The Power of Universal Analytics In the Palm of Your Hand

By Carrie Albright | @Albright_C | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

How many times have you been sifting through mounds of Google Analytics data and thought to yourself “I wish I could just pre-filter this data to include the stuff I really want?” If the answer is even once, you’ll like what Google’s bringing to the table this month.

Universal Analytics is Google’s answer to our requests for a more customizable set of data to import and analyze.  It allows you to better identify the data that you deem to be most significant when it comes to looking at who is using and seeking out your product and services. By having a data set catered to your account,  you’ll have a much more accurate view of user activity and the overall performance of the business.

Being able to customize our dimensions, metrics, and what data we actually pull will allow us to specialize what we’re examining in each account.

Like we’ve said, Google Analytics is becoming user- or customer-centric rather than visit-centric.

So what are we talking about here?

Will this totally overthrow your current Analytics account? You don’t have to lose the data you’ve collected up till this point, but you’ve gotta follow the proper steps! The Googs suggest that, if you want to use UA on an existing GA account, you should use them concurrently to keep the data you’d previously acquired through regular ga.js tracking. You’ll also want to set this data to be sent to 2 different properties. The original data would be sent to a non-UA property, and the new analytics.js data would be sent to a dedicated UA property, probably named something with the term “Universal” in it.

If you’re starting a new account, or linking to Analytics for the first time, you’re all set! Place the code and you’re ready to go!

One more time, for those in the balcony seats, if you only change your tracking code from ga.js to analytics.js, you WILL lose the previously collected information. So it’s better to run them side-by-side. The data can’t be merged post-collection. Google has assured us that in the coming months, we’ll get more details on how to merge the pre- and post-Universal properties.

This author will keep her eye out for such an update and all you PPC Heroes will be the first (thousands) I tell!

So I’ve placed the tracking code… what now??

Now you get to take advantage of all the new features and data!

Favorite New Features

  • New data collection methods.
    As mentioned, Universal Analytics utilizes the analytics.js code snippet as the primary collection method for websites. This JavaScript is more flexible than previous the Google Analytics ga.js JavaScript, which lets you customize your data to better fit your accounts.
  • Simplified feature configuration.
    Now the Analytics interface will let you access some of options that were formerly located on the development side of things, but through the PPC Hero-friendly Admin tab. Some customizable specifics that’ll we’ll delve into later will be campaign timeout handling and search term exclusions.  Here’s a sneak peak at how you can set your very own session timeouts:

Session Timeout

  • Custom dimensions & custom metrics.
    Custom dimensions and custom metrics are like default dimensions and metrics, except you create them yourself. This is a fantastic opportunity to collect data that Google Analytics doesn’t automatically track.  Custom dimensions are the new custom variables.
  • Multi-platform tracking.
    This is where it starts to get good. Grab your favorite web developer and have them explain all about the new Measurement Protocol. This tool allows you to link your offline or third-party tracking system with your Analytics account. Offline conversion import could be used with a point-of-sale type of system, and loyalty cards, or integrating data from a call center system.
  • If you receive back-end data from a client that never sees the light of Google Analytics, you no longer need to aggregate that information yourself. By utilizing the Measurement Protocol, you can actually connect this data with the rest of your Universal Analytics account and see them together. You can use any digital device to connect your data source with your UA account, meaning you are no longer to simply pulling data from websites. There is more to come on this feature, and there are likely to be most posts on this as well. Stay tuned for more info on Measurement Protocol…

Customized Configurations…Say What?

Yes, they’ve outdone themselves this time. So let’s take a moment and go over some of those updates in a little more detail.

Feature Configuration

  • Referrals are processed differently.
    By default, all referrals trigger a new session in UA. For example, if a visitor is on your site, leaves but then immediately returns, this visitor has logged 2 sessions. You can, however, configure the user ID to connect these two sessions to a single visitor profile. This gives you a more accurate picture of the visitor’s behavior. For example, a visitor on goes to, and then returns to If you do not exclude as a referring domain, two sessions are counted, one for each arrival at If, however, you exclude referrals from, the second arrival to does not trigger a new session, and only one session is counted.

Referrel Exclusion

  • Search Term Exclusions.

You can exclude specific search terms from being identified in your Analytics account. When visitors find your site using an excluded term, that traffic isn’t included as search traffic in your reports. Instead, it’s counted as direct traffic. An example of this might be when a user searches your website by name. It could be inferred that someone who sought out and then clicked on your ad was just as likely to go to your site directly. Especially if the user meant to type the address in the URL address bar and when the search results popped up, they simply clicked the first ad they saw. By setting your website as a search term exclusion, you can separate that traffic from the rest of your PPC traffic. Search Term Exclusion

  • Customizable organic searches.

This feature is great when you have a search engine that behaves or you perceive differently from the masses. If you are targeting young people who love their grandmothers, you may find that a large portion of your traffic comes from, a kid-friendly search engine. When users search for t-shirts with “I Heart My G-Ma” emblazoned on them, they may encounter a blog that routinely references your site across of variety of Grandma-themed products, activities, and birthday money thank-you card templates.  Later, when they search again, they may click directly on your ad. If you identify this connection as a common source of your “organic” traffic, you may want to exclude it. Organic SearchBy excluding this (or any other) search engine, it would show up as referral traffic, not organic.

Additionally, you may want to use this feature to prioritize variations of the same search engine. For example, you may want to know just how much of your traffic is coming from people searching for images of grandmas (just to verify that theirs is the most beautiful of all) versus straight search results. If both search engines have the same query parameter, you can change your attribution.

To do this, you simply reorder the search engines in your list to have listed before This means that if the search occurred on, it will be attributed to this site first, instead of lumped in with  Simple, right? Another option is to change your query parameter so that they differ between the two.

Clearly there are plenty of other Universal Analytics treasures to sift through, but this should get you started.  As the Measurement Protocol tips come through the Google pipeline, we’ll start seeing just how useful that multi-device, third party import feature can be!

Have you tried using the new Universal Analytics? Any helpful tips or tricks to these new features? Inquiring minds in the comments section want to know!