Universal Analytics is simply an upgraded version of Google Analytics which allows users to get a better understanding of how users interact with online content. This happens through a new set of features which changes the way data is collected and organized in Google Analytics accounts. While Google has made this upgrade optional for Analytics users for the year or so, Google is now slowly starting a migration of all accounts to Universal Analytics.

The updated offering includes additional benefits while maintaining existing Google Analytics features. Google outlines a variety of these benefits which come with the Universal Analytics upgrade, including:

Connect multiple devices, sessions, and engagement data with the User ID.

The User ID is a Universal Analytics feature that you can use to associate multiple sessions (and any activity within those sessions) with a unique ID. When you send a unique ID and any related engagement data to Google Analytics, all activity is attributed to one user in your reports. With the User ID, you can get a more accurate user count, analyze the signed-in user experience, and get access to the new Cross Device reports.

Get new and more flexible data collection methods that let you track any digital device.

Universal Analytics introduces three new data collection methods for websites, mobile devices, and other digital devices like game consoles and information kiosks. This allows developers to tailor implemention of analytics code to these devices to custom and cross-device tracking is simpler and more accurate.

Access to demographic and interest reports.

Once upgraded, additional reporting is available which provides more detailed information on your website visitors including age, gender, affinity categories, and other categories. “Affinity categories” take into account lifestyles (music lovers, gamers, etc.) while “other categories” report on the content consumed by visitors. This data can then be used to segment standard reporting, so you can see how much time gamers are spending on website pages or how many visitors of a particular age range or gender were driven from a particular AdWords campaign.

Stay up to date with new features and updates.

New features and product updates are only available to Universal Analytics properties. Classic Google Analytics properties, or Universal Analytics properties using an older collection method, will not receive access to all future product changes.


Now that you know the benefits of upgrading, what actions to you need to take in advance of the Universal Analytics transition? iMediaConnection highlights your options:

Do nothing
Moving from Google Analytics to Universal Analytics can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. You don’t have to do anything at all. In order to access the additional features of Universal Analytics, you do need to replace the Google Analytics tracking code with your new Universal Analytics code — but you don’t have to. The old Google Analytics code will work fine with Universal Analytics; you just won’t have access to the new features. According to Google, you’ll retain all your old data so you can ignore the move if you wish.

Minimal upgrade
It’s recommended, however, to at least undertake a minimal upgrade. This involves replacing the old Google Analytics code with the new Universal Analytics tracking code in your web pages (or mobile app) and setting a couple of options in the admin system. Even here, you can just accept the admin system’s default values. In fact, since the system defaults to industry standards and uses the same settings as Google Analytics, you’d need an extremely good reason to override them.

Customized tracking
However, if you have customized Google Analytics in any way, you might be in for some serious work. The syntax for most of the custom variable operations has changed, so you’ll have to completely rewrite the code for any custom data you track. This includes event recognition and shopping cart data. It’s not complicated, but it is different enough that you should be serious about testing your new Universal Analytics solution before you commit.

In the end, it’s beneficial to upgrade to Universal Analytics as soon as possible. You will receive better information about your website and its visitors, and will be ahead of the curve for all future analytics benefits. Fortunately, Google offers a support website for all of your Universal Analytics upgrade needs.