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by Gemma Holloway on 18th September 2013
Hi. Today I’m going to speak to you about Universal Analytics. For those of you [who] haven’t heard of this before, it’s a new technology offered by Google Analytics, which allows website owners to track user data on their websites.
Chances are, you’re currently using Google Analytics on your site anyway, so you’re probably wondering what the difference is between the existing platform and this new technology. Google Analytics currently tracks data from a visit-centric perspective, whereas Universal Analytics takes a user-centric approach. I’m going to go through why this is beneficial as a website owner in a moment. You should know that Universal Analytics takes this approach by assigning a unique client identifier to each individual user on your website.
The other difference is the way in which the actual data is collected. Google Analytics uses the ga.js library, whereas Universal Analytics uses the analytics.js library. This does mean that if you want to implement the Universal Analytics, then it does require a different tracking code on your website.
There’s also a difference in the cookies which are used between the two platforms. Google Analytics requires several cookies to actually track the data, whereas Universal Analytics only relies upon one, and even that isn’t compulsory. This new technology can be set up in such a way that no cookies whatsoever are required.
So let’s have a look at why the fact that this new technology is user-centric is so beneficial as a website owner. Basically, because each user is assigned a unique client identifier, it means that we can get a much clearer and accurate understanding of the user journey. At present, if I was to visit the same website on two different browsers, Chrome and Firefox, and both visits were my first visit on that particular browser to that site, a utm cookie would be set, and both visits would be classed as a unique visit. This obviously doesn’t give you a clear picture of the actual user journey, because I am technically a returning visitor on the Firefox browser, because I’d already visited the site on Chrome. Well, Universal Analytics takes this into account and would class the Firefox visit as a return visit.
This is also the case with multi-device tracking, as well. That unique client identifier can understand that you visited the site before, even if it was on a different device. At the moment, we don’t have the capability to track that in Google Analytics. So, again, it provides a much clearer perspective of the actual user journey.
So this is the thing that I’m particularly excited about with the new technology. With Universal Analytics, we can actually now begin to track offline activity. This is done by implementing the measurement protocol, which means that any electronic device can be programmed to push data into your Universal Analytics account. This opens a whole world of opportunities, especially to business owners, where you can now track data from electronic point of sales or even use sensors to record [footfall]. This allows you to then get a full integrated picture of your online and offline efforts in one perspective. So you can really understand where it is you need to focus your efforts.
Now I’m going to cover custom metrics and dimensions. Basically, this is Universal Analytics’ version of the custom variables currently existing in Google Analytics. It means that you can pull data into your Universal Analytics account which wouldn’t be readily available, providing that it is tied to a metric which is already being recorded.
Finally, I’m going to cover a few of the settings. In Universal Analytics, you have the opportunity to record certain search engines as organic traffic that you want to. It also means that you can exclude certain terms. As a business owner, it might not be of value for you to track your business name as organic traffic. For example, if I go to Google and type in “Koozai,” I’m already aware that Koozai exists and, therefore, perhaps it should be recorded as direct traffic, as opposed to organic traffic. Universal Analytics gives you the option to track it in such a way.
Before actually going through that kind of stage and that process of thinking, you need to decide whether or not you’re actually going to get full use of the functionality of the platform and whether it’s actually worth you going through the effort to implement it at the moment. We expect to see an actual migration process in the future, where clients currently on Google Analytics will eventually migrate to Universal Analytics. We’ve kind of got the feeling of that, because the utma cookie, which I mentioned earlier, is being seen as being set as the client ID, when a utm cookie has already been set. So we do get the impression that this migration progress is going to happen in the future, but it’s not a definite.
If you’re not actually going to get the full functionality of the actual platform, it might not be worth actually implementing the new technology just yet. With regards to Universal Analytics, one of the main pitfalls of the technology is the fact that users need to be signed in to your site for the actual identifier to register. So if you’ve got say a blog, for example, where users aren’t likely to log in, chances are you’re not going to make full use of the platform. And, again, the offline technology or the offline measuring is also something that if you’re not going to use, then how much benefit are you actually going to get out of the platform? It’s all kind of balancing it up and seeing how much use this new technology is going to be to you and whether or not it’s worth the investment of actually implementing the new technology.
Hopefully, that’s given you a good understanding of this new technology and given you a good idea of whether or not it’s something that you should be working towards implementing. If you’d like any more information, please feel free to contact us on any of the social profiles which will follow.