Better Living Through Universal Analytics!

[The conference bit of BrightonSEO is happening tomorrow, and for those who aren’t going along we thought it might be nice to post the little piece I wrote for the newspapers they’re distributing at the conference this year. If you are going, look out for us and say hi, and make sure to come along to Dara’s talk in the afternoon!]


When Universal Analytics came out of beta earlier this year, many were overwhelmed by the plethora of new features. Not a day goes by without a client asking us “how does this Data Import business work then, eh?” or “Enhanced Ecommerce? What’s all that about?” If you feel like you might be the person on the other end of that telephone, help is at hand, and in this very article! Read on, for five of the hottest Google Analytics features for online businesses introduced (or improved) by the introduction of Universal Analytics.

User ID

In ‘classic’ reporting, users were measured by a Client ID. This meant that were the same user to visit a site from their laptop one day and a tablet the next, those would be assigned different IDs and treated separately. You can immediately see the problems with this approach. Universal Analytics introduces a solution that’s clearly not perfect, but is certainly less wrong – provided the user is authenticated or logged in, they get assigned a User ID, allowing you to track the user’s behaviour across devices (though cross-device reports are only available in User ID views, which you’ll need to create).

Custom Dimensions

Every business is different, and every business’ website is different, with each having a different set of goals – some want to drive sales, some want to generate leads, etc. Custom dimensions allow you to create your own measurements, and although they require a bit of code tinkering, they allow for measurement of things which are specifically useful to you – for instance, if you’re an online retailer you could divide up customers by regularity of purchase. The one downside is that at the moment custom dimensions don’t have their own ‘report view’, and need to be added as secondary dimensions or have custom reports created for them.

Data Import

As the name suggests, you can import data gathered elsewhere into Google Analytics. Adwords, as a Google product, has account linking for some time, but now you can upload cost data (easily, in a .csv, rather than with an API as was the old way). You can also import product data and things you wouldn’t want on public display – profit, or cost per unit etc – and refunds (full and partial), allowing easier analysis of product returns within Google Analytics. You could also import custom data sets, like offline revenue, or lifetime value you’ve calculated based on customer IDs. It also introduces the possibility of ‘dimension widening’ – adding additional information to existing data points, e.g. adding an ‘author’ dimension to a blog’s analytics. Be aware though, once dimensions have been ‘widened’ they can’t be ‘narrowed’ – the process is irreversible.

Enhanced Ecommerce

This is brand new and exciting, but also a bit more complicated (and still in beta – but that shouldn’t stop the more adventurous among you). It adds support for far more granular ecommerce analysis, with product-level reporting and checkout behaviour (who does what, and who jumps off where?), or to more easily determine which products are being driven by SEO. You can see impressions per product against product added to cart, who viewed the product detail page, and all sorts of interesting stuff, without having to resort to event tracking or more cumbersome solutions alone.

Segmentation & Remarketing

Remarket to segments based on data in Google Analytics, including segments based on custom dimensions and imported data. The interface allows you to easily drill down into data, very easily (one-click) e.g. use segment to find people abandoning cart and very quickly use that segment to remarket to those people – don’t lose the money you spent getting them to the cart in the first place.
For more depth and detail on this subject, might I suggest you attend the excellent talk the brilliant, charming (and definitely not my boss) Dara Fitzgerald will be giving today.

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