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The ABCs Of Universal Analytics

The ABCs Of Universal Analytics

GAUniversal Analytics

Universal analytics is a customer centric web data collection system launched by Google. In the earlier version, Google Analytics used to track web data by visits. But a user could visit the same website from different devices. These visits to be counted as two different visits by different persons. In Universal Analytics, visitors are defined by a unique user- id. So web data is tracked by user ids instead of visits. Thus we can identify a user across multiple sessions and devices by his user- id. This is the basic concept of Universal Analytics.

We can identify a user if he visits your digital properties through a desktop, a mobile phone, a mobile app or a sales kiosk. Universal Analytics further advances by allowing data from across various devices and even off- line to be transferred to Google Analytics. This is done by a system called as the ‘ Measurement Protocol.’ Thus Universal Analytics allows various on- line and off- line data to be aggregated and gives a comprehensive view of  customer interactions with your business.

An example of an application of Universal Analytics

Let’s assume that a sports goods company has following points of interaction with their customers:

  1. Retail stores
  2. Call Centre
  3. A desktop website
  4. A mobile website &
  5. A mobile app

Assume a certain Mr. Ram searched the website through his mobile phone. Then he visited the website on his laptop. Then he visited the retail store and had a look at the merchandise. Finally he downloaded the mobile app and purchased goods from it. A few days later he called the call centre for a query. In the meantime he kept browsing their website for new arrivals.

Traditional analytics system would have logged at least 5 visits attributing them to different visitors across various devices and sessions. But in reality the user is one. Universal Analytics tries to solve this problem with a unique identifier called as the ‘user- id’. Thus sessions are identified by user- ids instead of visits. Hence multiple sessions across various devices by the same user can be identified.

This gives a more accurate view of the user than the earlier system. Further the interactions in different environments can be recorded and aggregated centrally so that we get a holistic view of user activity in different environments. On- line and Off- line Data sets having a common key can be joined giving an enriched data.

Thus Universal Analytics are a set of advanced technologies deployed by Google Analytics to improve web data analysis.

We will see some of the new paradigms in Universal Analytics.

User Id

User id has to be activated in Universal Analytics agreeing to the terms and conditions of tracking. The user id is anonymous and does not use personal information such as email or telephone number. The process of activating the user id is as follows:

In the Admin tab, click on ‘.js Tracking Info’.

tracking info

Then click on ‘User- Id’.

tr info

Google Analytics creates a code snippet which has to be added to the tracking code of your website. Google analytics does not create the user id. The user- id can be generated through the organisation’s authentication system, passed on during sign and sign in and then sent to Google Analytics.

user id code

Thus we can enable the user- id in a website. You may refer the Blog Post Learn To Track Add-on Usage With Google Analytics   for more information on ‘user- id’.

Measurement Protocol

Measurement Protocol are a set of rules that define how data is transferred from any digital device into Google Aanlytics. Thus data can be transferred from Sales Kiosks, internal CRM system or any other digital system into Google Analytics using this protocol. Google analytics will accept this data so long as it follows the protocol. The Measurement Protocol uses a Javascript Library called as ‘Analytics.js’. The site needs to be re- tagged. Re- tagging is simplified by the use of Tag Management tools. The Measurement Protocol allows developers to collect only hit data and not aggregated data such as tables. Please refer the Blog Post  Leverage upon Offline And Online Data To Drive Remarketing Via Google Analytics  to see an application of the Measurement Protocol.

Server Side Sessionisation

Sessionisation is a process in which the analytics tool identifies unique users and groups their sessions. In the earlier Google Analytics, this was done by the tracking cookies. The cookies stored information such as anonymous identifiers, session length and campaign information. In Universal Analytics, the sessionization occurs at the server level. The ‘analytics.js’ does not store any tracking information except for the anonymous identifier.  So all configuration settings such as adding new organic search engines, setting the tracking cookie timeout length and referral exclusions are done in the admin settings of Google Analytics instead of using Java script.

In server side sessionization and measurement protocol, you can create your own anonymous sessionization key. So you can use this key to sessionize data in Google Analytics.

Offline conversion import

You can link offline conversions to Google Analytics by sending hit data using the measurement protocol. This data adds to the Google Analytics data using some identifier. Thus you get an overall view of business and not just the view of a website.

Dimension Widening

Dimension Widening allows you to add custom dimensions in bulk through a data upload. This is like joining two tables that have a common key. Eg Data in Google Analytics can be widened by additional data available for the common key in CRM.

Cost Import Data

Cost import data of marketing campaigns can be imported into Google Analytics and hence we can cget ROI of the campaigns.

Look and feel

The front end of Universal is the same as that of Google Analytics.

All configuration settings such as adding new organic search engines, setting the tracking cookie timeout length and referral exclusions are done in the admin settings of Google Analytics instead of using Java script.

Cross device measurements

This special feature in Universal Analytics  gives you great details about the user activity on different devices. It gives you insights on device conversion, device pathing etc.


Universal Analytics is the next generation web analytics technology from Google. Leveraging it, we can convert Google Analytics from a mere web analytics platform to a business analytics platform. All online and offline customer interaction data from different devices for unique visitors can be aggregated into Google Analytics and we get a complete picture of customer activity and interaction with the business in one place. This is the power of Universal Analytics.

Image Courtesy: Google Analytics

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