Why you should set up Google's new Universal Analytics ASAP

Posted / 28 May, 2013

Author / Enginess

It's been just a little over a month since we implemented Google's new Universal Analytics code on our main website, running alongside our classic analytics code, but already the difference in results is substantial – in a good way.

It's been just a little over a month since we implemented Google's new Universal Analytics code on our main website, running alongside our classic analytics code, but already the difference in results is substantial – in a good way. The charts above show traffic from the same time period, but because of new settings that can be configured as part of Universal Analytics, the Universal Analytics data is a much better representation of the traffic we receive to the site. Here’s a breakdown of what we changed in the new Universal Analytics settings, and why the new data is more accurate for our business:

More Direct Traffic Share, Less Referral

A unique factor about Moveable Online’s website is that it shares a gateway page with its sister company, Moveable Inc., found at www.moveable.com. Many people looking for Moveable Online’s website find us by first going to the gateway page, which essentially acts as a referral - even though the traffic should be considered ‘direct’ by most definitions. Google Universal Analytics allows you to define specific domains to treat as ‘direct’ traffic rather than ‘referral', which had a substantial impact on our data. Once we implemented appropriate referral exclusions, our referral traffic share decreased from 41.8% to 16.2%.  

More Direct Traffic Share, Less Search

Most would assume that losing search traffic share is a bad thing, but again this adjustment worked to our advantage. When some people are trying to get to Moveable Online's website, they’ll type the company’s name, or sometimes even the full URL, into a search bar. When they eventually visit the site from the search results, Google Analytics treats this as traffic from search. By looking at our list of popular search terms bringing traffic to the site, we were able to determine that brand names and common misspellings should be considered ‘direct’ rather than ‘organic search’. Once we implemented appropriate search term exclusions, our search traffic share decreased from 36.1% to 31.3%, which provides a more accurate representation of our traffic.

Other Universal Analytics Features

To date, we’ve only taken advantage of a few of the new features released as part of Google’s Universal Analytics. Other new and useful features include:
  • Setting timeouts for sessions and campaigns
  • Adding search engines to the default list of organic search sources
  • Setting custom dimensions in reports (check out these 10 pre-packaged custom reports to get started)
  • Tracking offline data (this video is a must-see to learn the extent of what Universal Analytics can track)
  • Multi-platform tracking
  • And more coming soon (AdSense, content experiments, and more)

Setting up Universal Analytics

Running multiple Google Analytics properties concurrently is typically cautioned against. It can lead to duplicate traffic stats, skewed bounce rates, and many other problems. However, Google’s new Universal Analytics code is different than the traditional code and can be run in tandem with the classic code without disrupting either profile’s data. And Google’s recommendation is to do just that: run both the classic code and new Universal Analytics code on your property simultaneously, as there are certain features that are not yet available to Universal, and the classic code is eventually being phased out. It’s in everyone’s best interests to begin gathering data in the Universal profile as early as possible. Google has instructions for setting up Universal Analytics on your website, but if you need help either analyzing your data or configuring your analytics, be sure to contact us.

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