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What features Google Universal Analytics Brings, Should you Switch or Not?

Google announce the Universal Analytics as a new version of the Google Analytics in October 2012. In Universal Analytics Google have introduced some great features that can help you to get a great understanding of how your website got interacted by Visitors and also have introduced 3 new tracking code versions. Analytics.js for websites tracking, Google Analytics SDK’s to track mobile applications and Measurement Protocol to track digital devices such as games.  Whereas Classic Google Analytics only allow you to track a website using ga.js tracking code.

Features that you get in Universal Analytics:

Here is the complete list of new features that you get when you use Universal Analytics.

Universal Analytics Features

In Universal Analytics you get the all basic features such as visitor traffic stats, behavior and conversion data, Event tracking, Adwords linking and custom variables same as Classic Analytics.

But here are some new features that you get in Universal Analytics:

Note: Before you try any of these custom features you should create a test view first within your Google Analytics Profile. Because a small mistake can harm your whole Google Analytics data and it cannot be reprocessed again. So make sure that you have an unfiltered profile with in Google Analytics as a backup.

1)      Custom Dimensions & Metrics:

According to Classic Google Analytics custom variables definition:

“Custom variables are name-value pair tags that you can insert in your tracking code in order to refine Google Analytics tracking. With custom variables, you can define additional segments to apply to your visitors other than the ones already provided by Analytics.”

But in Universal Analytics custom variables are named custom dimensions and in universal analytics we can also define custom metrics too which are not automatically tracked by Google Analytics.

To create a custom dimensions go to your Google Analytics account admin and then “Custom Definitions” then go to “custom dimensions”  and then click on create new custom dimension.

 Custom Dimensions

Add Custom Dimension

Now put in the name such as “Author Name” / “Gender” etc. and then define Scope “hit” “Session” or “User” and make sure to check “Active” and then create.

Custom Metric Code

Now you get the example of codes for this Dimension. DO NOT FORGET to replace dimension value with your own and then you done all you have to do is copy the code for your platform.

Same as to create custom metrics go to “New Custom Metrics”

Custom MatricAdd Custom Metric

Now give your Metric a “Name” such as “Level Completions” or “video Played time” etc. then chose formatting type such as “Integer” “currency” or “time“ then assign the minimum value and maximum value (such as 1-100) and make sure to check “Active”.

Custom Dimensions Code

Now you get the example of codes for this Metric. DO NOT FORGET to replace metric value with your own and then you done all you have to do is copy the code for your platform.

See Google Developer guide to get a proper understanding of Custom Dimensions & Metrics with great examples.

2)      Online/offline data sync:

With in Universal Analytics you can combine your online data and can also upload the offline data using an API or manually. To import your data into Google Analytics go to admin and then “Data Import” and then click “New Data Set”

 Import data

 Data Set Type

There are 2 types of data set available:

Cost Data: Using this you can import data of your non-Google Marketing Campaigns such as Bing or Yahoo ads keyword clicks or impressions data. Google Analytics will combine this with your analytics data and you can see the conversion or ecommerce revenue of your combine data to see the ROI of your each keyword. You can also compare your uploaded data with your Google Adwords data.

Generic Dimension Widening: Using this you can import a Varity of custom data for example Author names, Author ID’s, Article ID’s etc. Dimension Widening is permanent: Once widened, hits cannot be un-widened again so for this reason, you must create a test view for Dimension Widening first.

See Google Analytics help about to Data Import to get a deep understanding of how data is imported in Google Analytics.

3)      Multi-Platform Tracking:

In Universal Analytics you can track multi platform such as:

User activity on a website or on a mobile website using Analytics.js tracking

User activity on a mobile application using Google Analytics SDK’s for Android and iOS.

User activity on a gaming console or on any digitally connected device using Measurement Protocol.

4)      Simplified Configuration Controls:

Google Universal Analytics give you easy control over your configuration and is easy to install. Just you have to copy the Java Script code of Analytics.js and paste it on your websites every single page you want to track. You can found this code by going to admin and then “Tracking Info”.

 Tracking Code

Control over Default Setting:

Within Google Universal Analytics you can keep control over “Session timeout” “Organic Search Sources” “Referral Exclusions” and “Search Terms Exclusions”

Session Timeout:

A session is how long a visit lasts on your website. If a visitor leaves your site and come out after 30min then the previous session will expire and a new session will start.

Now you can change this 30 min default session time to whatever you want but the minimum is 1 minute and the maximum is 4 hours.

Campaign Timeout:

In Google Analytics we use Google Adwords auto tagging and also UTM-parameters to keep the track of from which campaigns visitors are coming from. By default this information expires after the 6 months period but now same as session timeout we can change this to whatever we want but the maximum limit is 24 months.

 Session Settings

Organic Search Sources:

Google Analytics track a lot of search engines by default. But now you can also add a new search engine that you want to keep track and is not in default search engines list. If a search engine that is not in default list and sending you a lot of traffic then you should consider adding this to the list. Otherwise it will be count as reference visits in your referral report.

You can add it by going to “Organic Search Source” and then click “Add Search Engine”

You have to define Search Engine name, Domain Name, query parameter (e.g; q, p, search-term) and path contains is optional.

Once you done you will be able to see this in Organic Report and you can also see the searched keywords.

 Add search engine

 Referral Exclusion List:

If you want a specific domain not to be counted as referral domain such as your partner website. Then you can exclude that domain from your referral report just by adding this into “Referral Exclusion List” visitors to your site from that domain will be counted as direct traffic.

You can do this by going to admin and then “Referral Exclusion List” and then add the domain that you want to exclude from your referral traffic.

Referral Exclussion

Search Term Exclusion List:

Visits arrived to your through different search terms. Through this you can exclude a specific search term from the list of your search terms. For example; most of the visitors come to your website using a “brand search term” you can exclude it from your search term report and then these visits will be counted as direct visits with in Google Analytics.

You can do this by going to admin and then tracking info and then Search Tern Exclusion List. Add the search term that you want to exclude from your organic search report.

 Search Term Exclusion

5)      Advanced advertisement tools (DFA, Remarketing)

Google Adsense, Content Experiments and Remarketing are not enabled in Universal Analytics yet. But it will be updated soon and available to anyone. If your marketing effort depend on these then you’ll have to wait until then become available.

Now the Question is should we Switch OR Not?

Switching to Universal Analytics is depends upon how much customizations you have done within your Google Analytics Code and how experienced your team is.

If you haven’t done too much customizations and just have installed the standard Google Analytics Tracking code than you are risk free to switch to Universal Analytics.

See Google Universal Analytics upgrade process to get an understanding of upgrade process.

But if you have done much more customizations such as a lot of event tracking and virtual page views codes, custom variables and other code modifications. Then you should not switch yet because soon all Google Analytics properties will be required to upgrade to Universal Analytics and Classic Properties who does not follow the upgrade process will be auto-transferred to the Universal Analytics in future.


Hope you enjoy reading through the post and learn some new features about Google Analytics. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave it in comments? I will answer them as per my knowledge.


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Nouman Tariq

Nouman Tariq is Google Analytics and Adwords Individual Qualified Professional, HubSpot Inbound Certified and also Bing Ads Accredited Professional from Lahore, Pakistan. He is passionate about learning new things about Google Analytics, Google Adwords, SEO, PPC, SEM and Inbound Marketing etc.

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