized metrics and dimensions can be created to appear in a custom report, or as segment in your standard report. This may be the most exciting aspect of Universal Analytics, as it allows you to specifically target data that is unique to your business.
Universal Analytics Upgrade Process
The upgrade process is very straightforward if you don’t have custom event tracking or virtual pageviews. When you login to classics GA, it will prompt you to navigate to the “admin” area. Once there, you will see a link under your web property that says “transfer not started”. Go ahead and click there to get started. However, if your classic GA is customized, you will want to get familiar with the new platform first. The migration to UA will take about 2 days, but your data will not skip a beat. All of the classic GA features are now fully available in the new Universal Analytics, such as remarketing tracking. Check back into analytics in a few days and make sure to grab your new tracking code to update your site. If you’re using Google Tag Manager, making the switch to your tracking code is a breeze.
Should You Stay or Should You Go?
Universal Analytics will, sooner than later, become Google’s default analytic tool. So the question is not so much “should you switch to Universal Analytics”, as “when will you make the switch”. Currently, Universal Analytics just came out of beta, and many webmasters may be hesitant to make the change. But UA has much to offer, and now is the time to get more familiar with its many benefits. Take a look under the hood, and consider making the switch from the classic GA to the new improved UA.