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The differences between Classic GA and Universal Analytics

If you spend any amount of time using Google Analytics you would have seen that for around about a year you have been able to choose Universal Analytics as an alternative to Classic GA. So what the difference, well first and foremost Universal Analytics has been in BETA testing and this has been enough to put quite a lot of people from migrating over.

Universal Analytics is now out of BETA testing

Since April 2nd 2014 Universal Analytics has been out of public beta, so should you migrate over? The simple answer is yes, you should migrate over to the new version of analytics as it will soon become mandatory. Google hasn’t yet specified when this will be but have expressed their intent that all users will use the universal analytics account.

Luckily for everyone, Google has developed the Universal Analytics Upgrade Centre which will be able to assist you in migrating across.

The Differences

Both versions of analytics run via a Javascript application that Google maintains. The Classic Google Analytics code is named ga.js whilst the new Universal Analytics code is named analytics.js. Similarly both files transmit a block of data that Google Analytics help change into graphs.

By migrating across you will have access to a range of new features including:

  • Timeout Handling
  • Customer Search Engines
  • Referral Exclusions

Syntax Changes

If you plan to migrate to Universal Analytics you need to be aware that there are a range of syntax changes that you will need to make if you currently track any of the following:

Custom Variables

  • Events
  • eCommerce Tracking
  • Social Interactions


You used to be able to track events using the _gaq Global Object however _gaq no longer works with Universal Analytics. It is time for you to begin getting familiar with the ga function.

Event Tracking

In order to track events you now need to pass the send command with the event hit type as parameters to the ga function. I have provided an example below of how you can track the amount of clicks you phone number receives:


<a href="tel:07541987924" onclick="ga('send', 'event', 'link', 'click', 'Phone Number');">07541987924</a>

Still don’t see the benefits?

Sadly even if you still don’t see the benefits of why to migrate to Universal Analytics I would recommend you still do. The fact is Google will phase out Classic Analytics so the sooner you migrate the easier and the better it will be. Not only will you have more comprehensive reports regarding your website you will save your self time in the long run when Google does decide to enforce the change.

Written by:

Creative Director - - 07541987924 - DOB: 02/1993/27

With over five years commercial experience in the web industry, Adam specialises in all things web related. Adam has a passion for CRO, ensuring that the websites he creates don't just look great but also make his clients money.

Mash Web Design