Google Universal AnalyticsResource Guide

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Transition Pitfalls

When making site-wide changes to your Google Analytics tracking codes, you are presented with an opportunity to improve upon your current implementation. However, if your implementation is already optimal, you run the risk of making changes that may adversely affect your data collection. To help with this transition period, below are some items to take into account when upgrading:

Proper documentation

During your transition from Classic Analytics to Universal Analytics, you need to properly document the changes in syntax, along with any modifications to the tracking methodology. As new features are added, and others become deprecated, it is important to keep track of how data gets tracked and any changes or limitations in tracking that may arise.

Deprecated/migrated tracking codes

With the update to Universal Analytics, several methods that were used in the ga.js version of Google Analytics have been moved from tracking code modifications to within the GA interface. As a ersult, there are no corresponding code modifications for these customizations and will need to be made within the Admin interface. These changes currently include:

  • Session timeouts (_setSessionCookieTimeout)
  • Campaign timeouts (_setCampaignCookieTimeout)
  • Custom search engines (_addorganic)
  • Custom referral exclusions (_addIgnoredRef)
  • Creation of custom dimensions (previously custom variables)

Updating code prior to your property being updated

When updating your tracking code, it is important to remember that this step must be completed after your property has been converted from Classic Analytics to Universal Analytics. Updating the code prior to completing this first step will result in your GA property recording incorrect data.

Not updating code prior to deprecation

Google Analytics allows for properties to be updated without updating your site code. However, this feature will not last forever. According to Google Analytics’ Universal Analytics Project Timeline, in the final phase, Phase 4, legacy JavaScript libraries will be deprecated. This means that unless you have retagged your site with the Universal Analytics tracking codes, or installed Airlock, by the time Phase 4 is reached your tracking codes will no longer capture your site data. While you currently have time, waiting too long can put your analytics data at risk if you don’t accurately plan for this mandatory transition.

Communicate the upgrade to all team members

While this transition is becoming more prevalent to those familiar with Google Analytics, the updates in syntax are still not widely known/understood by all analytics practitioners and development teams. When verifying that GA tracking codes are going live, it would be beneficial to double check that the updated syntax is used.

Comparing historical and future data

Universal Analytics provides a more robust feature list, including multi-device tracking. When comparing metrics from an updated Universal Analytics property to Classic Analytics data, document and keep in mind any changes made to your tracking code or account. Session timeout settings, campaign timeout settings, and referral exclusions are three examples of tracking code modifications that were all previously possible, but are more present and easily available for updating within GA. When analyzing changes in visit level engagement metrics or traffic acquisition methods, these items are quick updates that can cause drastic changes to your data.

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