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Category: Digital Analytics

Yellow Pages Group New Zealand Upgrades to Universal Analytics

Using Google Analytics’ new Universal Analytics, we are actually able to provide more comprehensive data to Yellow Pages New Zealand than when they were using Adobe SiteCatalyst Analytics.

The public beta of Universal Analytics was only recently announced, but we have been using it for months and providing feedback to Google to help shape it into an amazing measurement platform/protocol. We are only at the early stages of what will become of Universal Analytics and how it can be leveraged for offline tracking, tracking across device types (e.g. mobile, tablet, desktop), and much more.

In this post, we will share:

  • Benefits of Universal Analytics
  • How Universal Analytics is different from the current Google Analytics
  • What are the current limitations of Universal Analytics
  • How UA met the demanding business tracking requirements of Yellow Pages NZ
  • How we leveraged the NEW Custom Dimensions
  • How we architected a unique implementation with Event Tracking

We will be providing exciting real-world examples of how we are leveraging Universal Analytics for Yellow Pages NZ, but since this is a new product, let’s review the benefits of UA (Universal Analytics) to get on the same page.

What are the benefits of Universal Analytics (UA)?

The benefits of Google’s Universal Analytics include:

  • New Measurement Protocol: The new protocol defines precisely how you can get data into GA, regardless of your platform. This means, as an example, that if you are a manufacturer of a refrigerator that is connected to the internet, you could start tracking the number of times that the refrigerator was opened and closed; pushing that data from whatever programming language you wish. Get ready for creative uses that leverage the Universal Analytics platform!
  • Cross-device Measurement: If you can identify the user (via userID), you’ll soon be able to track that person as a unique user instead of a unique visitor which was previously linked to a browser/device. Additionally, you’ll be able to see the device pathways that lead to a conversion and how these play into the mix as users hop between devices. At Google I/O 2013, there is a great presentation on this topic and what is coming.
  • Offline Conversions: The ability to leverage the new measurement protocol to bring in data from non-web data sources allows for the tracking of conversions that occur offline.
  • Custom Dimensions and Metrics: These replace custom variables. Instead of having just 5 custom variables, you now get 20 dimensions and 20 metrics (Premium clients get 200 of each!). More benefits on these further below in this post.
  • Faster: The client-side demands have decreased. There is only one cookie (instead of 4-5 previously) and all of the sessionization logic and more is now handled during processing. This means a smaller pixel and a smaller JavaScript library to generate those hits. Another example is that the ecommerce tracking code has been separated from the main analytics.js to reduce its size. The plugin architecture allows you to only include that code when needed (on your ecommerce receipt page).
  • Flexible Namespacing: This is a feature that has not widely been talked about. You can now control the name of the cookie that UA uses to identify the user (visitor ID). This makes complex multi-tracker situations much easier. Additionally, if they do use the same cookie, you can control other settings at the code-level and in the admin interface about how data is processed.
  • BigQuery Integration: At Google I/O 2013, the Google Analytics team announced an integration with Google BigQuery that allows access to hit-level clickstream data (similar to our Clickstreamr tool but unlike our tool this solution will require Google Analytics Premium). By having the ability to access the raw data, you can combine this with external data sets and answer more complex business questions.
  • More to come: As a benefit of the new code architecture and how data is processed, more exciting features are ahead.

How is Universal Analytics Different from the Current Google Analytics?

The classic Google Analytics tracking version (ga.js) varies in quite a few ways. In ga.js, you don’t get the following features:

  • Custom dimensions and metrics
  • Online/offline data sync
  • Multi-platform tracking
  • Simplified configuration controls (via the admin)
  • New feature releases

Current Universal Analytics Limitations

As of writing this blog post, the Universal Analytics version (analytics.js) does not support:

  • AdSense integration
  • Content Experiments
  • DFA (DoubleClick For Advertisers)
  • Remarketing

Remarketing is a big missing feature. We are waiting for this to be supported before rolling it out to the majority of our clients. The good news is that according to Google, Remarketing support is coming soon.

Likely exciting to your technical team, the Universal Analytics syntax is much easier and standardized. Gone are the days of _gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]); and enter the streamlined syntax of ga(‘send’,’pageview’);

How Universal Analytics Helped Yellow Pages Group® New Zealand

At Blast Analytics & Marketing, we’ve had access to Universal Analytics for the past seven months under a private beta. During that time, we’ve been working with many of our clients on migrating them to the new Universal Analytics platform.

In this case study, we will be highlighting our Google Analytics Premium client; Yellow Pages Group® New Zealand. As a Blast Premium client, Yellow Pages received measurement strategy, fully customized implementation, and ongoing support from our Google Analytics experts; all included in the cost of Premium.

Early on during our discovery process, we found that Yellow Pages had unique and detailed reporting needs. Plus, they were also transitioning from Adobe SiteCatalyst Analytics to Google Analytics Premium.

NOTE: We support both analytics tools here at Blast, so we were in the unique position of being able to rapidly understand their current processes and code as well as how to transition to Google Analytics Premium. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this or written about transitioning from Adobe SiteCatalyst to Google Analytics. We’ve also performed dual-implementations for clients, implementing multiple tools at the same time or in different order — tool knowledge is one of our unique differentiators.

Meeting Demanding Business Requirements

For Yellow, to meet the business requirements, we have to collect a lot of data that the standard Google Analytics tag just doesn’t provide. In the screenshot below, we are looking at a search result page. We searched for ‘Restaurants’ in ‘Auckland, NZ’. In a standard Google Analytics implementation, you’d get the URL of this page. Yellow needs to know more. They need to know who is appearing on the search result page, in what order, and what kind of interactions are taking place. Tracking data at this granularity provides their BI (Business Intelligence) team the ability to perform in-depth analysis about each listing and the performance of that listing.

Yellow Restaurant Search

How we leveraged Custom Dimensions in GA Premium

We leveraged the new Custom Dimensions feature in Universal Analytics and we were able to meet Yellow’s reporting requirements. The primary advantage of Custom Dimensions is that they are treated as first-class dimensions. Gone are the days when your custom report said ‘Custom Variable Key (02)’ and upon report delivery your management looks confused as to what they are looking at. Now, whatever you name the custom dimension, this is what shows up as the dimension name within the report.

It is a very simple change but so helpful! By leveraging Custom Dimensions we are also no longer constrained by the 128 character key-value pair limit of Custom Variables. For Yellow, we often have data strings that are 900 characters and are parsed by the BI tool.

Yet another advantage of Custom Dimensions is that we can now filter on them via profile filters. This wasn’t possible with custom variables. Like custom variables, you still have the ability to send the dimension values at different scope levels (now they are called hit, session, and user levels).

Custom Reports for Custom Dimensions Reporting

When you use Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics, you have to be aware that there are no built-in reports that will show you this data. Instead, you must create custom reports. Here’s an example of the custom report setup that we used to show the category names that are often searched:

Pretty simple right? We end up with a report that looks like the following (data is obfuscated):

We can then break this down by other ‘secondary’ dimensions such as search term or what type of search result page (a map result page, etc). We are no longer confined by the built-in capabilities of the Internal Site Search reports and its limit of a single category.

How we leveraged event tracking in GA Premium

Yellow had another unique report request. In their previous implementation of Adobe SiteCatalyst, they were able to report on the number of unique times that a visit (session) interacted with an individual listing. You can interact with a listing by clicking to show their phone number, clicking their website, and more. There are a lot of interactions that can take place that qualify for this engagement. In SiteCatalyst, this is accomplished via event serialization where you must give each event a unique and distinct value. This is most often done by specifying a session ID on top of another unique identifier (listing ID in this case).

In many cases within Google Analytics, goal tracking is the obvious solution to provide for this reporting need. You can only convert once per goal per session, so it ends up being unique to the session. Unfortunately, if a visitor interacted with four different listings, the goal conversion would only report a total interaction count of one. This doesn’t meet our objective and we obviously can’t create thousands and thousands of goals!

We decided to architect a unique system by leveraging event tracking. Events can be captured with 3 levels of hierarchy: event category, event action, and event label. Don’t worry about the description of each, we just care that it is 3 levels deep. Typically, in reporting, you’ll drill into the category and view the action and then you can click into the action to view the label; it is a nested hierarchy. When a visit interacts with a listing, we capture the data in the following structure:

  • Event Category: Listing Interaction
  • Event Action: {Unique ID of listing}
  • Event Label: {Interaction Type}

Pause for a minute and make sure you have this structure in your head before you read on…

The end result is that we can look at the number of ‘unique events’ at the category level (Listing Interaction) to determine the number of unique sessions that interacted with ANY listing. Further, and more importantly to meet the reporting objectives, we can click into the ‘Listing Interaction’ category and query a specific listing ID to get the number of unique events fired for ONLY that listing ID. If we need more granular data about the type of interaction, we can click into the listing ID and get that data.

The ‘unique events’ metric in Google Analytics is always relative to the hierarchy level you are at (it is de-duplicated/serialized). Mission accomplished!


The examples above are just a few of the ways that we’ve customized Yellow Page’s Google Analytics Premium implementation to meet their business objectives. We hope that these examples shed some light on the new possibilities with Universal Analytics. As the features in Universal Analytics continue to expand, we’ll be writing several other blog posts that dive into how we are leveraging them for our clients.

Let us know in the comments if you have any questions about Google’s new Universal Analytics. And if you enjoyed this post, please +1 and share it!

Joe Christopher
About the Author

As Vice President, Analytics at Blast Analytics, Joe leads a team of talented, analytics consultants responsible for helping clients understand and take action on their vast amounts of data, to continuously improve and EVOLVE their organizations. With over 20 years of experience in analytics and digital marketing, Joe offers a high-level of knowledge and guidance to clients across all industries. He is an expert in all major analytics platforms including Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics, as well as various tag management systems such as Tealium and Adobe Launch. He also consults on data visualization, data governance, and data quality strategies. Having extensive expertise in many areas, has enabled Joe to become a well known thought leader and speak at industry events such as Tealium’s Digital Velocity series. Joe remains on the pulse of various information technology, programming languages, tools and services, keeping Blast and its clients on the leading edge.

Connect with Joe on LinkedIn. Joe Christopher has written on the Blast Digital Customer Experience and Analytics Blog.

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