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Things have been heating up in The Analytics world for quite some time. Back in October of 2012 Google announced a significant upgrade to their flagship Analytics product. Universal Analytics has been in BETA since then. It’s now getting closer to the full rollout of this excellent product.

Google Universal Analytics

First things first….. If you manage a Google Analytics account, the writing is on the wall. Universal Analytics will become the defacto analytics platform. In other words, there will be no opt-in/opt-out scenario. Your account will eventually roll over to Universal Analytics automatically. My guess is sometime in the first Quarter of 2014.

Google is already offering the option to upgrade your account to Universal Analytics yourself. We manage many client GA accounts and have noticed that the upgrade option is not available on all GA properties. I expect that to change over the next little while. If you can see the upgrade option in your GA account now, then you should plan on upgrading sometime soon. That being said, although not complicated, you should really not just upgrade without knowing what you are doing.

So let’s look at things more holistically.

Here are a couple of things to contemplate:

1. Why would I upgrade to Universal Analytics? Well, apart from the great improvements, you really will not have a choice. So you need a plan. Put yourself in the Driver’s seat.
2. What would that “plan” be? If you haven’t done any type of tracking in the current version of GA, then you really don’t need to do too much. But if you have… (IE) Event tracking…. (for clicks or downloads), you need to get your house in order. In other words, if you have added custom code to your website in order to track “something”, pay attention.

I look at Universal Analytics as an opportunity to improve things for WebFuel and our clients. “How?” you ask. Back in March of last year I wrote about Google’s new Tag Manager product (and why I love it). After spending some quality time with it over the past year, and helping a number of clients leverage their GA data with it, I am totally in love with GTM! It’s awesome.

Back to the plan. In order to mitigate any risks associated with the impending rollout of Universal Analytics, I propose a multi-step approach which will (in the end) ensure that you do not lose any of your data. And at the same time, guarantee that you you will improve your lot with respect to the level and quality of valuable data you are able to mine from Google Analytics in the future.

Plan “A” or Plan “B”?

Plan “A”

1. Go to your GA Account and Click the Upgrade button
2. 24-48 hours later the upgrade will have happened
3. You will need to upgrade the GA snippet across your website’s pages
4. You may loose some data in the transition

Plan “B”

1. If you don’t already have one, open up a (free) Google Tag Manager account and set up your website to fire the GTM Container snippet
2. At the same time go to your GA account and create a new Universal Analytics property
3. Add a Tag for Universal Analytics (using the ID from Step 2)
4. Add a Tag for your existing Analytics Property

The end result will be two Properties in your GA account that will be collecting data in parallel. Why do this? Apart from the obvious reasons (“I do not want to lose any data because Google is rolling out Universal Analytics!”), it’s a great methodology to get yourself using both Google Tag Manager & Universal Analytics (which will be a great improvement for you).

There are some technical things involved here. And the process has been streamlined in the interest of brevity (there is minutia involved). So if you are unsure of anything at all, consult an expert (me perhaps).

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