Analytics is a service offered by Google allowing users to analyse their websites through a wealth of in-depth statistics. From humble beginnings of tracking website visits, Google Analytics has provided businesses with greater ability to understand customers needs and behaviours, ultimately aiding future marketing efforts. With user experience top of Google’s priority list, numerous updates to the platform have taken place over the years. We are on hand to keep you up to date with all the latest features and functionality, today discussing Google Universal Analytics.

Launched in beta mode in 2012, Google Universal Analytics (UA) was moved into production on the 2nd of April 2014 to the sounds of many happy cheers. Not a standard update to classic Google Analytics (GA), UA is a completely new version of Analytics predicted to change the data we analyse in a positive way.

In the beginning, customers would visit your website and make a purchase with visitor numbers being the only real data collected. Shortly after it became possible to collect demographic data and now, in 2014, it is even more complex and useful with device, browser, channel, location and website movement also being analysed. Universal Analytics now ‘stitches user data together across platforms and devices, and can track activity on any web-enabled device'.

Benefits of Google Universal Analytics

Although GA is still in operation, UA is thought to overtake in the near future. UA comes with a whole host of new benefits and although relatively new, will benefit businesses greatly in the long-term. Check out some of the features that have impressed us:

Offline conversion: we expect this to have a large impact on the volume of businesses switching from GA. Browser, device and location to name a few were previously tracked however UA can now link offline transactions with campaigns, providing the ability to view user interaction history.

Session timeout: in classic GA, session timeout was 30 minutes, which, if the site promoted lengthy visitation, would appear in GA as multiple sessions. However UA now offers session timeouts up to four hours, thus, supporting lengthy visitation and providing more accurate data.

Custom dimensions: this is highly effective in making comparisons between different sets of users. For example, a custom dimension could be set to compare website activity of 18-25 users and 40+ users. UA allows for up to 20 reports to be created allowing for further demographical analysis.

Organic search terms: when you view your brand name in organic search results, this indicates the user has been in contact with your brand before therefore it should not be grouped into organic traffic. However, UA has developed a feature allowing brand and domain names to relocate to direct traffic. This is effective as it allows for organic traffic to be analysed effectively.

Load times: with the demand from users to have information instantly, the requirement for a fast loading speed has never been of greater importance. UA is on hand to help and now has the ability to identify the length of time certain elements took to load. This will be highly beneficial in site development to identify areas of improvement for the future.

Do visitors read my content: you may have high website ranking however it’s understandable you would like to analyse the level to which users engage with content produced. Well, Google’s very own Justin Cutroni has developed code especially for UA which allows events such as ‘started reading’ and ‘reached the bottom of the content’ to be tracked. When tracked, it allows you to identify just how engaged your audience really were with your content aiding all future decisions regarding content creation and structure, etc.

Drawbacks of Universal Analytics

Nothing is perfect and as Google Universal Analytics is relatively new, there are a few drawbacks which may initially hamper user willingness to switch.

Workload: the process of migrating from GA to UA is a lot simpler out of beta however the process still demands a lot of time implementing universal analytics code to the website. If you are unfamiliar with classic GA, you may wish to invest a little budget in having a Certified Google Partner assist with the migration. The time and potential costs involved may prevent many businesses upgrading however there will come a time when classic GA is phased out and there will be no option but to upgrade to UA.

No going back: When the upgrade to UA takes place there is no going back. It is recommended you trial it on a development site or to run both GA and UA in conjunction with each other to begin with for familiarity.

Learning curve: to fully understand UA, there is a little bit of study involved and Google’s official study guides for UA are currently pretty sparse. As a result, many have advised waiting until a little more information is available to avoid any uncertainty or getting some advice from your digital partner.

Although migrating will eventually become essential, when you upgrade is dependent on a number of factors, such as the level of customisation on your website as this can be a timely process. If you haven’t done a lot with your website i.e. only installed the Google Analytics tracking code then migrating to UA will be relatively easy. However, if you are tracking a number of events and have custom variables set up, the decision of upgrading should be made by taking into consideration the time taken to migrate alongside the available budget for assistance if required.

So, ‘to switch or not to switch’? Google Universal Analytics offers a wealth of new options for data collection and analysis and is highly beneficial in helping to further achieve business goals and measure success. As such, if you are not using Google Analytics, we advise that you implement it soon, because the more data you have available to you on your audience the better!