A Quick-Start Guide to Universal Analytics

by 7 05/06/2013

There’s something new from Google Analytics.

OK, well, maybe it’s not that new. The search giant announced Universal Analytics back in October 2012 and now it’s in open beta.

As a stats junkie I had to try it out, and I thought you might like to as well. So here’s my walkthrough of the setup phase.

First, what is “Universal Analytics”?

Think of Universal Analytics as Google Analytics reloaded.

Like regular Analytics, Universal Analytics uses a snippet of code to track metrics, but this new code allows far more customization. Regular users now have access to configuration options that only developers could use before and that means enhanced ability to refine the data you collect.

You can even collect analytics from other platforms, such as mobile devices — this new type of analytics is not just for websites. It means you will be able to track what customers are doing more finely, no matter what device they are using.

Now let’s take a look at how to set it up…

Step 1 – New Web Property

One of the first things Google recommends is to set up a new web property to run Universal Analytics — that makes sure you don’t lose access to your existing data when you get going.

Don’t worry; Google promises you can run both types of analytics on the same site, so you won’t have to go cold turkey on your existing stats. It also gives you the option of comparing the data from the two analytics modes, which could come in handy.

Locate the Admin tab in your analytics profile and click the ‘new web property’ button. Google Analytics-1

That gives you access to the setup page. Notice in the screen shot below, “web site” and “universal analytics” are pre-selected in a comparative chart illustrating some of the new features available within the new analytics.

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I decided to implement Universal Analytics on my writing blog, which is my most active personal site.

Step 2 – Website Setup

Set up your website name, URL and industry category, as well as the desired time zone

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Then click the Get Tracking ID button. If all goes well, you will see a green “success” button and you will get the tracking code you need for your site.

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Step 3 – Copy the Code

The next step is to implement the code on your site. For WordPress site owners, there are several ways to do this:

  • Paste it into the appropriate box in your premium theme — I use Genesis, so this is what I did.
  • Edit your site or theme files to include the code.
  • Use a WordPress plugin to install the code.

There is additional guidance on that page  for people wanting to use PHP implementation, dynamic content implementation or support a WAP site.

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Troubleshooting Code Installation

This step was where I hit my first snag. Google Analytics did not recognize that I had installed the code.

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So I did some troubleshooting. Here’s what I tried:

    • I emptied my cache from WP Super-Cache and refreshed. Nothing.
    • I checked to make sure the code was in the right place. It should be in the header. Done.
    • I tried a WordPress plugin. Still nothing.

I decided to look elsewhere for help and came across a comment from Justin Cutroni (featured in our list of great analytics blogs), that suggested that the code would be tracking anyway, so I left it to its own devices and continued exploring the Universal Analytics interface.

Additional Configuration Settings

Those three steps complete the basic setup, but there are other interesting features to explore. For example, you can change the session timeout settings, and campaign timeout settings from the defaults.

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You can also monitor different referring search engines, based on this list, from your Analytics dashboard. And you can exclude particular referring sites (such as your own domain) and particular search terms from being tracked.

Integration with Webmaster Tools

Once that was done, I moved on to the tabs at the top.

The Property Settings link took me to some fine-tuning for the site, where I could change my original settings and tweak some others. The things include the ability to use in-page analytics and to associate your Universal Analytics profile with your Google Webmaster Tools account.

Since it threatened to wipe out my existing site association, I opted not to do this, though I certainly will for the next new site I add.

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Social and Custom Metrics

You can also use Universal Analytics to track social sites such as your YouTube Channel, integrate tracking with your AdWords account and add custom metrics and dimensions. KISSMetrics has some good advice on the custom metrics and dimensions functionality and you can check out Google’s own guide too.

Did It Work?

In case you’re wondering what happened to my code, I went back to the dashboard a day later and saw that it had started to track some data for the site.

There’s a huge difference between the stats in the original profile and the Universal Analytics one, but I plan to monitor it over the next few weeks and see what changes.

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I’ll also dig down into using some of the new features it offers. In the meantime, if you’re looking for info on what to do with Universal Analytics try this advice from SEO Takeaways and these custom metrics from Noel Tock.

My advice? Follow the steps I outlined above and set it up on your own site. There’s no better way to learn than to try it yourself.

About 

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.

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7 COMMENTS

Ramki@digitalmarketinganalytics

This for the integration article. Can you pls. share what kind of reports can be generated using universal analytics. That would be great :). Thanks

May 7, 2013 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    Hi Ramki, I’m still testing, but in the meantime check out these custom dashboards and see if any of them work for you. I plan a follow up to this post at some point and I’ll try to address this question then.

    May 7, 2013 Reply

Ashley Faulkes

Sharon, thanks for highlighting this new feature! I think I will also try it out and see what it offers. It’s always good to get a new angle on the metrics and learn something new about user behaviour and what works (and of course what does not)! will be looking forward to your future updates to compare. Thanks, ashley

May 7, 2013 Reply

    Sharon Hurley Hall

    Glad you found it useful, Ashley. I’m eager to see how the two compare and will be checking my metrics religiously! :)

    May 7, 2013 Reply

D.Manco

Sharon,

UA is in beta, and it does not correctly read. Google is ignoring the issues as that would mean G has a product with many issues. Nothing should take that much effort. Just my optic.

June 1, 2013 Reply

jakob

Hey
having serious issues with Universal A and Filters.
I’ve got a View (Profile) on one property, that uses the same tracking code implemented on say 10 sites. The View is supposed to gather all traffic from specific domains. However, my filters seem to kill each other. I can use one filter to get traffic from one of the sites, but the second I add my other domain filter, traffic (real time) is lost.
I’m using custom filters, include filters for hostnames, i.e. “domain.it”: “^(domain|www.comain)\.it$”.
Work fine with one filter, traffic from one site, but only one.
Hmmm

December 3, 2013 Reply


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