The past few years have seen a tremendous boom in the field of online marketing websites. These websites are designed to provide the end users with various facilities, from buy and sell of products, to knowledge about specific topics, to consultation services. All these sites necessitate the assistance of specific analytic tools for the marketer, so as to continuously monitor their progress and help make better business decisions.
The classic Google Analytics (GA) was quite a breakthrough in the field of analytics even though it had certain limitations. To compensate for these limitations and to meet the requirements of the ever-changing digital marketing world, Google announced Universal Analytics (UA), the next version of GA. UA is the re-imagining of GA for today’s multi-screen, multi-device world. The tracking code has been overhauled completely, and there are plenty of back-end improvements.
UA: More features, better insights
UA introduces a set of features that change the way data is collected and organised in your GA account, so you can get a better understanding of how users interact with your online content.
Additionally, UA is also now covered by the Premium service-level agreement, which means that the level of service and additional product features Premium users have come to expect will stay the same when their accounts upgrade to UA. The following are the questions that come to mind when analysing the benefits of UA over GA.
Can UA track user journeys across different devices?
UA now aims to do this by deploying a user ID to tag the visitor. This way, visitors can be tracked as the same user irrespective of the device they are using. The big benefit here is the ability to better analyse, attribute and allocate marketing budgets towards the devices and channels.
What’s new in UA?
The interface is almost identical to GA. However, there are many other advantages that come with using UA. For instance, being able to add smarter ‘name tags’ to customers based on their behaviour on the website; bringing in offline data and the ability to configure session lengths; organic search sources; create custom dimensions and custom metrics to collect unique data; and count visitors who are searching on your brand or domain name as direct traffic instead of search traffic.
Advantages of UA over GA
- Tracking code: The tracking code for UA has only one cookie in comparison to four in GA. This provides more flexibility, easier customisation and allows for tracking even when the cookies are disabled.
- New Application Programming Interface (API): The new API used by UA enables tracking from different devices and applications such as call centres or CRM and even allows for importing offline data and conversions.
- Custom dimensions: UA provides 20 custom dimensions (compared to five by GA) for the free version and 200 (compared to 50 by GA) for the premium version. These can be used to collect and analyse data that UA does not track by default.
- Session timeouts: A session dictates how long a visit lasts. If a visitor doesn’t generate any new data within 30 minutes, the next piece of data they generate will be part of a new visit. With UA, you can change the duration of the session to whatever you want. The minimum is one minute and the maximum is four hours.
- User ID: The user ID allows UA to keep track of the same user between multiple devices and browsers, whereas GA used to recognise a visitor using different browsers or devices to visit a specific website, as multiple unique users.
Upgrading to the new face of analytics
There has been an ongoing debate in the online community on whether the upgrade to UA from classic GA is necessary. In UA’s favour, it can be said that it is currently out of its beta phase and its previously missing features like Remarketing and Audience reporting will now be available. Also, UA is the new operating standard for GA and all accounts will soon be required to use it.
Future with UA
The future clearly lies with UA. It’s a significantly different system, with one fundamental change in concept – most of the work is done on the servers. This brings about greater power and flexibility. Features such as Custom Dimensions and Metrics, and the Measurement Protocol for sending all offline data for integration into the system are already opening up all kinds of possibilities.