Google's Universal Analytics

Posted by Robert Cerff in Search on 09 May 2014

Tags: analytics, google

Google recently released their next generation of analytics, named Universal Analytics.  Officially announced that it had been released from Beta on the 2nd of April, Universal Analytics will become the standard form of Analytics in the near future.

As previously mentioned, about half of all active websites currently employ Google Analytics as a means to track website traffic and activity.  Google has recently made some major changes to not only what they track on a website but how they track the various interactions.

While there has been little changed in the form of implementation, most of the update has been done server side.  This has brought much more flexibility and comparative reporting power.  These changes include custom dimensions and metrics as well as being able to send off line data to Universal Analytics for integration into the system.  In a previous post I pointed out that web analytics traditionally track online activity with some offline activity traceable.  Universal Analytics now makes it so much easier to track offline activity the new Measurement Protocol.

What does this mean in simple terms?

Simply put, anything that can be reported can be integrated with Google's new Universal Analytics.  Offline transactions can be included with your website Analytics making it easier to make a comparison of where exactly your advertising is most effective.  This means you can now track information such as the number of App downloads, devices used to access an app.  This will ensure that you're developing the right devices.

Onsite Tracking:
The traditional cookie used for tracking online activity has been replaced.  Google will now use unique universal tracking ID's for each property.  This is more reliable and will enable webmasters to track a person’s behaviour from the moment they first visit a website until you decide.  By creating your own User ID's, you will be able to track visitors across multiple devices, from desktop to tablet or mobile.  This has to be declared in your privacy policy however, informing visitors that you are tracking their activity.

Universal Analytics now offers custom definitions of a traffic sources, webmasters can now determine what should be considered a search engine or referral, or in the case of branded search terms what can be considered non-organic search traffic.  Some referring websites can be excluded

"Sources" has been changed to "Acquisition" with social media networks now recognised as their own medium of traffic.  This makes it a lot easier to measure the effectiveness of your social media efforts, setting up goals specific to visitors from the various social channels.

Terminology:
Possibly an overlooked and seemingly minor change, visits and visitors have been changed to sessions.  This is a much more accurate representation of what a visitor actually is.  Each visitor forms a session which is based on specific time frame.  By default, any inactivity on a website for any period longer than 30 minutes results in a new session being recorded.  If a visitor was to visit a website but then leave their computer for a period exceeding 30 minutes then resume browsing the website they would be recorded as a new session.  This helps improve the overall accuracy of onsite tracking.

We have also reported in the past that there is no form of analytics that is 100% accurate.  It has been noticeable that there are changes in the way the new Universal Analytics tracks onsite activity compared to the older Google Analytics.  While we do expect some discrepancies to creep in between the two types of Analytics (they use totally different tracking methods), we do expect to still be able to accurately follow onsite activity and predict certain trends.

Moving forward we will be able to better segment traffic and report on the effectiveness of the various channels on offer.  Universal Analytics will be pivotal to making informed marketing decisions.