Universal Analytics is the latest version of Google’s analytics code, that introduces new features compared to Google Analytics and redefines the way data is tracked.
The main changes are:
- New data collection methods: The old tracking code ga.js of Google Analytics is replaced by the new analytics.js tracking code of Universal Analytics, which makes it easier for developers to customize it to their needs.
- Simplified feature configuration: In Google Analytics, a big part of the customization can be made only by altering the tracking code. In Universal Analytics, many options are now available directly in the admin section, so that non-technical users can make the customization easily.
- Custom dimensions & custom metrics: Universal Analytics provides a default set of metrics and dimensions, but it is now also possible to define custom ones.
- Multi-platform tracking: Universal Analytics introduces the measurement protocol, which allows the tracking of data from multiple data sources. It is possible to import data from external sources like e-mail marketing, social media, advertising, even from sources like POS systems, call centers or CRM systems. This transforms Universal Analytics from a cookie-based analytics application to a business data warehouse.
- User ID: Google Analytics is a visits-based application, while Universal Analytics is becoming a visitors-based one. It introduces the user ID, which allows to measure user interactions from multiple devices, like desktop, tablet, mobile under the same user account and better understand the user behavior. You can define your own customer ID, using for example the customer ID of a user that has an account on the website, or the customer number from a CRM system.
Universal analytics is at the moment on open beta. That means that anyone can use it, even if not all the functionality is completed. It is not possible to upgrade from Google Analytics, so if you want to use it on a website, it is advised to create a new web property and add both the ga.js and analytics.js tracking codes. There aren’t any new reports available at the moment, but Google plans to start updating Universal Analytics with new reports during the next months.
As a conclusion, at this moment Universal Analytics does not offer new reports for the average user compared to Google Analytics. It is advised to use it for testing purposes, as it is still in beta version.