The following is a live blog of the Google Analytics Partner Summit 2012 Keynote where Universal Analytics is announced. It was written in haste while taking in all kinds of information, so please forgive any mistakes in accuracy. I will try to correct once the excitement dies down.
Paul Muret has been working on the Google Analytics product for 12 years – ever since it was called Urchin. As far as I can remember, this is his first time giving a keynote for the product and he absolutely earned it.
Paul starts off by telling us about our audience. There are people here from 46 countries and 250 unique companies. I would estimate about 400 people in attendance.
Quickly, the direction of the keynote moves to a recap of what Google Analytics has done in the past 12 months. There is an amazing list of innovations in Google Analytics in the past year:
- Real Time Analytics
- Social Media Analysis
- Attribution modeling (Last click attribution is imperfect)
- Mobile App tracking (new methods, new SDK and more)
- Remarketing through Google Analytics
- Tag Management with Google Tag Manager
In fact, there was so much to announce that they didn't even mention Content experiments or interface improvements.
It's been a big year for Google Analytics to say the least!
Now we are starting to get into some of the future of Google Analytics.
Looking to the future of Google Analytics
Here is where we get to the announcements about the future of Google Analytics. In listening to the hints that the team has been dropping, my guess has been that Google Analytics is going to be branching into more channels than just web analytics, and may even rebrand the product to be something more broadly reaching than just the web.
If our objective is to make money, how do we make it easier? How do we find people who are top converters online? For starters, we need to optimize around our primary objectives. But that can be hard with device fragmentation.
Paul surveys the crowd to see how many people use 3 or more devices. The majority of the crowd uses at least 3 devices to connect to the Internet at any given time, with one person using 7 devices.
This has created an issue with measurement across multiple devices and touch points, because these devices do not talk to each other. Traditional web analytics tools are meant for just that – the web. We need for technology to help accomplish the goal of tracking users across devices.
The Root of the Problem
Analytics platforms are built on a premise that is no longer true: that users have a single touchpoint and access on a single device. This is rooted in cookies stored on a single machine that stores data about how that web browser visits the site.
Paul looks through the code and tells us what everything means. He then takes a pause and says “Why did we create this? This is crazy!”
Simply put, cookies just won't work anymore for what we need to accomplish to measure our digital marketing efforts.
What if we could use just a single ID to track people across devices? It's coming people! Paul says that this is the biggest change that they have made to the platform since they made Google Analytics.
Introducing Universal Analytics
Universal Analytics is designed to help track users across multiple devices, giving a much better picture of user behavior as an individual and not a series of disparate sessions. It accomplishes this 4 ways.
1) New Measurement Protocol
It all starts with how we track people. Legacy event tracking was complicated.
New event tracking is much simpler and easier to use. Simple simple tracking.
Cookies are almost no longer necessary at all in Universal Analytics, because all cookies are handled in the back end of Google Analytics. You can significantly reduce the number and size of cookies that are sent
Interactions can be done through things like swiping your employee badge. There is a live demo where Nick Mihailovski and a fellow engineer demonstrate how this works by scanning their badges and watching the interaction in Real Time Google Analytics.
User ID Control
Measurement is challenging for marketers. From just desktop websites and mobile devices and apps, you can now measure just about everything in Google Analytics using a common ID.
Even better, you can use your own ID's for tracking Google Analytics, not just Google's!
Now we can shift from a visit centric view to a real user centric view. In the past, we only measured visits by a device, but did not have data about who this person actually was. Google Analytics now allows you to track users across devices, mediums, platforms and more!
The engineers working on this project do a live demo of how this works while using a tablet and his computer. The first visit is driven by email marketing on a tablet. The second visit is on a desktop computer from a direct visit. In traditional Google Analytics, this would be treated as two different visitors and Direct visits would get the credit for the sale.
But that was the old Google Analytics. This also lead to the quote of the day:
Let's go back to the “Old” Google Analytics – the Google Analytics that existed 10 minutes ago
This ability to track the same user across multiple devices can be a game changer for some businesses. It is under a limited pilot that will roll out over the next few quarters. The major focus is user-centric cross-device reporting
3) Offline Analytics
Not all conversions happen online, though. In fact, most transactions still happen in person, through retail, on the phone or through other analog methods. This has made tracking sales back to digital drivers almost impossible. But now this is no longer.
You can now track offline conversions in Google Analytics by integrating with your offline data. This is especially useful for Lead Generation companies where the purchase does not happen online. It's also useful for retail purchases driven by online.
This allows for a much more complete picture of your ROI, and Google Analytics can become a single place where you can track all of the of your activities
For the type of websites I work with, this is probably the biggest announcement of the day. I'm very excited to see how this rolls out.
4) Dimensioning Widening
The last element is a huge opportunity that I have been waiting for since I first got into Google Analytics – the ability to augment the data that they collect with data from your own systems.
Yes, you will soon be able to upload data from your CRM system or CMS into Google Analytics as a CSV file and enhance your report through secondary dimensions in your Google Analytics Reports.
And this is coming in Q1, 2013!
Universal Analytics is Coming Soon!
When can we expect to see Universal Analytics? Sooner than you think for some elements. Here is a product roadmap for when things will roll out.
I know that the term “game changer” gets thrown around a lot, but Universal Analytics is truly a game changer for small, medium and large businesses looking to measure marketing activity across channels. As we go into a multiple device, multiple screen and multiple interaction world, being able to track behaviors across each medium is imperative for success. Google Analytics has struck first in trying to make this work. I'm excited to be along for the ride.
You can read Google's announcement at the Google Analytics Blog