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The Future of Google Analytics?

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6th August 2019 in

Last Thursday, in the early hours of the morning here in Australia, Google posted an innocuous update to its Google Marketing Platform blog announcing a new type of Google Analytics property, available now in public beta.

The new property, named App + Web, introduces unified reporting for properties that track user behaviour across both web (Global Tag) and app (Firebase) based assets. On face value, this is simply a standard incremental update designed to answer a common concern from a small, but vocal subset of the platforms’ ten million-plus user base. Yet within those twelve paragraphs Google also subtlety disassembles many of the foundational concepts that have underpinned our shared understanding of what website analytics is, and in doing so they may have shown their hand for the future direction of Google Analytics for the web.

In the new App + Web property, ‘Views’ are replaced with ‘Data Streams’

The App + Web Property represents a radical shift away from the ten-plus year legacy of web tracking that Google kick-started after acquiring and rebranding the Urchin tracking platform in 2005. Gone are the concepts of sessions and pageviews, replaced instead with an extensible event-based model inherited from the aforementioned Firebase. Indeed, much of the new properties architecture is lifted directly from Firebase, Google’s recommended offering for app-based tracking, which itself was acquired and absorbed by Google in 2014.

The new App + Web property reporting interface

For those not familiar with Firebase’s approach to reporting, gone too are many of the familiar reports introduced alongside the various web tracking library transitions: Urchin, Universal Analytics, Google Analytics 360 and most recently Global Tag. ‘All Pages’ that mainstay of content performance reporting is nowhere to be seen for example, nor are any of the ‘All Traffic’ reports, replaced instead by a single drag-and-drop interface used to build custom reports on-the-fly, a powerful carry-over feature inherited from the enterprise aimed Google Analytics 360, and similar, dare we say, to how Workspace reports are built-in Adobe Analytics.

Building dynamic reports with the new ‘Exploration’ module

The Advanced Analysis report builder is not the only previously GA360 exclusive feature being gifted to the general public either. In a surprise decision, early signs indicate that Google is intending to provide free streaming App + Web Property integration with their big data aimed BigQuery platform enabling advanced unsampled data analysis, data source interpolation, and powerful visualisation through native Data Studio integration. A feature that is often cited as one of the key drivers for upgrading to the paid Google Marketing Platform.

So at what cost does all this power come? Well, it should be noted that the new property type is still in open beta which means any of these feature inclusions can be subject to change or withdrawal between now and final release. Additionally, some features, such as robust eCommerce reporting, are not yet supported under the new data schema. Finally, and perhaps most critically, the fundamentally different change to data schema restricts the new property type from being an upgrade available to existing web-based properties, meaning you’ll need to create a brand new property with no provision to carryover historical tracking data.

The new App + Web property tag template within Google Tag Manager

Still, we’re excited to start exploring the capabilities of what some expect will be Google’s de facto offering for future tracking and analysis, web, app or otherwise. We’re currently in the process of rolling out new internal implementations to run in parallel with our traditional Google Analytics setups so look out for future posts on the technical hurdles of doing so. As always if you have any questions, or want to discuss analytical needs for your business, please feel free to reach out.

For further details, we recommend reading former Google Analytics Advocate Krista Seiden’s excellent introduction post.

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