Google’s new version of it’s analytics suite, Universal Analytics, has been out of beta for nearly two months. But many properties are still using the Classic version of Google Analytics. This has led to a flood of questions surrounding Universal Analytics. Do I have to switch? How long do I have to migrate? What steps do I need to take? Will my data continue to be collected using Classic Google Analytics? And the one question that sums them all up: Now what?
In order to determine what you or your organization should do, you need to know where you are. So the first step is determining which version of Google Analytics you are currently using. If you know, great. If you don’t, do this: access Google Analytics and browse to the Admin section. There are three columns, one for the Account Level, one for the Property level, and one for the View level. Pay attention to the one in the middle, the Property level. Here you will see one of three things:
Check it out up close. Green means good to go on Universal.
If you are running Classic, you will get this message in the same place:
Finally, if you see this, then you have a Universal Account that was created as Universal.
This is the quickest and easiest way to check and see what version of Google Analytics you are running. The next thing to assess is your tracking code. To check this you will need to actually look at the source code your page. The easiest way to do this is to navigate to your page and right-click (PC) or control-click (Mac), then select ‘View Source’. Within that source you will most likely find one of two things:
ga(‘create’, ‘UA-XXXXXX-X’, ‘website.com’);
var _gaq = _gaq || ;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://’ : ‘http://’) + ‘stats.g.doubleclick.net/dc.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’); s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
The first flavor is Universal Analytics, the second is Classic. It is important to note that just because you select to upgrade in the interface does not mean the code is changed for you. This still must be completed in order to reap the plentiful benefits of Universal Analytics.
Where Do You Want to Be?
So now you know where you are. For those using Classic Google Analytics you have some choices to make. You have some hard truths to face. Things are changing. There are some important facts to understand right away.
Fact #1. All new properties must be Universal properties. No more creating Classic web properties. Google is forcing your hand here.
Fact #2. While the old code method will still continue to send information to Google’s servers, this will eventually be deprecated. So you do not have to change the code right away, but sometime relatively soon you will.
Fact #3. Custom variables will eventually be deprecated as well, so say hello to Custom Dimensions and Metrics. Google has set a timeframe for this one. Custom Variables will still be processed for two years.
Fact #4. All current properties will eventually be auto-migrated to Universal. To see the schedule for this, go here.
Taking all of this into consideration, it is important to think through what you need to do. You need to build a roadmap. This roadmap needs to look at short-, medium-, and long-term states of your analytics. Here I will propose how to answer the question, “Now what?”
Building a Roadmap
Step One: Gather your resources
Everything takes resources. Reading this blog is taking up one of the most precious resources, time. That time costs money. Spending that money on this time keeps you from spending it elsewhere.
It is important to get a firm grasp on the amount of resources (human, technical, financial, etc.) that you will have at your disposal for your migration. This should be appropriate to the scope of the project and the importance of analytics to your organization. And I’m really hoping analytics are important to your organization!
Every team will need several components. First, someone needs to “own” the project. The buck stops with this person. They are responsible for managing the migration through to the end. Second, you need an experienced Google Analytics user/analyst who can migrate the properties with GA and then test to make sure tracking is still working. Finally, you will need the help of your development team or partner organization to implement the new tracking method.
Step Two: Design a Plan
The scale of a Google Analytics implementation can vary widely. They range from one website with a few hundred pages to thousands of websites with millions of pages. Therefore, the complexity of your migration plan will vary according to the complexity of your analytics architecture.
Taking this into consideration, your plan needs to have several parts. First, you need to understand your current implementation. Second, you need to define your desired final state. Finally, you need to map out all the work that must take place to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. Depending on the complexity of your architecture, this could be a simple task taking a few hours, to a complex project consuming an entire team and weeks of work.
Step Three: Put Your Plan into Action and Verify Results
Albert Einstein said “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” This applies to new analytics implementations quite well. Once you have put your plan into action, you need to do three things: test, test, and test again. The reason we are testing is because mistakes happen. And as complexity grows, the likelihood for mistakes grows as well. So it is vital that the third and final step be testing. Without testing you cannot ensure your data is being collected correctly and accurately.
Step Four: Turn Your Data into Action
If you are not going to make data-driven decisions, everything you have read so far is useless. You may as well do nothing. Data is collected to be used, and specifically it is used to aid in making decisions. Universal Analytics provides new ways of collecting and processing data so that you can make the most informed decisions possible.
So now that you are figuring out what to do now that Universal Analytics is out of beta, I urge you to keep one thought in mind. Am I putting this data to work for me and my organization? If not, perhaps it is time to come up with a plan to do so.
At InfoTrust, we specialize in both migrating organizations to Universal Analytics and helping them glean powerful and actionable insights from the data they collect. Please contact us to dive even deeper into what Universal Analytics can mean for you and your organization.