Google App+Web : A glimpse into the future of analytics tracking

Google App + Web – An Intro

Like you, the team at DRD had been in isolation. To maintain our sanity while the world is bunkering down against the CoVid-19 enemy, we have been researching, reading voraciously, and digging up dirt on this new App+Web property. DRD strongly believes in a sharing-is-caring culture, so we hope to answer some who, what why, how questions!

This post, the first of many, is to give you an overview of what this App+Web (AW) is all about. However, before you get too excited and jump on the AW flyaway gravy train, you must know that AW is still in beta. This means that not all desired features are available while some are still in the midst of being improved. 

App+Web was launched in July 2019 and is essentially the ‘new Google Analytics’. Despite its name, you don’t need to have an App. Righto, first things first – you have to create a new property in your existing Google Analytics Account. If you already have gtag.js or Google Tag Manager on your site, you can utilize the existing infrastructure to collect data for App+Web. Further, with a few configurations and tags in place, you can start to gather information in your new App+Web Property.

The Concept

It’s undeniable that our noses are more buried in our phones these days. The FOMO, YOLO, FOBO mentality has driven our society to have insatiable appetites to consume more of everything such as news, gossip and latest fashion trends or games. As such, the app industry has exploded with more app downloads year on year.

Given this growing trend of mobile and single-page apps, perhaps the notion of pageviews and sessions have lost some of its relevance compared to when the sessions were first conceptualized yonks ago. In addition to the fact that some apps may not have pageviews, perhaps event-scope concept is a better way of tracking and measuring some interactions. Oh, what about websites, you asked? As website users do click,scroll, play and toggle on websites, a generalized concept will allow web interactions to be measured directly as well.  

The idea behind this new AW property is to enable the analyst to combine both app and web interactions and event measurements into consolidated reports within the one platform. Previously, you would have a set of reports for web users and another set for App users. This new development would mean that we can now explore user-centric analytics across various digital platforms efficiently and subsequently as a tool to divulge valuable insights.

App+Web and Firebase

If you are familiar with Firebase, you will be pleased to know that App+Web (AW) works in the same way as AW is built on the Firebase or Google Analytics for Firebase data schema. Because of this, many of the special hit types and data types in traditional websites are more defined by events, parameters and user properties in AW.

Similarities and Differences

While the terms of pageviews, sessions, events are there, the application of the terms are different due to the event-scoped data model. In traditional GA, all hits (pageviews and events) sit within a session and all sessions are then related back to a single user. 

Traditional Google Analytics Session-Based Model

For AW, the building blocks of what a user is like, is via the events (which also includes pageviews!) that happen while the user is navigating through the app or website. You will also noticed that the unique events metrics have disappeared and this is because unique events is a session-based metric.

App+Web Event-Based Model

There are also new concepts such as User properties, Parameters and Engaged Sessions to grasp. To put it loosely, User Properties are like user-scoped custom dimensions while parameters are attached to events to provide more context to that particular event. Do note that there are some limitations surrounding the naming of user properties.

The idea behind this is to simplify yet allowing for increased flexibility in data collection and to open a plethora of new tracking opportunities. Therefore, the reports will be different, they will be new and will require a learning curve. Remember the days when you are learning to ride the bike? It was uncomfortable and you probably badly scraped your knees a good few times, but once you’ve mastered the bike-riding.. freedom never tasted so good! Keep that happy thought in your head while gritting through the AW learning pain.

There are also challenges that come without sessions, such as Goals and setting what was previously session-based goals. Segments in AW is bit different to what you are used to in Universal Analytics but you’ll be pleased to know that you can still apply sequential segments to your data.

Views and Data Stream

You will also notice that there are no Views and in its place, there are Data Streams, which essentially are your data sources like iOS, Android or Web. Given that there are no Views in AW, we do face the ‘how-do-I-filter-data’ challenge. In time, we hope to give you more information on how to overcome this issue. 

App+Web Interface and Reports

The interface is not that much different to the current GA set up. On the left hand panel, there are the Users, Demographics, Behaviour, Conversions and Event as its own heading (instead of being nested under Behaviour). Within each report, you have various widgets presenting different things such as active users, source/medium, page title and campaign overview. 

Within the same left hand menu pane, you will also find the Analysis Hub. This hub enables you to gain deeper insights as well as form different visualisations by simply dragging and dropping metrics and dimensions. We have Exploration, Segment Overlap, Funnel Analysis, User Explorer and Path Analysis reports to content ourselves with. 

Do I or Do I Not?

You are probably on Universal Analytics at the moment, and if your website was around before 2013, you were probably on Classic Analytics. When Universal Analytics (UA) came into play, a lot of development was focussed on UA and the Classic cousin was left out. Following the crumbs of the cookie trail (pardon the pun!), we are of the belief that App+Web is likely to take over GA (UA) and will be made the primary analytics tool. 

Given all the above, we think it would be a good idea to have both AW and UA running in tandem, to familiarize yourself with AW while the development kinks are ironed out. After all, additional knowledge never hurts!

Where is hostname?

You might be looking for hostname in App+Web. The concept of hostname has been replaced by data streams because you can have both app and web-based data streaming into your Google Analytics property.

You configure your streams in the Data Stream section of settings. More about that here.

Stream name as a reportable dimension, however, does not match what you named your stream in the settings. Stream name defaults to the type of stream (web or app).

To see a unique value that represents the hostname, you will need to use Stream ID for now.

You can see Stream ID next to page path in the Exploration report in the Analysis Hub.

Obviously, this is not an ideal solution so we are hoping this will be updated as App+Web continues to be developed.