Universal Analytics is Now Out of Beta!

On Monday night, Google announced that Universal Analytics, their next big leap in providing insight to site owners and stakeholders, had exited its beta phase, and was now fully functional. With that, we bring you an overview of why now might be a great time to switch to it, what to look for to garner the best data, and what some of the features are that might make a huge difference to your business.


Why Now Might be the Right Time to Switch

Many had previously migrated to Universal Analytics from Classic Google Analytics. For those of you who have, you can skip to the next section, because we’ve got some great tips for you, too.

The easiest answer to the question of “should I make the jump to Unviersal Analytics” is that it will reveal a more accurate picture of how a user moves from one device to another, revisits the page, and accrues a lifetime value. The new code focuses on tracking users, rather than just reporting on page views. This naturally fits with how many business like to consider the tactics they take to acquire more engagement and sales.

Many of the features that people weren’t getting with Universal Analytics before, are now available. The functionality of the code now matches that of Classic Google Analytics AND has more potential in the future.

Lastly, if there hasn’t been an update to your code in some time or if you haven’t audited your Google Analytics setup in the past year, this may be just the push needed to get that going, make sure that everything is in order, and get the healthiest data sets to work with.


How to Get the Most Out of Universal Analytics

There are a massive number of features that can be taken advantage of when setting up any version of Google Analytics, to which Universal Analytics is not an exception. For the top 5 setup suggestions and the top 5 e-commerce uses, you can take a look at my post from last week, Google Analytics for e-Commerce – 5 Power Ups for Your e-Commerce Site.

What most will overlook during their setup, will be the enabling of remarketing list creation and pulling in information from the Google Display Network.

Remarketing list creation will allow you setup very specific audiences to market to within Google AdWords (e.g. visitors to your site that abandoned their cart, people who engaged with you and are within a certain demographic, and just about any other segment that can be defined within Google Analytics). This topic, rightly, could take up pages upon pages to cover. For now, I’m going to focus on how to get the information necessary to make the lists to begin with.

First, just as you would end up doing to pull in Google Display Network information (this is a two-for-one sale on awesome data, with a price tag of absolutely nothing but the seconds it takes to type about 35 characters), you’d insert one line of code in the block meant for Universal Analytics. A typical block looks something like this (I’ve italicized and bolded the added line of code):

(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),
ga('create', 'UA-XXXXXX-XX', 'example.com');

ga(‘require’, ‘displayfeatures’);
ga('send', 'pageview');

With that, your Google Analytics profile will start collecting the data necessary to create lists of specific audiences that you can tailor more engaging offers to.


Pulling in Google Display Network information takes only one extra step than that to enable the ability to create remarketing lists (see above). Make sure that this one line of code is in your Universal Analytics block:

ga(‘require’, ‘displayfeatures’);

Then, navigate to the property settings of your profile in the Google Analytics admin. There should be a toggle, about halfway down the page, under the heading of “Display Advertiser Features”. Switch that toggle to the “ON” position, and that’s it. Within about 24 hours you should start to see great reports on the general interests of those who visit your site (e.g. that they were last in the market for a house, that they are movie lovers, or that they spend a significant amount of time on sites related to pets).


What Are Some New Features

There is one big change with the release of Universal Analytics, which is not going to be easily replicated in the older, Classic Google Analytics.

Multi-device path information. Now that Google is focusing on users, rather than on page views, they are putting together better pictures of how a user moves from device to device, how frequently the same user is coming back to the same site, even if they put down their phone and started using their tablet, home computer, or work computer. This will fill in a lot of gaps for those whose conversion cycles are longer than a minute or two.

As well, this new kind of tracking will allow for you to assign a User ID to a particular, sign-in user, so that you can get a great view of their lifetime value, where they are having issues with your site or offering, and how you can keep them engaged more efficiently.

Other features that came out with this release are the ability to change the update time (your time zone) so that the information is refreshed during your natural down-time, and is ready to go at the beginning of your day. The standard had been to base all of this on Pacific Standard Time.

The basic setup of advanced features will, in general, be much easier with Universal Analytics than through the Classic Google Analytics system.

Finally, know that Google intends to release future features and improvements mostly/solely through Universal Analytics, and that from this point forward, Classic Google Analytics will fall further and further behind.



If you or your company need any assistance, please let us know. We’d love to help.

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