A Quick-Start Guide to Universal Analytics
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Troubleshooting Code Installation
This step was where I hit my first snag. Google Analytics did not recognize that I had installed the code.
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.
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.
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.
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.