The Devil Is in the Detail

With Google Analytics making Universal Analytics its default data collection and processing technology, there has been a lot of talk about why you should switch, when you should switch, potential pitfalls to switching, etc. Back in December I even wrote a post covering the most common questions I’ve received from current and potential clients.

And having done a similar swap a few years back, from the Google Analytics synchronous syntax to the asynchronous syntax, I remember that one of the most frustrating parts of migrations was remembering the new terminology and syntax. After all, with a new analytics technology, there is almost always a new syntax to replace the old technology. And as most implementation specialists know, one missed comma or parenthesis can cause a data collection nightmare.

Thankfully, though, the digital analytics industry is seeing an ever-increasing adoption of tag management systems. And while this adoption does mean that less analytics practitioners need to memorize the placement of every comma or parenthesis, the need to know proper syntax is still necessary. This is because as sites need advanced implementations, beyond the stock configuration of most tag management systems, the analytics practitioners will need to resort to manually written syntax. And as you can see in the below examples, the updated syntax is quite different.

Example Google Analytics Event tracking snippet for ga.js syntax:
_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘category’, ‘action’, ‘label’, ‘integer value’]);

Example Google Analytics Event tracking for analytics.js syntax:
ga(“send”, “event”, {
“eventCategory”: “category”,
“eventAction”: “action”,
“eventLabel”: ” label”,
“eventValue”: “integer value”
});

As a result of this needed knowledge, and because our eyes don’t always catch those missing commas before code launch, the analytics team I work with has taken the technology of Airlock, a free tool for use with making the transition from ga.js to Universal Analytics, and used it to create a translator for double-checking your syntax. Feel free to check it out and use it for your next Google Analytics upgrade.

If you are undertaking a Universal Analytics migration or planning one soon, I really hope you can find the Universal Analytics translator useful. And if you run into any other headaches aside from new syntax, what are they? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and who knows, we may even make a new tool for it.

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