Apr 26, 2013

Media Tracking with Universal Analytics

In a previous post I discussed Universal Analytics (currently in public Beta) and some of the new capabilities that Universal Analytics offers. In this post I will address specifically how these new capabilities can be applied to digital media measurement.

Cross Device Measurement

Media is increasingly being deployed across multiple devices (i.e. Desktop and Mobile). If your website includes any type of login, then the use of custom dimensions can allow you to track a user ID to see how your customers interact with your site from multiple devices. This can significantly impact calculations regarding new visits and unique visitors, and can help get a fuller understanding of the reach of your media. This approach is not without limitations, essentially you will only be able to connect data from multiple devices where your users are logging in, but it is a notable step forward in gaining insights to how customers are interacting with your business online. 

Offline Data

For businesses that have both online and offline conversions, the impact of media cannot be solely measured by website activity. The measurement protocol provides new opportunities for tracking activity that occurs offsite (and offline). This can help provide a much truer measurement for the impact of media on your business overall. A great bit of inspiration for the possibilities that this opens up is provided by the folks at Loves Data Tying Caffeine to Productivity.

Custom Data Sources - Cost Data Import

As I mentioned in my previous post – custom data sources is an additional Beta component that is not technically tied to Universal Analytics, but is significantly more powerful when tied to the custom dimensions available within Universal Analytics. This capability allows for CSV files containing (non-Google) cost information to be uploaded programmatically to the Google Analytics API. The same ROI information that can currently be viewed for Google Adwords media can now be tracked for other types of digital media

While custom data sources officially only supports online media, there are some methods that can be used to tie in cost data for traditional media. For example, if your traditional advertising uses a custom URL you can programmatically add in the tracking parameters for all visitors coming to the site with that URL – this way you can associate cost data to those tracking parameters. Combine this with the Measurement Protocol in Universal Analytics and it now becomes possible to track the full impact and ROI of online and offline media. 

It should be repeated that these capabilities are still in Beta, and some features of Google Analytics (remarketing, cross-domain tracking) are not yet fully supported. While these capabilities open up new opportunities, many companies may want to wait until the beta is complete before deploying to production environments.


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