By Ben Gott

Olly and I traveled all the way to the West Coast of the U.S of A, braving natural disasters and deep vein thrombosis to bring you the very latest from the GA/measurement world at the 8th Annual Google Analytics Certified Partner Summit.

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EDIT: We now have access to the Universal Analytics Whitelist. If you would like help whitelisting or installing, please get in touch.

To those of you not familiar with these product launch summaries, this is how they typically go:

Man stands at the front and announces a new feature, typically punctuated by 'super-awesomes', 'game-changers' and 'next levels'. We whoop and clap, everyone feels good...... several months later we realise a lot of the shiny stuff was exactly that - shiny but not very useful.

This time we have the same man, the same whooping (even from the Brits), but you know what, they really are announcing a big list of super-awesome game changers. I'm not kidding, they are taking Google Analytics to the next level. These changes come under the broad title of 'Universal Analytics'.

A quick plea for leniency here; we had to take this all in and reproduce as a blog post very quickly. We will update as and when we have more info.

Game changer #1: new tracking method

A new revised tracking model for GA, including 80% lighter cookies. Tracking is boiled down to 4 lines of code and utma, utmc, utmz etc. are condensed to a few shorter IDs. As a result it looks a lot prettier to a code-a-phobe like me. That's just the aesthetics though - the REAL underlying change here is a complete overhaul of the guts of GA. These changes enable a lot of what follows. As an interesting aside, one of the Googlers noted that the reduction in cookies is so significant that it will result in a 15% reduction in total internet bandwidth. That tells you something about the coverage GA has today.

The reason it’s a game changer: it should help us and you to finally free up time that would be spent implementing and decoding spaghettiesque lists of cookie values. This is time that we can now use to analyse and improve.

New slimmer Google Analytics cookie

Game changer #2: multi-session, multi-device tracking

THIS. IS. MASSIVE. I'm willing to bet you've seen a scary percentage relating to 'two-screeners' or 'multi-device users' recently. Like '90% of users engage with your site from more than one device prior to purchase’. Well, I always cringe when I hear those stats, because as a traditional web analyst I had no way of mitigating or accounting for the problems that caused me. When Universal Analytics goes live, we will no longer suffer from teeth grinding and shoulder tensing when asked 'that question'. Universal Analytics will allow us to track the same user across platforms using unique IDs or, where possible, login/CRM based IDs. I drew a little picture to help you understand the difference this will make to how we analyse (apologies for my appalling drawing skills):

Multi session, multi device tracking in GA

Game changer #3: multi-touch attribution coming to standard GA, with a 90 day window

That says it all doesn't it? Play with your favourite attribution models AND go beyond the current limit of 30 days or even reduce it to less than 30 days. This is very useful if you have especially short or long lead times. Oh, and coming soon: data-lead modelling taking into account visits and traffic sources that DON'T convert to understand the overall contribution of any source in relation to its overall traffic volumes.

In pictures:

Multi-touch attribution in GA

The reason it's a game changer: it will make attribution modelling quick and easy for the owners of more than half of the world's websites. Expect difficult questions being asked, more credit for social media managers and more informed understanding of the value of display spend.

Game changer #4: data import

Up to 50 million rows of data can be passed into Google Analytics. Get your CRM data into GA, or even cost data from other sources. Again, this one kind of speaks for itself I think.

The reason it is a game changer: Import your CRM data into GA and use as a primary dimension to view all metrics. Now you can get the full picture of your users' lifetime values and actions in Google Analytics. See everything they do on and off your site. Mmmhmm, OFF your site.

Which leads to our next point:

Game changer #5: you don’t even need a website to use GA

No, really, the demo Google showed us involved the tracking of Google employees’ RFID enabled employee badges. The 'site' in this case was the Google Campus and the measurement tracking was built into the unit in which the Googlers swipe their cards on entering every morning. Incredible eh? I honestly feel like I need a few days to digest all the possible uses for this before commenting much further.

Game changer #6: cross session/visit and visitor level segmentation

Although advanced segmentation is one of, if not THE best features in GA it has two major limitations that mean it doesn’t do everything we want. As a result of the 'Universal Analytics' change we will be able to set segments based on visitor level metrics. So, for example, how does the likelihood of purchase increase when visitors are on their second visit? Or which traffic sources tend to bring users to the site after their 3rd visit, regardless of whether they converted or not?

More than the above we can now do sequential, intra-session analysis. So not only can you segment your visits based on what happens in those visits, you can also do it based on the order of interactions within those visits. Let's say you're tracking video plays; why not understand what the segment who views videos do post-view? How about a more in depth view of post-conversion optimisation or even just specifying a segment of visits where a particular sequence of pages were viewed in order?


You should be able to see from this blog post how excited we are about these changes, and how big a deal they are. Expect some more in-depth articles on many of these upcoming features in the future. We'll let you know expected launch dates when we can share them and will explain how to make the most out of these changes.

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EDIT: We now have access to the Universal Analytics Whitelist. If you would like help whitelisting or installing, please get in touch.

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