Universal Winds of Change for Google Analytics

Technology and comic book characters have one thing in common – they both require a reboot once in a while to renew excitement. Comic book fans got a rebooted Superman on film when Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures released Man of Steel.

But for Google Analytics users, they received their own reboot in a quieter, yet still exciting, way.

Last year Google launched a new version of its main analytics code called Universal Analytics (UA), featuring a new script, analytics.js that replaces ga.js, an asynchronous script Google introduced in 2009. The new code introduces several enhancements that permit the script to work in conjunction with developer protocols or other measurement interfaces.

Looking at the Customer Journey

This introduction unleashes a number of reporting configurations to more accurately cover the customer journey – the media and devices that the customer interacts with before conversion. Configurations appear in the latest protocols and user interfaces, such as Google Tag Manager (GTM), a separate tag management system, and the Measurement Protocol, which enables data collection from various sources like information kiosks or POS systems.

Universal Analytics reflects two realities in web development. The first is the most appreciated one — the rise of mobile devices.  More tablets and smartphones mean more ways for customers to view a website and consume its information. These devices require more dynamic marketing strategies such as remarketing to increase conversion rates.

More marketing complexity means managers and analyst need more assessable analytic capacity. Thus, the UA configurations are meant to make complex dimension and metrics customizable with minimal coding changing required after the main UA code is installed.

Advancements in JavaScript web development reveal the second web development reality. Developers have noted a renaissance of JavaScript usage. New JavaScript libraries have permitted new data visualization capabilities, while JSON, a JavaScript protocol, has made data sharing more accessible in programming.

The influence of these developments lead developers to find new ways to deploy analytics reporting beyond the intent of the script that dates back to 2005, when Google bought Urchin, the original creator of the analytics code.

Capitalizing on the UA Script

So how can a business best take advantage of the UA script?

Professionals familiar with reporting needs can review the site structure and objectives with an eye for upgrading how tags are deployed. Some Universal Analytics options complement GTM. For example, event tracking once require incorporating a script at a video player or download button. 

To use GTM, users must add a tag, which permit event tracking changes to be completed in the user interface, in lieu of modifying the code itself. The benefit is that marketers can control the event tracking without manual code updates.  The GTM interface can be also used for advanced advertising such as display and remarketing.  These can be combined with custom dimensions and metrics in UA to establish more nuanced segmentation reporting and analysis.

Another opportunity lies within the supporting dashboards.  The segmentation options in Universal Analytics means an organization can consider display options for the Google Analytics dashboard, be it the standard reports or custom dashboards built from the data. For more on the kinds of dashboards available, take a look at How to Use Sophisticated Dashboards for Sophisticated Marketing.

Title image from Warner Bros.