google analytics 4 bootcamp

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The Future of Google Analytics

In this lesson we will cover the following topics:

  • Introduce the next generation of Google Analytics
  • Look at some of the exciting new features
  • Share next steps on getting started


App + Web: The Next Generation of Google Analytics


Before getting started, let’s have a look at some of the history of Google Analytics. Up to now, there were two different Analytics platforms: Google Analytics and Google Analytics for Firebase. Firebase is Google’s platform for Apps, and the standard Analytics platform deals with Web data.


 

The problem with having two different platforms is that it makes it much harder for companies to compare and analyze their data: the features are different, the way it is displayed is different, etc.

 


With the next generation of Analytics, Google have combined App + Web into one platform.

 

 

The old Google Analytics model was still based on the same technology that brought us urchin in 2005. With the new model, they are starting from scratch to bring the technology right up to the present day and beyond, and resolving some of the issues we had with the old version.


App + Web is not only relevant for those with an app; whether you have a website only, an app only, or both app + web, this version is important for you. And you can get started with it right away – it is all available now for you to use.


In fact, if you go and try to create a new property in Analytics today, you will have to choose between these three options.

 

 

Even better, if you have app properties in the old Firebase system, you can import these into a new App + Web property and combine your data. In fact, the new app+ web model is built on the current Firebase platform, just adding on web capabilities. Here is another way of thinking about it.

 


In summary, App + Web is a complete rewrite of the Google Analytics you knew which includes a new data model, a new interface, and no backwards compatibility.


A New Data Model


What do we mean when we talk about a new data model? Let’s look at the classic hit types from the old Google Analytics:

  • Events
  • Page views
  • E-Commerce
  • User Timings
  • Social Interactions
  • Exceptions
  • Screens

The new App + Web data model doesn’t collect data based on “hits”, but instead based on Events. This means, it’s much easier and simpler to track.


Here’s a comparison of how a video would be tracked under the two different models.

 


This gives you a lot more flexibility and makes setup much easier.


New Features With App + Web


Let’s take a look at some of the new features offered with the new App + Web model. Although it’s also important to note what is missing from the new model that we had with the old Google Analytics and what that means for you as a user.


Improved Funnel Reports


The new App + Web includes some exciting new funnels features which either didn’t exist in the old model or were only available as paid extras as part of GA360. The new feature allows you to create new funnels on the fly that are retroactive and with any conditions that you want.


In the example below you can see funnels created for subscriptions, form fills, ecommerce, leads, etc.

 

 

Trended Funnels


You can even create trended funnels, which is a feature that doesn’t even exist on the paid 360 model.


A trended funnel allows you to track each step of your funnel on a graph to see how it changes over time and how different elements affect the trajectory.

 

 

Open vs Closed Funnels


Another new feature with funnels allows you to create open or closed funnels. With an open funnel you can allow entrance at any step of the process, whereas a closed funnel only allows entrance at step one.


 

Elapsed Time Between Steps


In the existing version of Analytics, it’s very difficult to measure the time between steps in your funnels. For example, how long does it take a user from accessing your site to adding an item to the cart? How long between adding to cart and purchase?


The new version provides data on the time between the steps in your funnels. Just enable the Show Elapsed Time checkbox to show this data.

 

 

Next Action


The new version also makes it easy for you to see the user’s next action on the funnel so you can track your user journeys easily.

 

 

New Pathing Reports


The new version of Analytics has other types of reports that aren’t even available in the current GA360. One example of this are pathing reports, which show user flow through your website. The current user flow reports in GA are highly sampled and very rigid. The new pathing reports solve those problems for Analytics users by allowing you to easily view Events or Pages, click to see where the user goes next and it’s much easier to groupsegment or do other kinds of pathing analysis.

 

 

New Realtime Reports


The current realtime reports available in Analytics are looking a bit dated. On top of that, they aren’t flexible or transparent enough and are difficult to use.


With the new realtime reports, you have access to many more parameters and data than before.

 


With Audiences, for example, you can see what audiences are visiting your site today.

 


You also have Custom Events, where you can see parameters.

 

 

And you can even track User Properties.

 

 

One of the biggest improvements with runtime reports is that they give you realtime user activity streams.

 

 

Improved Debugging


You can set up a debugging view, which is a new feature where you can send all of your test data to one report specifically for debugging. Previously, it was much more complex to do debugging, but now it's much simpler with the debug view:

  • See the data streams in order
  • Click on any data to check the metadata is correct
  • Troubleshoot problems quickly and easily

 

Automatic Measurement


One of the problems with getting useful data from Analytics was that you needed to set up a number of different tags to track all the different metrics. With the new version, it’s simply a case of activating Enhanced Measurement and all of these parameters are tracked automatically.

 

 

In fact, Enhanced Measurement is activated automatically and leaves it up to you to remove things that you don’t need.


Reporting Identity


Currently, to identify and track users, Google uses cookies. However, in order to track the same user across multiple devices, cookies are not useful, so Google also allow you to send them the user ID – if your users log in to access your site – to track that same user across multiple devices. However, the problem with this is that Google separates the user data from anonymous and identified users into different reports.


With App + Web, they have been able to consolidate this. Now, when a user logs in with their ID, Google tracks that user by user ID, and if they don’t log in, it defaults to anonymous tracking by device. If you want, you can switch the default to only track anonymous data. The best thing is that it will apply these settings to all of your existing data whenever you switch between the two settings, without making any permanent changes.

 

 

New Standard Reports


Because the new version of App + Web is built from scratch, that means that all of the existing reports are slightly different, with new features and different looks.


The traditional reports suite was: AudienceAcquisitionsBehavior and Conversions. App + Web tries to simplify the reporting by making it easier for you to find what you’re looking for. On the side menu, you will be able to navigate easily to reports on UsersDemographicsBehavior and Technology. In addition, you will be able to view all Events data, including Conversions.


The UI has also been refreshed: Now you can see realtime data and some different visual elements.

 

 

New Audience Builder


Using advanced segments, or the audience builder, you can build an audience on the fly and then create a new report to tell you about that audience.


App + Web has taken the existing audience builder and added even more features, such as new event scopingduration, time-based sequences and an exclude option.


For example, if you have a 5-step form and want to find out how many people completed it in less than 5 minutes, the old system wouldn’t let you do this, but can do it now with the new time-based sequences.


Exclusion options let you exclude temporarily or permanently, whereas before you could only exclude permanently.

 

 

New Cross-Platform Reports


If you have a common user ID that you are tracking, you’ll be able to see the data combined across web, android and iOS platforms.

 

 

Simplified Conversion Tracking


In the old GA platform, you could only track conversions effectively if you had goals configured. Without that, you would be missing a lot of important features. Conversion data is essential for your business and the new version has made it super simple to track. All you need to do is find the event you want to track on the Events page, and enable the Mark as conversion toggle.


If you want to change what you are tracking at any point. You can set a total of 30 conversions and can easily turn them on and off if, for example, you want to free up another slot.

 


New Google Ads Linking / Predictive Analysis


Everything you create in Google Ads is automatically shared with your Analytics account and vice versa. So if you have created audiences in your Analytics account, these are automatically shared with Google Ads. This is helpful and an easy way to share data if you have two different managers for your Analytics and Ads accounts.


In addition, Google have added predictive capabilities so if you are using App + Web, Google will create audiences and create predictive behavior models for them. There are two of these metrics; purchase probability and churn probability. For example, based on the behavior of a user who visited your site in the last 7 days, Google will tell you the probability of them visiting again in the next 7 days. This can be very valuable in terms of helping you decide where to put your ad spend.

 

 

Free BigQuery Linking


There’s one thing that users have been asking for more than any other and that’s integrations. The API from the old Analytics has it’s limitations and so offering free linking to BigQuery manages to solve many of these problems.


All you have to do is import your data into BigQuery and then have that raw data available for linking and integrating to whichever platform you want.

 

 


Getting Started With App + Web


After looking at all of these great new features and improvements of App+Web, does that mean you should drop everything else and start using it right now?


Here are some of the limitations of App + Web that make it unwise to start using it as your only analytics tool:

  • Restrictive limits – parameter limits shared at property level, no global parameters, etc.
  • Basic reporting can be very challenging (campaign reporting, attribution, e-commerce, etc).
  • Under heavy development (which is good in some respects but also means things are likely to break).
  • No data studio connector.

For all these reasons and more, it is still recommended to continue using the old version of Analytics for the time being.


To get started right away with App + Web Analytics, here are three simple things you can do:

  • Go and create App + Web properties today in Google Analytics
  • Review these great resources from Simo Ahava and Krista Seidan
  • Use this free in-depth implementation guide for App + Web using Google Tag Manager

This will take no more than 10 minutes of your time but will allow you to start collecting data which you will be able to capitalize on in the future, even if you are not going to start using the data now.


Summary

  • App + Web is exciting and is full of long-awaited features
  • App + Web should be a side implementation to your existing GA
  • You should get started today


FAQs


When is App + Web going to be fully ready?


The estimation is sometime next year. The e-commerce and attributions modules are two features that aren’t included yet. Also, filters are not included yet and some backend admin features. Once these things are added, it should be ready to use.


If you are already using GA360, what is the recommended rollout procedure?


The recommended procedure for getting started is the same, no matter whether you are using the standard or 360 version of Analytics.


Do you need to have Blaze in Firebase to connect to BigQuery?


For now, you do need to sign up for a Firebase Blaze plan in order to connect with BigQuery but this will probably be simplified in the future. This won’t cost you anything as you can sign up for a pay-as-you-go account.


Does App + Web handle single-page apps differently for page views?


It does a better job than GA does today as page views is already enabled in the enhanced measurement section and you can then customize it however you want.


Can you use a specific user property as a trigger in GA4?


Attributions are very different when it comes to apps.


What integrations are available at the moment?


Firebase and Google Ads are the only integrations that are available at the moment.


Is it possible to export data using Tableau?


Yes but you would do that via BigQuery.


Which set of events or pages do you recommend approaching and setting up right away to get ready?


Start with the basics to get your data coming in and then focus on the top level metrics which are most meaningful to your business e.g. conversions. Next, focus on the lower-level metrics, such as whatever gets you to those conversions.


With the new EU decisions around Privacy Shield, will Google have to support EU data centers for GA?


Right now data is distributed so it doesn’t stay in one place, and is also encrypted so it's very secure. It remains to be seen whether Google will have to conform to these indications in the future.


Is the API launched?


Not yet.


As App + Web does not have views, what do you do about clients who still want to use views?


Streams is a useful alternative to views and you can configure that in the Users area.

 

 

Google may come out with more options and alternatives for views in upcoming feature releases.


What alternative is provided for filters?


Enterprise-level Analytics users may use filters a lot and these are the users who are going to initially find the most limitations with App+Web functionality. Use the current version as a testing site for now. You can use different properties and streams for separating data from the outset.


Can you change the attribution model on all of your attribution reports?


This is the functionality that is being built for App+Web. Right now it will let you customize your reports and select a different attribution type but the options are limited to ‘last engagement’ or ‘last click’. In the future, you will have many more options to choose from so you can compare first v last, etc. for ALL of your reports.

 

 

Charles Farina has been working with Google Analytics for over 10 years, mainly on Analytics 360 and is currently working for Adswerve, one of Google’s top partners in GA360.

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