Upgrade experience from Google Analytics to Universal Analytics via Google Tag Manager

Comparison of expected benefits and realised benefits:

Universal Analytics upgrade is purely a change in the way the system gathers data, it’s a change to the new ‘Measurement Protocol’ which means you can fire data in from any source (including offline). It allows for easier customisation of options by presenting them in Analytics rather than having to code them into the tags, it replaces custom variables with custom dimensions and metrics (20 instead of the previous 5), and allows you to ‘stay up to date with new features and updates’.

Much has been blogged about the ability to enable UserID support across the account in order to generate multi touchpoint, single user style reports – this feature is not available https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/google-analytics-measurement-protocol/b4wn1b9GY5A

Steps Taken:

  • Removed all previous implementations of Universal Analytics created prior to upgrade path being chosen
    • GA > Admin > Choose relevant Account and Property to delete > View Settings > Delete View
    • Delete the tags created in GTM that point to the old UA implementation
  • The actual upgrade process (see To Do Reference URL) is fairly straightforward – you select the transfer property option, and wait. Once complete, it generates you the new code you need to implement, which includes the new property ID.
  • Establish tags in GTM (remove GA tags from GTM) – in order to do this (and to make sure I did not miss any) I just updated the existing tags to point to the new instance.
    • Update tag type to universal analytics
    • Point to new property ID
    • Check any firing rules or Ecommerce settings still worked
  • Migrate any custom variables into custom dimensions
    • Set up in Google Analytics Admin (Property > Custom Definitions)
    • Define as per requirements (noting the index number)
  • Set up rules in google tag manager as to when to fire – Tag > more Settings > Custom Definitions > Index number and choose the macro containing the data

Reference URLS:

https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/upgrade/ (Benefits)

https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/upgrade/guide (To Do)

https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/upgrade/reference/gtm (GTM SetUp)

https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2795983?hl=en-GB (UA Usage guidelines)

http://www.analyticsmarket.com/freetools/ipregex – IP address range regex creator

https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1070983 (Data Limits on Tag Collection)

Issues Identified and things of note:

  • During implementation noticed that we also did not filter new office traffic from Analytics so used the IP address range regex creator to generate new rules.
  • UA uses a new cookie to track – lasts 2 years from last visit – although improves experience with subdomains, it does mean temporary increases in new user visits in analytics post implementation
  • Does not support Remarketing, Content Experiments, Google Display Network Impression Reporting (inc. Adsense), DoubleClick Campaign Manager Integration, and the Google Analytics Demographics and Interests Reports as yet.
  • Ecommerce tracks through its own code block, not embedded within GA code as before.
  • I have completed the upgrade on the basis that no specific tracking customisations had been made around timeouts or groupings of organic traffic or referrals etc.
  • If you use multiple trackers on each page and are upgrading to Universal Analytics, expect to see a small, temporary increase of new visitors relative to return visitors after updating your tags. This is expected behaviour and due to differences in the way sessions are processed in Universal Analytics.
  • I have assumed the data layer elements are still relevant and work fine with GTM
  • UA has a 10m hits per month limit – Google suggests self-sampling or you should review event tracking
  • Latency on data processing can be between 24-48 hours. UA accounts with < 200k visits per day will get refreshed once a day. Processing is from 12:00 UTC and can take approx. 10hrs which can delay updates to reports and metrics for up to two days. Only way to counter this is to upgrade to premium or reduce visits.
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