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Should You Transfer to Google Universal Analytics?

Pat Marcello

Most Web businesses depend on Google Analytics or some other form of tracking. If you have a Web business and you aren’t tracking conversion and engagement, and understanding your demographic among other things, you should be! Analytics is a great, free way to do all of it.

But now, Google is asking whether you want to upgrade your Analytics tracking for one or all of your properties to Universal Analytics. Should you? What new information will you receive, and is it really worth the effort? 

How to convert

First, it really isn’t a big deal to convert from standard to Universal Analytics. You simply tell Google what you want to do in the admin section of your account:


When you log in, you’ll see Google’s advice to upgrade your site. In the “property” column, you’ll see at the very top “Universal Analytics Upgrade,” which I just put in motion for my SEONewsBlog.com. Google says it takes 24-48 hours for the transfer to be complete, and after it is, all you need to do is swap out the old page code for new code.

If you have an HTML site, you might be daunted by this, as every page on the site needs to have the old code for Analytics swapped out for the new to work well for you. If you’re on a CMS like WordPress, no problem. One switch to the <head> section will take care of every page and post in the CMS.

Why might you want to do this?

So, is the work worth it?  I say, “Yes.”  And here are some reasons why:

·         Better mobile reportingmobile-reporting

Mobile traffic to the Web is increasingly important and it keeps growing. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU.int) there were an estimated 2.1 active mobile broadband subscribers in 2013.  And according to MobiThinking.com, ABI Research predicts that shopping on the mobile Web will reach $119 billion U.S. in 2015.  Universal Analytics will help you to better understand your mobile customers and clients on every method they use to connect with your website – home computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone usage will all be better tracked and reported.

·         Tracking code is more flexible and easy to implement

You will be able to track more than just websites with Universal Analytics. You can track apps, game consoles, and information kiosks. This won’t be a big deal to most webmasters, but for app developers and webmasters who need this type of tracking, Universal Analytics makes it possible.

It will also be easier to set up cross-domain and sub-domain tracking. For example, if you have a blog on a separate domain, Universal analytics will allow you to track both domains in one glance with its new configuration capability.

·         Know your perfect customer better

If you’re selling things online, be they information or physical products, you should know your perfect customer. What browsers are they using? How long do they spend on your site and which pages are most important to them? Where do they come from? How old are they? Are they married or single? We already get some of this information in the classic Analytics, but Universal Analytics is supposed to make this tracking perform better.

Google Tag Manager

Google also suggests the use of Google Tag Manager (GTM) with Universal Analytics. Not to worry, it’s another free service, and it works rather like AWeber’s form codes.

For those of you not familiar: AWeber is an autoresponder service that allows you to add a snippet of JavaScript to your website that doesn’t change for one list – ever. You can go into your AWeber account and change the look and feel of your form, the language, or your call to action, but… The code stays the same. You don’t have to make any changes on your site. AWeber knows what changes you have made and just implements them via the .js code.


Google tags work much the same way. When you add the new JavaScript code to your site, GTM implements the commands you place there and you never have to change the code on your site. Anyone can use it, and it allows you to preview your changes so that you never make a mistake. Even webmasters with zero coding experience can supposedly implement it. I guess it depends on your personal tech fear factor, but it’s supposed to be for webmasters who don’t want to pay or bug their IT department to make simple changes.

Another advantage of using GTM is that it will allow your pages to load faster, and we all know how important that is to both visitors and search these days. Google explains this in its ever-so-unclear way:

“Google Tag Manager fires all tags asynchronously. This means tags load as they’re ready to load, in parallel with other page elements. So slow tags won’t hobble your site or prevent other tags from firing. This can lead to faster page loads and more data collection.”

I think they forget that we’re not all engineers.

What it means is that the tags only fire as the elements you’re tracking load. They don’t fire all at once. Why can’t they say that?

GTM also works through pre-designed templates, which makes it sup-simple for anyone. You have read a lot about remarketing these days, and this is the kind of template they provide for Google AdWords, but they also have templates for AdWords conversion tracking and DoubleClick Floodlight. Pretty sweet.

I’m not sure how popular GTM will be for the non-technical, however. Just the language on the site is enough to make technophobes go screaming into the woods. But here’s something you will understand, no matter what level marketer you are…

Pretty soon, GTM will include tags for A/B split testing. I can get behind that. I’m sorry, but I’ve tried Analytics Content Experiments before, and wished they would bring back Website Optimizer. Perhaps GTM will be a better solution.

Bottom line

So, what’s the deal? What’s the bottom line?

If you’re a rabid stats person, like most SEOs are, I’m guessing you should make the upgrade to Universal Analytics. If you’re a small store that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, I still think you should make the switch. Look at it this way: Someday, it will be very important to you! Someday, you will get all the traffic and conversions you want and you’ll need a way to track it in minute detail. Do it now or do it later, but I can almost guarantee you will want to take the plunge.

The question is, “Will it be now or in the future?” That, my friend, is totally up to you.

Author bio:

Pat Marcello is the President and SEO Manager for MagnaSites.com, a full-service digital marketing company. Follow her on FacebookTwitter or Google+ so you don’t miss a thing. Pat’s last article for SEMrush was “How Search Works: Google Site Helps Webmasters Figure Things Out."

Pat Marcello

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Pat Marcello is President and SEO Manager at MagnaSites.com, a full-service digital marketing company that serves small- to medium-sized businesses. Follow her on FacebookTwitter or Google+. Pat’s last article for SEMrush was "Google's Fetch and Render: Why It's Important."
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Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

One thing to be careful about upgrading to Universal: old OnClick tracking will no longer works as goals in Google Analytics. We have this issue with our clients, and we are an agency with hundred of analytics accounts that need to be upgraded. You either need to grab the new onclick tracking, or else use an open source tool like Airlock (http://www.searchdiscovery.com... as a bandaid. There is a great article about this here: http://www.clickz.com/clickz/c...
Kathleen Garvin

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Lee Schwartz
Appreciate the comment, Lee! We'll check it out.

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