At AM&P’s recent Chicago conference, association publishers learned why they need to begin the transition to Universal Analytics, the next version of Google Analytics.

By Carla Kalogeridis

Data analytics could help association communications professionals do more for their media products than almost anything else and yet it is the tool that many of them know the least about.

Interestingly enough, at Association Media & Publishing’s recent Chicago conference, speaker Matt Zaute, associate director analytics for Rise Interactive, asked an audience of about 75 association media professionals who in their association is in charge of their online analytics and a majority of them didn’t seem to know.

Most of them, however, had a general knowledge of Google Analytics, which turned out to be less of an asset when Zaute pointed out during his presentation, “Great Analyst = Great Communicator,” that Google Analytics is going away. Google made the announcement in October 2012 and then confirmed it at its most recent annual summit in late October 2013.

The bottom line, Zaute said, is that you’ll need to switch over to Universal Analytics sooner or later, if you want to continue getting access to your website analytics through Google.

“I’ve been telling everyone that big changes are coming in Google Analytics but no one wanted to believe me, Zaute said. At its summit, Google announced the launch of Universal Analytics, which Google says will help customers tailor analytics more to their needs, integrate their own data sets, and get a more complete picture of their “entire marketing funnel.

Zaute said Google is encouraging users to upgrade to Universal Analytics because Universal Analytics is the new operating standard for Google Analytics. “Google will cease making updates to Google Analytics and will no longer offer technical support for it, Zaute told the AM&P members at the conference. “It will only do bug fixes and security updates.

As distraught as some organizations are at the prospect of losing their old Google Analytics, Zaute said the new system will allow them to measure more that just site traffic. “With Universal Analytics, you will be able to determine things like advertising effectiveness and retention, he explained.

Zaute explained Google Analytics will continue data collection for the next two years while organizations transition to Universal Analytics. “After 2016, the way your Google Analytics looks now will not be available to you, he said. When questioned by an audience member about tags, Zaute confirmed that associations will have to go back and “re-tag every page of your site to change from Google Analytics to Universal Analytics. “It is not a quick upgrade, he said. “You will have to replace all of the Google Analytics code on your site.

When a number of audience members made audible groans, Zaute added, “Yes, your old code will get trashed, but you will gain business-centric data instead of web-centric data.

For example, a typical person uses multiple devices to surf the web and interact with your association, he said. The current measurement protocol measures interactions with your website per device. The new Universal Analytics, however, can map people across devices, platforms, and locations.

“Universal Analytics will stitch together peoples engagements with your websites across their locations, he explained. “Universal Analytics will even allow you to pull in off-line data.

Google Analytics is session-based, he added, explaining that after 30 minutes the cookie times out. “Universal Analytics moves to a user-based session but is predicated on a user ID and having the person log in, Zaute said. “It lets you sync your own data from across multiple marketing channels so that you can determine which channels drive conversions.”

In its announcement, Google said that users can now learn more about a particular aspect of the way customers interact with their organization and customize the metrics that matter to them beyond website visits.

So where should associations begin? Zaute recommends:

  • Starting with a holistic analysis of the types of data you have available and the business insights you need to derive from it.
  • Tactically, audit each page of your site for Google Analytics tag implementation.
  • Develop a road map for transitioning from the Google Analytics query library to Universal Analytics.
  • Consider using a tag management system to aid deployment of new code and for ease of updates and changes.
  • Codify the entire process from key business requirements to key performance indicators, conversion types to custom variables and profiles. This document will become a road map that can be revisited as your site changes and preserve the institutional knowledge of your implementation.

“Of course, Zaute reminded the association communicators, “the most important thing in analytics is to know what questions you are trying to answer.
Carla Kalogeridis is editorial director of Association Media & Publishing.

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