What is Universal Analytics?
To answer this question we need a bit of a history lesson. Let’s go all the way back to 1998 when Google had only just set up and was still being run out of a Californian garage. It was around this time that a product called Urchin was released. Urchin was one of the first pieces of software that made all that mythical, invisible internet traffic tangible and allowed webmasters to monitor visitor levels. It was revolutionary stuff. Urchin was acquired by Google in 2005 and became what we now know as Google Analytics. The software grew and grew to the point we’re at today where we can carry out some pretty sophisticated analysis. The point remains however, that the software was only ever designed to track visits to a website.
That’s the biggest difference with Universal Analytics. It does much, much more than simply track visits to a website. As the way we behave online has become more complex and sophisticated, with so many of us using multiple devices, apps, researching online and buying offline (and vice versa), the need for an analytics package to gather and leverage all of this data has grown. And that’s what Universal Analytics looks to do. It’s built to monitor activity on any web enabled device, be it a traditional website, mobile app or crucially, a point of sale system. We can now also track the same user across multiple devices. This means we can now effectively measure offline conversions and stitch the entire buying cycle together. For example, if a customer sees our Display Ad on their PC at work, goes home and sees our ad on TV, visits our website on their tablet computer, pops in to our shop at the weekend and checks an offer on their mobile before buying offline, we can track the entire process. That’s powerful stuff!
To see this scenario in action, see the video below. NB. These guys are pretty geeky and track everything but it’s a good example to see what’s possible!
How will we be able to use the data?
There’s no doubt that the industry is still getting to grips with the best way to make use of the new features that Universal Analytics brings but it’s certainly something that will change the way we use our marketing data. Here are a few ways we could be using Universal Analytics in the months and years to come:
- Online and Offline Tracking
If you have an offline store, you’ll be able to use your website to give visitors specific coupons. They can be customised to suit their tastes and interests, much in the same way as you might do now with email marketing personalisation. Your website visitors will be able to take their coupons to your offline store and you’ll be able to tie store transactions back to their website visit, all in real time.
- Attribution Modelling
This is a really useful feature for marketers. Attribution modelling allows us to better understand the importance of different marketing channels and how they all fit together. For example, if a visitor comes to our site 5 times from 5 different sources on 3 different devices, we’ll be able to assign a proportion of each transaction to each source.
- Data Import
Until now, AdWords data has been automatically imported into Analytics. Using Universal Analytics we’ll be able to import our own data. This means data from affiliates, social media, Yahoo!, Bing or anything else we think apposite.
Until it becomes more standardised, Universal Analytics is really only going to be beneficial to large organisations who feel they have outgrown ‘normal’ Analytics. However, there’s nothing stopping you from having a look around and getting it set up early. Universal Analytics is free to use for all Analytics users so our recommendation would be to get it installed and have a play around with the new features. The current advice from Google is to set up a new Universal Analytics Web Property from within Analytics and run it alongside your current tracking. There’s a great guide on the KISSmetrics blog on how to set everything up.
This is a guest post from Brendan Jackson, SEO Manager at our sister company, iProspect.