It’s no secret that I am an advocate of Google Analytics. While it is not the most powerful analytics platform available, it has played a large part in making analytics mainstream, and has helped us to show many of our clients the value of analytics.
Despite the benefits of Google Analytics, there has been a gaping hole in the capabilities offered by Google Analytics, namely the ability to integrate external data to fully customize tracking for an individual client. In instances where I have recommended a different analytics packages (i.e. SiteCatalyst) to a client, 90% of the time it was this missing capability that necessitated the recommendation.
With the launch of Universal Analytics, Google is stepping up their game. While it is still in Beta, Universal Analytics (UA) has bridged the capabilities gap by allowing several methods of incorporating external data:
- Measurement Protocol – This is perhaps the coolest feature in Universal Analytics, providing the ability to send data from any device to Google Analytics, including server data. This provides opportunities to track data from any device, including offline data.
- Custom Dimensions and Metrics – The possibilities with this are remarkable (although not limitless, at least in Beta there is a limit of 20 custom metrics and 20 custom dimensions). This provides new opportunities for segmentation within Google Analytics, as well as collection of new data. (Note: one thing that has not changed is Google Analytics restriction against personally identifiable information).
- Expanded configuration – Universal Analytics also provides additional new options for configuring your account previously unavailable, including setting up domain exclusions for referral sources, customizing search sources (whether a visit shows up as search or referral), and setting up exclusions for key terms.
While not technically part of the Universal Analytics rollout, the ability to upload cost for additional data sources is also in beta and remains available in UA. This capability provides an opportunity to address additional cost sources (i.e. cost of e-mail sends or display advertising media) to provide visibility to ROI data within Google Analytics.
Good analytics leads to better marketing performance, and with the massive adoption rate of Google Analytics, these increased capabilities are a win for the marketing industry as a whole.
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