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The Universal Analytics Video Guide – Part 2

Today’s video is the second part to our guide on Google’s new Universal Analytics.

The first part of today’s video goes over the key benefits of using Universal Analytics over old Google Analytics. Let’s go over some the benefits real quick:

More Control Over Settings

  • Session Settings: Now you can assign duration values to your session settings.
  • Organic Search Sources: Now you can track search engines that are not tracked by default.
  • Referral Exclusion List: To stamp out bad referral data like self-referrals from your own domain.

Custom Dimensions and Metrics

These were custom variables in old Google Analytics. This allows you to take any information you want on a visitor and assign it to a visit, a session or a one-time event.

Measurement Protocol

The new measurement protocol allows you to pull in other data from other devices like POS systems, call centers etc.

Finally we’ll give some advice on whether it’s the right time for you to switch to Universal Analytics. Enjoy the video below!

Video Transcription


Bryan Harris: Hi, I’m Bryan with KISSmetrics, and I’m here to help you get the most out of your Google Analytics account. Today is Part Two of our series on Universal Analytics. In the first video, we talked about how to install Universal Analytics on your website. This video is going to be all about two things. Number one, are the key benefits of using the Universal Analytics over the old Google Analytics.

And then second, I’m going to give you a few key pieces of advice to help you make the decision on whether it’s the right time for you to make the switch. So, let’s get going.


Bryan: Before we get cranked up and start covering the features of Universal Analytics, let’s first back up, and understand how our accounts are organized and set up. So, your accounts are broken up into three main sections. You have accounts, you have properties, and you have profiles.

So, accounts are where your sites are separated and organized. So, if you manage multiple sites, multiple companies, multiple entities of any sort, you’ll want a separate account for each one. Properties are where your data is actually sent to and stored. So, all of your traffic that comes through the embed code that we showed you how to install in the last video, all of that points back to a property that has a specific code that looks like this.

Properties are organized based on where the traffic actually comes from. So, each traffic source, be it your website, your blog, your ecommerce site, your YouTube channel, each one of those will want to have a property, a separate property that’s set up that collects that information.

Lastly, you have profiles. Profiles are simply the visualization of data that is stored inside of your properties. So, if you want to quickly find all of your paid search traffic that lands on your blog, you can set up a profile to find that quickly.

When you pull a report inside of Google Analytics, you’re simply looking at the data that is stored inside of your property, which is stored inside of your account. So, that’s the basic arrangement of how your analytic account is actually set up. Let’s move on to the features of the new Universal Analytics.


Bryan: The interface is nearly identical to the current version of Google Analytics. Unless you’ve spent tons of time delving into all the intricacies, and ins and outs of Google Analytics in the past, you probably won’t notice any difference at all.

There are, however, three major improvements that Universal Analytics brings. Number one is you have more control over settings. So, let’s look into that, and see what exactly you’re able to control now that you used to not be able to.

From anywhere inside of your Google Analytics account, choose Admin from the upper right hand corner. Then, choose the property that you would like to change the settings of. Once this loads, go to Tracking Info and choose Session Settings. From here you’ll be able to see four new areas of settings that you didn’t have access to in the past.

The first of these we’ll look at is session settings. Inside of this are two specific timeout settings, your session timeout, and your campaign timeout. Your session timeout dictates how long a visit lasts. It impacts many of your metrics like page, uh, page visits, and conversions, et cetera.

If a visitor doesn’t generate any new data within 30 minutes, the next piece of data they generate will be part of a new visit. Now you can change the duration of a session to whatever you want. The minimum is one minute and the maximum is four hours.

The next is campaign timeouts just below that. We use AdWords auto tagging and campaign UTM parameters to keep track of which campaign visitors are coming from. By default, this information lasts six months. So, if I visit your site today using only one of your campaigns, wait five months, visit your site again by entering in the URL, then purchase something, Google Analytics attributes that sale to that campaign.

Remember that Google Analytics attributes conversions in revenue to the most recent traffic source that isn’t direct. Just like session timeouts, we now can change the duration of campaign timeouts from within Google Analytics. The minimum is 1 day, and the maximum is 24 months.

The next setting we’ll look at is organic search sources, or adding search engines. Google Analytics tracks quite a few search engines by default, but now you can track search terms from search engines that are not in the list without needing to mess with any code at all. If you get a lot of traffic from search engines that aren’t recognized by Google, all the traffic comes up as referrals instead of organic search traffic. So, it’s worth adding in extra search engines to Google Analytics when it comes up.

The next setting is Excluding Referrals. Referrals are a good thing, but there are a few cases where you’ll get bad referral data. For example, just about every website has a self referral. This is a referral coming from your own domain. When you haven’t installed the tracking code on every page of your site, it’s possible for people to visit a page without being tracked.

Then, when they move to a page that has tracking on it, it’ll look like they came from your own domain. Be warned, though, this will impact how sessions are calculated throughout your data.

And the last of the settings is the Search Term Exclusion List. This is giving you the ability to be able to exclude certain search terms from your data. Subsequently, any traffic that uses the search term will be classified as direct traffic, and not organic search traffic.

Some people might use this to clean up their search data a bit. On a lot of sites, the majority of search traffic comes from branded keywords. In those cases, they’re not really pulling in search data. People are just using Google as a navigational tool to find your site.

Like, for example, if they type in your site name and don’t put .com on it, Google will just bring up a result. They’ll click on that and then come to your actual site, but permanently removing that data from your reports might be going a little overboard. A better option is to create a new channel for branded search traffic in your multichannel reports.

The second big feature in Universal Analytics is custom dimensions and metrics. In traditional Google Analytics, we have the ability to create custom variables. And custom variables, basically, give us the ability to take whatever information we want on a visitor and assign it to a visit, to a session, or to a one time event, and then to pull in that data into Google Analytics. In Universal Analytics, custom variables are called custom dimensions, and we also have the ability to set up custom metrics. So, let’s jump in and see how we actually set these up.

To set up a custom dimension or a metric, you need to complete two steps. Step one is to define the dimension or metric within your Universal Analytic account. From anywhere in your Google Analytic account, go to Admin in the upper right hand corner. Then, choose Custom Definitions underneath the property that you want to set up the dimension in. From here you’ll be able to set up new dimensions and metrics.

For dimensions you’ll need to asign a name, a scope, and to make sure the active box is checked. So name and active obviously make sense. Scope is a little more vague. Scope has three potential settings. The first is Hit, and that’s the dimension that is added to a single action. Session is every action made during that session will have that dimension added. And User is the dimension that is added to the current and future sessions from that visitor.

So now, no matter how many times they come back, it’ll always be added to that specific user, and not recorded as a separate instance. Metrics are a little bit easier to use. You’ll need to define the minimum and maximum values, while deciding whether it’s an integer, currency, or time. Google has a pretty extensive guide on this, link below, that you can check out for more details.

Then, Step Two is to install the JavaScript on your site. Setting up the dimension and metric doesn’t, by itself, send data into Google Analytics. It just helps Google figure out what’s going on when you do send data back to your account. So, you’ll need to install on your site the code that sends the custom dimensions and metrics when they’re triggered.


Bryan: The third big new feature in Universal Analytics is The New Measurement Protocol. And The New Measurement Protocol allows you to send data into Google Analytics from other devices. And it does this through an HTTP request. So, you can send data from your point of sale system, or from your call center, or any other device.

A lot of businesses won’t have a direct use for this. But if you’ve been looking for ways to get outside data into Google Analytics, this is the perfect option for you. So, those are your big three new features. There’s also several other changes that Universal Analytics has made, and we’re going to cover those in rapid fire right now.

Universal Analytics uses a new cookie to identify users, and it lasts two years. This expiration gets pushed back with each visit. The new user cookie also works across all sub domains so you no longer have to do a lot of customization, uh, to track people between different sub domains. It’s built right into the standard tracking code.

Content experiments, AdSense, and Remarketing aren’t enabled for Universal Analytics yet. So, if that’s a huge deal to you, if that’s a big priority, and you depend on those, you might want to wait until Universal Analytics gets updated to support those.

And lastly, ecommerce tracking code is a separate block of code now. Previously, it was embedded into the standard Analytics tracking code. Now the big question is should you switch to Universal Analytics now or should you wait until later. Eventually all of us will have to switch as Google starts slowly phasing out support and functionality for the old code.

Whether you should switch now is directly depended on the amount of customization you’ve already done and how big your team is. If you’re trying to make this decision, you fall into one of three categories.

Category number one is you, if you haven’t done much beyond installing the standard tracking code for doing some ecommerce tracking and some basic page view tracking, we would recommend going ahead and installing the Universal Analytics code directly beside your existing Google Analytics code.

Category number two is you, if you’ve gone super in depth with your Google Analytics. If you’ve set up virtual page views, and custom variables, and modified the code itself. If you have a team that works on Google Analytics, or if you just have one person that’s dedicated to it, that can knock this out quickly, then we would recommend going ahead and installing the new Universal Analytics code. Not getting rid of your existing code, but installing the Universal Analytics code right beside it, and starting to collect its data.

Category number three is you, if you’ve done the same thing as two. If you’ve gone very in depth, and you’ve set up custom variables, and virtual page views, and gone very in depth with your code, but you don’t have a dedicated team, or a dedicated person that can take the time to do this correctly, then we would recommend holding off and waiting till perhaps Google sets up a better migration in the future. Or you can always contact a certified Google partner to do it for you.

So, that’s it.


Bryan: Now you’ve learned all the basics of Universal Analytics. You know how to install the code on your site. You know all the key benefits to using Universal Analytics. We’ve also walked you through trying to figure out whether it’s the best time to switch or to wait till later.

So, you’re now a certified Universal Analytics newbie. Happy Analyticking.

  1. Great stuff, thanks. I installed UA code alongside the standard GA code when it was first released. What I am finding is that UA is reporting approx 10% fewer ‘Unique Visitors’ and approx 15% more ‘Visits’. Can anyone advise why this is happening?

  2. Kushendra pratap Oct 25, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    there are many setting session settings organic source setting is nice to know implement. thanks for this article

  3. Thank you very much for this explanation! It has been very useful and I will risk to install the new one, because my blog belongs to category 1 = )


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