It’s Time for an Analytics Upgrade

By • June 1, 2014

Kelly Donovan, Naylor
Kelly Donovan, Naylor

You may have recently seen a new analytics tool online called Universal Analytics. If you use Google Analytics, you should have received a notice about it by now and an invitation to upgrade.

What is this all about?

Universal Analytics is Google Analytics’ new Web data and analysis tool. It was created to collect better data from a single user of your website, apps or other mobile devices and display that data as a set of related engagement points. It also offers three versions of tracking code to meet different Web properties’ technical needs: Javascript for websites, software development kits (SDKs) for mobile apps, and the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol for mobile devices/programs, such as games or information kiosks.

Google created Universal Analytics to meet the data demands of network and mobile application managers better and more efficiently. Best of all, it’s still 100 percent free.

  • Universal Analytics is Google Analytics’ new Web data and analysis tool. It was created to help marketers, membership coordinators, website managers, event managers, exhibitors and communication professionals better collect data from a single user of your website, apps or other mobile devices.
  • The main benefits of this new system are the ability to track individual, anonymous Web users across multiple Web properties, to see data in real time, to customize traffic reports and data dimensions.
  • Universal Analytics will be Google’s standard analytics platform. All existing accounts will be transitioned by the end of summer.

What are the main benefits?

  • UserID feature assigns an ID (still anonymous) to the same user of your Web properties across multiple devices. This assignment allows your association to track an individual’s activity over multiple sessions and across multiple devices: their own, or yours, if you have multiple touch points, including a website, an app or a publication hosted on another site.
  • Time zone-based data processing allows faster data collection that is more in line with the daily routines of your time zone.
  • More options for customizing how Web data is displayed in your account means you can add, delete or modify how search traffic is recognized and recorded, change the amount of time a site visitor can stay before Google truncates their recorded session time, exclude referring domains and search terms from data reporting and more.
  • It’s free, which is great for the 48 percent of respondents in Naylor’s 2014 Association Communications Benchmarking Study who said they would upgrade their publishing tools, technologies and processes if they received a large and unexpected addition to their annual budget. Read more about this finding in this month’s Did You Know? Especially if you’re already using Google tools for your communications, upgrading or transitioning to an Analytics account is a no-brainer.


How can your association take advantage of these changes?

  • Associations can use the UserID function to track related visits to multiple Web properties and apps. You can assign custom IDs to visitors based on your association’s existing data nomenclature. This is useful if your association sells a variety of event admissions, books and other reference materials, or continuing education programs: UserID will allow you to follow an individual as they purchase various “items” from your association over time. Or, if your tracking needs don’t require identification and tracking of individuals, you can leave the system alone and let Google continue to track your visitors without special IDs as it has done in the past.

It’s important to note that UserID does not allow you to identify individuals who visit your website by name, physical address, IP address or other real-world identification. Google still protects the real identities of Web users, and you will not be able to identify members through Universal Analytics. UserID simply records the online activity of a single website visitor over time and across the Web platforms you choose to link within your account.

  • At events, your association can use Universal Analytics to more accurately track use of computer kiosks or games at events, conferences, workshops. Implementing this tracking code may be a job for your IT department. Learn more here.
  • With Universal Analytics, you can better track visits that originate through association-owned search engines, or that come from related third-party servers. Universal Analytics lets you establish and name specialized search engines (from white-label social networks, for example) within your Analytics profile so that your data reports more accurately categorize your visitors’ traffic sources. You can also tell Universal Analytics which site visits that result from certain search terms should not be counted as search-originated traffic—with the auto-completion feature available in most browsers and with Google’s Instant search program, many Web users arrive at an organization’s site by typing the organization’s name in their address bar and selecting the suggested full URL before they are finished typing. Although this type of visit is technically a search-originated visit, your association may choose to count it as a direct visit. Universal Analytics lets you classify it as such.
  • Create custom dimensions to collect data unique to your association, such as visits to a certain page or event registrations. This will allow your staff to easily create recurring reports that show exactly the data you want to see at a glance. (Brush up on the difference between metrics and dimensions.)


Terminology changes

There are a couple of superficial changes to Analytics in the form of new names for old metrics. “Visits” are now “sessions” to unify the language used to name visitor appearances on websites and apps. “Unique visitors” are now “users,” to correspond to Google’s new UserID terminology and to more accurately connote people who use a digital property.

Do we have to implement Universal Analytics?

In short, yes. Google started beta testing Universal Analytics in October 2012, and made the tools available to everyone on April 2. Web admins whose emails are registered with Google Analytics should have received an email from Google by now with an invitation to upgrade to Universal Analytics and instructions about how to do so. Google says that all Analytics accounts will be transitioned to Universal Analytics “soon”—most likely this summer.

Want to begin using Universal Analytics or upgrade your existing Google Analytics account? Start here.

Questions? Leave us a note.


Kelly Donovan is the team leader for online marketing at Naylor.