Transitioning to Google Universal Analytics


If you have to make a big change, there’s two approaches you can take. You can make the changes gradually, easing into something that’s new, difficult, or just different. Or, you can rip the proverbial Band-Aid off, and deal with the hassle of the transition after you’ve made it.

If you tend to take the first approach, Google Universal Analytics is perfect for you. You can set up Google UA to run alongside your existing analytics tracking code, so you want lose track of any of your existing analytics. As Google UA adds new features, and as you realize its benefits, such as tracking users across devices, you can slowly move into using UA for all your tracking needs.

But if you tend to take the second approach, Google UA is also pretty good. Just install the new tracking code, and let the analytics work their magic. Instead of clinging to your trusted metrics—site visitors, bounce rate, conversions—you can develop new metrics that will help you get a fine-grained sense of what you need to improve about your site. Here is our complete, eight-step guide to transitioning to Google UA.

Step 1: Install the Tracking Code and Set Your Goals

Google UA uses a new tracking code—analytics.js—that you’ll need to install on your website before you can begin using it. While Google UA can supplement your traditional analytics, you can’t integrate the two, so all of your data from UA will be newly collected. Just as in traditional analytics, you’ll need to set goals, such as destination or pages per visit, as the site level. For more information, see our quick start guide.

Intro to Google Universal Analytics for Resellers

Step 2: Consider a Tag Manager

If you’re not ready to replace your existing analytics with Google UA, or have a number of analytics you’re using for your sites, Google’s free tag manager helps you keep track of which analytics you’re using when. The tag manager even has multi-account support, so you run analytics on any number of sites without switching accounts. For more details, see our introduction to the tag manager.

Using Google Tag Manager to Implement Universal Analytics

Step 3: Customize Your Analtyics

With Google UA you have the ability to easily and powerfully customize site traffic. By creating custom dimensions and metrics, you can measure almost any activity that goes on your site, no matter how specific. Here is our overview.

Custom Dimensions and Metrics with Google Universal Analytics

Step 4: Control Your Campaigns and Sessions

Time matters with analytics, and Google UA gives you the flexibility you need to make sure you’re accommodating visitors who spend a few minutes or several hours on your site. Likewise, you can set your marketing campaign analytics to record up to two years of activity, letting you measure the long run payoff of a link from a high-profile site. Learn more here.

Sessions and Campaigns with Google Universal Analytics

Step 5: Make Your Search Results More Accurate

With Google UA you can exclude referrals and search terms to measure your site’s truly organic traffic, so your analytic reports aren’t crowded with distracting and irrelevant data. Check out our discussion of what you can do with these tools.

Customizing Search Results in Google Universal Analytics

Step 6: Measure Multiple Devices

For many, Google UA’s ability to measure user activity on multiple devices—from tablets to smart phones—is the true game changer, as you can finally keep track of just how people are actually using your site. For more on why this matters, read our write-up, which includes tips for how to use this feature to improve your site.

Measuring Multiple Devices With Google UA

Step 7: Measure Mobile Apps

In addition to measuring how users interact with your site on mobile devices, Google UA can also keep track of how users interact with your mobile apps. If you’ve set up an app that allows users to shop at your store, read your blog, or even play a game or two, Google UA can help you keep track of what they do. For more, see our guide.

Integrating Mobile App Analytics into Google Universal Analytics

Step 8: Remember Security and Privacy

Even though Google UA is more powerful, its security and privacy protections remain in place. Read our brief guide to what’s new, so you won’t run afoul of Google’s rules.

Security and Privacy with Google UA

Whether you’re going to ease into Google UA, or make the jump tomorrow, this guide will give you the information you need to know before you start with Google UA.

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