This article has been updated (6/4/2014) - back at the end of April, it didn't look like it was time to switch but now some time has passed and we're encouraging people to make this change now. We've done it on our own website with no problems.
Here's a good article from Justing Cutroni (of Google) explaining what to do:
Universal Analytics: Now out of beta! (cutroni.com)
No, you do not need to migrate to Universal Analytics – at least not now.
However, you need to start planning to migrate.
Universal Analytics is the new platform – all new features will be developed for UA. So if you want to use the new shiny things in the future you need to be on UA.
We're estimating that doing this work for most clients will take 1-2 Maintenance Blocks.
Basically, it's Google Analytics 2.0 - or maybe 3.0. I remember when this program was owned by another company called Urchin and even back then it was very good - and you had to pay for it.
Here's where Google explains what it is and what to do:
Universal Analytics Upgrade Center (developers.google.com)
Universal Analytics is a set of technological innovations that improve the way data is collected and processed in Google Analytics.
The Universal Analytics Upgrade is a process you can use to upgrade all of your classic Google Analytics properties into Universal Analytics properties without losing any data or changing your account settings.
All Google Analytics properties will soon be required to use Universal Analytics. Any properties that don’t follow the upgrade process will be auto-transferred to Universal Analytics in the future.
And here's more about what the benefits are:
Migrating to Universal Analytics (cutroni.com)
Currently Supported by Universal Analytics:
- Standard website metrics: All of your favorite metrics, like visitors, visits, pageviews, time, etc. will be in Universal Analytics. And it will also collect standard information like geographic location, referral sources, marketing campaigns, etc.
- Ecommerce tracking: You can still collect ecommerce transactions with the new Universal Analytics.
- Event Tracking: Event tracking, that insanely useful feature that you can use to track all sorts of visitor interactions, like reading an article, is supported by Universal Analytics.
- AdWords Linking: You can still link an AdWords account (or multiple accounts if you’re working with a bigger client) to Universal Analytics.
- Custom Variables: Custom variables will be replaced by a new feature called Custom Dimensions. There are two main differences. First, you get 20 custom dimensions. Second, there is a little less coding to set up a custom dimension. More on these very, very, soon.
- Custom Metrics: In addition to the new Custom Dimensions there are also new Custom Metrics. A Custom Metric is a custom count of something that is specific to your business. More on these soon.
Finally, another important factor is that Universal Analytics is THE Google Analytics platform. New features will be rolled out to the Universal Analytics code base.
One way to more or less "future-proof" your website so that you don't have to keep updating the code is to use Google Tag Manager. You just implement this code once and then when there are changes, you just go into Google Tag Manager to change what your code does - whenever you want. You can even add non-Google tags (code) in there... pretty cool!
Go ahead and tell us you'd like to start using Google Universal Analytics and we'll help you get switched over!