If you’ve been holding off on switching your web properties to Google Universal Analytics, it’s time to get moving. “But wait,” you’re probably thinking, “Google isn’t making us switch yet, so why should I?” Well, there are a few very compelling reasons to do so. For one thing, being an early adopter is cool. Yes, UA is still in beta, but it’s already a major cut above the classic Google Analytics. By upgrading now, you can start taking advantage of a huge array of exciting new features. Here’s another thing: At a certain point, the decision will be out of your hands. Wouldn’t you rather have control?

Universal Analytics: The Basics

Universal Analytics isn’t new. Chances are that you know at least a few people who’ve made the switch already. In the unlikely event that you haven’t heard about it, it’s the new operating standard for Google Analytics. With new collection methods and reporting tools, it represents a major upgrade from the classic version. The old tracking code, ga.js, is out; the new tracking code, universal.js is in, and it’s a lot more flexible. UA is easier to implement on many levels, and the added functionality that it brings to the table is truly mind-blowing.

Learn more about Data Driven Decision-making.

Why Make the Switch Now?

Like many people, you may be reluctant to switch over to UA because it’s still in beta. Don’t let that fool you. UA is, for all intents and purposes, ready to go. No harm will come from making the switch early. It can occur, however, if you wait too long. How? Well, at a certain point, Google will do it for you, and you’re unlikely to receive any advance warning. There’s a chance that data could be lost. No one wants the fate of their site and analytics to be out of their hands, so it makes sense to be proactive about UA.

How to Switch

Have I convinced you to go ahead and migrate over to Universal Analytics? Good! You’ll be glad to know it’s just a two-step process. The two steps themselves can be handled quickly. However, it takes Google anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to complete the process. In the meantime, though, you’ll still be able to use Google Analytics, and your existing tracking code will continue to work. In other words, unlike waiting until Google makes the switch for you, you won’t run the risk of having your analytics interrupted.

Step One

The first step, so to speak, is actually a series of steps:

  1. Log in to your Google Analytics account.
  2. In the admin section, you should see the option to transfer your existing GA site to UA. If you don’t see the option for a particular site, it means it’s not quite ready for UA.
  3. If you’re already using dc.js to enable GA features like the DoubleClick Campaign Manager, the option to switch to UA won’t appear, either.
  4. Warning: Wait until step one is completely processed before proceeding to step two, or you could lose data.

Step Two

Though you don’t have to right away, you’ll eventually need to change your tracking code. You’ll want to switch from the classic ga.js to the new code: universal.js. Once you do, you can upgrade to Google Tag Manager, the new tag management solution. It supports UA and helps you manage other tags too.

Reasons to Switch to UA Early

As you can see, switching from GA to UA isn’t so intimidating, after all. If you have multiple web properties, you’ll need to perform the process separately for each one. Also, once you’ve switched, there’s no going back. When you consider the following benefits, though, why would you want to?

  • Measurement Protocol – UA’s Measurement Protocol lets you send data from Google Analytics to anything that can access the Internet, including call centers, POS systems and even thermostats. More intriguingly, it lets you send extra data that can then be tied back to a web session. Imagine tracking a call and matching it to the web session that triggered it. With UA, it’s doable.
  • Custom Dimensions and Metrics – With UA, you go from getting five free custom variables to getting 20. If you’re a premium member, you go from getting 20 to getting 200. The new dimensions allow you to track just about anything, and they are now available in all reports.
  • Dimension Widening – With UA, you can now make connections between sets of information and how they relate to existing dimensions. This allows you to gain more valuable insights for how people interact with your site. It’s also a great tool for discovering which combinations work the best.
  • User IDs – A note of warning: User IDs are not available in the beta version of UA. Still, when they are rolled out, they will be quite useful. As with GA, of course, tracking personally identifiable information, or PII, is not allowed. In UA, though, you will be able to assign anonymous user IDs if and when you know them. When a visitor performs an action, the assigned user ID can be sent to UA. From there, you can view reports about how the user behaves across devices and sessions. It’s a powerful way to monitor paths to purchase and other crucial information.
  • You’ll Have to Eventually – At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Google will eventually force your site to switch to UA. To me, the most compelling reason to do it early is because it keeps you in the driver’s seat.

There’s no doubt about it: When it comes to running a profitable site with a high conversion rate, it pays to have all the information you can get. The sooner you switch to Universal Analytics, the sooner you’ll gain access to a wealth of new features. By doing it now, you can be sure that you won’t lose any data. Go ahead – take the plunge today!