One Thing You Must Know About Upgrading To Universal Analytics

Universal Analytics is finally out of beta. From today you have to use it when creating a property.

For those who are currently on the old version of Google Analytics (you can tell because the tag installed on your website will be including the ga.js libraries, rather than analytics.js) there is one very important thing you need to know.

The one thing you should know

If you upgrade your old property to Universal Analytics within the Google Analytics interface, your analytics will stop collecting data!

That’s right, hitting the ‘auto-upgrade’ button in the interface is NOT the only change you need to make.

Google have communicated the process of upgrading rather poorly. Most people I have consulted for simply believe this one action will convert them to Universal Analytics.


In fact it breaks all your tracking.

What you need to do

In order to properly upgrade to Universal Analytics, you need to do two things:

  1. Hit the upgrade button in the Google Analytics interface.
  2. Change all your tracking code from ga.js syntax to analytics.js syntax.

This second point is a biggie. You need to rip out your tracking code and completely replace it with the new one.

How to do this

You are most likely in two situations.

  • A. You are a small business and have done the bare minimum installation of Google Analytics. You don’t have any custom events or custom variables. In fact, all you did was place the base code onto every page of your website.

In this case, switching to Universal Analytics is relatively straight forward. Your developers or CMS system should allow you to upgrade in a matter of hours.

  • B. You have a more sophisticated Google Analytics set up. You are tracking in-page interactions using custom events, are firing virtual pageviews on AJAX calls, are using custom variables to hold data about your users, or all of the above.

You have more work to do. You probably got your developers to do most of the implementation work. You probably don’t have a solution design document detailing what events fire where. In your case I recommend using the opportunity to do a review of your Google Analytics account. In brief, do this by:

  1. Looking for all the events and custom variables you no longer use, and make a note of them.
  2. Draw up a spreadsheet or document detailing what events, custom metrics and dimensions you will want in your new implementation.
  3. Decide if you will be hardcoding or using a tag management system like Tealium or Google Tag Manager.
  4. Implement

You may wish to hire Google Analytics consultants to aide with this process.


  • Switching from standard Google Analytics to Universal Analytics is not as straight forward as Google make out.
  • You need to change the code on your webiste.
  • Take the time to do a review of your web analytics.
  • Hire Google Analytics consultants to help you with the process if necessary.
Ed Brocklebank (aka Metric Mogul) is an analytics and digital marketing consultant. He helps business of all sizes become more data-driven through measurement, strategy and activation. He works as a Strategic Analytics Director at Jellyfish in London, as well as delivering training on behalf of Google and formerly General Assembly.