Upgrading to Google Universal Analytics: The Perfect Excuse to Start Tag Management

 In Insights and Analytics

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Jim Synder, a partner at Empirical Path Consulting, a Tealium certified partner. Jim leads Empirical Path’s Web Analytics Implementation practice. Previously, Jim held data and business intelligence roles at CNN.com, The Weather Channel and Yale University. Jim has an MBA from Georgia Tech.

Google Analytics devotees like us have to hustle to keep pace with new features that Google dishes out at a rapid clip, especially with Google Premium. Google Universal Analytics, for example, is a fundamental shift in GA tagging that will soon be required on every page and click you want to track. So it is a perfect opportunity to re-tag your site with a tag management system like Tealium and “future-proof” your analytics implementation.

Without a TMS, keeping up with the latest GA features like Universal Analytics’ Enhanced Ecommerce feature would take an army of engineers to deliver the code changes required in a timely manner. By putting the Tealium iQ™ tag management system on your site first, you can simultaneously upgrade to Universal Analytics while controlling all of your tracking and marketing tags in one place.

We’ve upgraded dozens of clients from the deprecated GA “Classic” or “Async,” and it is well worth it. Universal Analytics (as the name implies) enables cross-device tracking via a new user-ID feature. This anonymous ID also enables Data Imports to join non-personally identifiable user data from CRM or other systems as Custom Dimensions, which in turn can be used to create GA Views. Universal Analytics even allows offline activity like refunds and phone calls to be tracked via Universal’s new Measurement Protocol.

So if you’re going to upgrade to Universal Analytics, why not kill two — or a dozen — birds with one stone?

In the olden days, making an update like Universal Analytics on a typical web site required updating the legacy GA Classic JavaScript hard-coded on thousands of pages. You needed a plug-in or custom code for everything you wanted to track beyond page views: downloads, revenue, rich media interactions, cross-domain sessions. A GAUA-only feature like Enhanced Ecommerce potentially required hundreds of hours to place different hard-coded snippets to track cart additions and internal site promotions.

Tealium iQ greatly simplifies this process. Instead of hard-coding different tags across your entire site, your dev team just needs to place a single set of Tealium code globally. Then, through a browser interface, marketers and consultants can centrally control the GA Universal Analytics tag and all of its current — and future — customizations.

Empirical Path upgraded over 80 e-commerce web sites to Universal Analytics for a leading media company using Tealium iQ. The marketing team wanted more transaction, campaign and internal promotion data for its decision-making than its back-end and analytics systems provided. We leveraged iQ to track, report and optimize the order funnel for each web site and rolled up across the business with Universal Analytics. We enabled attribution to last-click and assisting traffic sources, as well as among ads and other calls to action on editorial pages.

In one Tealium Library, we customized tracking of key user actions and segments, including progress through order forms. A Tealium Data Source extracted query strings from Internal Promotions and tracked as Events. A JavaScript Code Extension gathered revenue and product details from the Data Layer on checkout and confirmation pages.

To give ad campaigns and on-site calls to action credit for orders, Tealium iQ’s Extensions capability and the integration of GA cross-domain tracking ensured that these touch points were “remembered” across multiple domains, all the way through to purchase.

We set Load Rules and deployed Lookup Table and Set Data Values Extensions to manage the multiple domains and GA Properties needed for dedicated and roll-up Views, including a Custom Dimension for market name, then shared the Library across all Tealium account profiles. Finally, we ensured tracking was correct across all sites by adjusting settings in Tealium and GA.

For the first time, the company can report on orders and revenue by campaign, promotion and product category aggregated across all 80+ sites, not just site by site. It uses GA’s Model Comparison Tool and Multi-Channel Funnels to understand the paths to conversion, so first-touch, interim and last-touch sources can share credit for subscriptions. Analysis now includes consumer demographics and interests plus funnel step dropout rates.

For this client and others, updating GA to Universal Analytics with a TMS greatly decreases the complexity, time and risk of running up hours and collecting bad data. Our recommendation is, when your developers are ready to “open the hood” to remove GA Classic code, first have them implement your tag management code and data layer. Once Universal and other tags are firing from the TMS, ask your developers to remove the hard-coded tags. Finally, get used to spending less time with developers and more time with data.

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