Google Analytics

3 Tips for a Smooth Universal Analytics Transition

  |  April 28, 2014   |  Comments

The transition to Universal Analytics can be a tricky one, so here are a few tips to minimize headaches during the migration.

As Universal Analytics officially came out of beta at the beginning of April, here are a few tips that will make your pending transition a little bit smoother.

1. Use Multiple Accounts or Properties for Testing

When migrating to Universal Analytics, one thing to remember is that the Google Analytics data is being processed differently with Universal Analytics (more of settings are happening server side as opposed to within the JavaScript code). As a result, your numbers will not match up 1-to-1 once you switch to Universal Analytics.

To gain a better understanding of this difference, start by deploying Universal Analytics alongside your current Google Analytics implementation. In doing so, this will give you a basis for what the specific differences in metrics between Universal Analytics and Classic Analytics will look like.

Just make sure that your Universal Analytics code uses a unique account or Web property, different from your current implementation.

This step is also a great place to leverage a tag management system, such as Adobe DTM, if you don't already have one. Deploying this test via a tag management system will allow you to change the account information once you have everything deployed and QA'd, making your life a whole lot easier.

2. Double-Check Everything, and Then Repeat

Once you have deployed a test implementation of Universal Analytics, double, triple, even quadruple check that everything is reporting as usual. The two items that are most likely to cause you a headache in the transition are events and custom variables.

  • Events are likely set in multiple places throughout your site, and if you're not using a tag management system yet, it will be easy to miss hardcoded events. If this is the case, you can generate a custom report that looks at the events as a primary dimension, and the page they occurred on as the secondary dimension. This will provide you a list of everywhere that events are being set on your site.
  • Custom Variables are transitioning to Custom Dimensions. As a result of this transition, Custom Dimensions are now set in the GA Admin interface and must be defined prior to using on your site. This change isn't very difficult or complicated, but it is a difference in how things are currently done. If you ensure that the Custom Variables are defined, you shouldn't have any problems with this one.
  • Here is some additional information on how to transition to Custom Dimensions.

One method I like to use for this is to recreate the reports already being generated for your business, and include the reports as a part of your usual analysis.

3. Utilize the New/Updated Features

There are a number of features in Universal Analytics that are either new, or easier to use, such as Campaign Management, or Organic Search Sources. For more features relating to Universal Analytics, you can go here.

During this transition phase, revisit what is available to use and optimize from and use this time as a way to further boost your organization's digital analytics status.

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Robert Miller

Robert Miller is a Senior Analyst at Search Discovery. He is actively involved in industry organizations, such as the Analysis Exchange and the Digital Analytics Association.

With the Analysis Exchange, he helps non-profits capitalize on their website data, and educates aspiring digital analysts about the foundation of digital analytics, from the implementation of a digital analytics tool to performing analysis and making data-driven recommendations for organizations.

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