Back in my early 20’s, I owned a Chevy Cavalier that I swore would be the first and last car I ever owned. I dutifully changed its oil every 2,000 (yes, 2,000) miles. I installed the best spark plugs, wires and sensors that money could buy.

Over time, the car started presenting me with issues. There was the defective head gasket. The drooping driver’s side door. The failed starter (x 2!), alternator, then the ECM. An ongoing electrical short had me replacing my dead car battery every six months.

After a year of such issues, I gave away my car to a fellow grad student and acquired a Honda Accord.

The car issues ceased and my wallet became much happier.

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So long, Google Analytics

In a similar fashion, Google had attempted to add desired user features and repair issues with classic Google Analytics (GA) until the various patches and fixes could no longer keep up with demand. It therefore released Universal Analytics (UA) as an improved version of its original analysis software and encouraged users to test it out.

By April 2014, UA exited beta testing phase and was recognized as the “new and improved” version of GA.

Once the UA launch had proven successful, Google  announced that it would be officially retiring GA as of April 2016 and replacing it with UA. To quote the search engine behemoth:

“Universal Analytics is the new operating standard for Google Analytics. All accounts will soon be required to use Universal Analytics.”

UA provides several key advantages over the old GA platform. They are as follows:

Standard reports are replaced by Custom Dimensions and Metrics.

GA provides the audience overview (visits, unique visits, page views, bounces), traffic sources (referral, direct and campaign traffic), content (site content, speed) and conversion information in its standard reports area. While this is useful information, it doesn’t address the needs of all users.

UA offers users the ability to generate custom dimensions and metrics for a number of properties (i.e., websites). Each property has 20 available indices for both custom dimensions and custom metrics.

For example, you may wish to track specific authors on your website and how well the content of each of these individual authors is doing. If you’re a game developer, you may want to know the exact game level that your site users reach. Maybe you just want to know how many page views are generated by males and females in your audience.

With Custom Dimensions and Metrics, you can define what you will measure and how.

URLs are replaced by content categories.

In GA, the standard page report provided page lists of URLs followed by page views, average time on page, bounce rate, etc. This “top down” view made it difficult to determine which specific elements were influencing user behavior.

With UA, user behavior can be defined through individually created content categories like page types, product groups, and site sections, not URLs. Such information is more usable as well as understandable.

Ecommerce is replaced by Enhanced Ecommerce.

The Enhanced E-commerce feature on UA provides a detailed picture of what buyers (and potential buyers) are doing on a website. Granted, this information could be obtained through GA, but it required significant setup and offline analysis.

With Enhanced E-commerce, you can now analyze individual product performance reports (by SKU, category, etc.) and learn how many times a product was viewed, added to the shopping cart, taken to checkout, abandoned during checkout, etc. Likewise, you can focus on the buyer journey and analyze how many buyers viewed a specific product, added that product to their shopping carts, how many buyers went to checkout and purchased, etc.

Having such data helps you identify which of your products are the most popular and where purchasing barriers exist.

How to install Universal Analytics

If you’re currently using GA, you can migrate to UA by following these steps:

Check the JavaScript.

Check which platform you are using by looking at your JavaScript snippet. You can do this by going to the Admin area of your account, then to Property, then to Tracking Code (for GA) or Tracking Info (for UA). The JavaScript snippet for GA contains a section that ends in ga.js, while for UA it ends in analytics.js.

Another way to check is to click on the tracking code/info area and see if there are additional admin settings like Session Settings and Organic Search Sources. These additional settings are only available in UA.

Transfer your property/ies.

In the Admin area of your account, go to the property column and click Universal Analytics Upgrade. Within the section termed Transfer to Universal Analytics, you can then click Transfer. The property migration should take just a few minutes to complete; however, you may want to wait one to two days to be sure. Keep in mind that you must have editing permission to initiate the property transfer to UA.

Update your website/s.

Locate your new UA JavaScript snippet in the Tracking Info area of your account. Copy the code and paste it into every web page you wish to track. Alternately, if your website is WordPress-based, you may download and use a plugin like Google Universal Analytics to automatically add the code.

You might also consider using the Google Tag Manager to implement the UA code into your website.

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Start enjoying UA benefits.

The additional information and metrics available troughh UA will seem daunting at first, but you’ll soon realize just how useful all these data are when figuring out how to improve your conversions or understand buyer behavior. Google also provides an in-depth tutorial on using UA in its developers area.

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