Why upgrade to GA360? – A comprehensive guide to Google Analytics 360

Kevin Joyner

Director of Data Strategy

31st October 2019

~ 8 min read

No one wants to pay for something they can get for free. The free version of Google Analytics is a powerful website and app measurement platform. It’s an effective insight and audience-targeting component for advertising on Google Ads, and for digital marketing more broadly.

So if you’re considering investing in GA360 – the paid-for version of Google Analytics – you’ll probably need to see a solid business case. Or maybe it’s you that’s recommending investing in GA360, and you need to write the case yourself. Either way, the Analytics team at Serpico by Croud has had plenty of practice at supporting clients with the case for GA360, and with the decision to invest in it.

On 10th October we hosted a breakfast event, at which we welcomed a guest speaker – and Google Analytics product expert – Danny Kim, Measurement Solutions Consultant at Google.

And we saw presentations from Chris Ford, Tammy Greaves, Lucy Pharo and Thuong Le Phong: analytics and data science consultants at Serpico by Croud.

First, the team focused on the question, “Why GA360?” Danny then introduced Google Analytics’ new App and Web properties. Danny’s presentation was partly a tantalizing look into the future of the GA product. We can see that some of the current benefits of GA360 are set, at some point in the future, to be available in the free product.

Why Google Analytics 360?

There are five big reasons for investing in GA360 that are the most important for most businesses.

  • Integrations and data quality
  • Custom funnels
  • Advanced analysis
  • Data-driven attribution
  • BigQuery

1. Integrations & Data Quality

Google Analytics provides a detailed log of users’ on-site behaviour. It’s also a platform for developing and defining audiences; and the detailed record of user behaviour is key to that. Data describing user behaviour allows us to see patterns associated with value. Behaviours can then form a crucial part of audience definition.

With GA360, the power of your core analytics platform is integrated with DV360. Impression data from DV360 is linked into GA360, and exposure to display impressions then forms part of the record of users’ journeys. Crucially, audience definitions in GA360 can be exported to DV360 (and not just Google Ads, as in the free GA product).

There are other integration and data quality benefits of GA360.

  • The GA360 service level agreement includes 4-hour data freshness, i.e. from collection to being available for reporting, analysis and action
  • Data sampling limits are very significantly elevated
  • The unsampled reporting feature gives good access to big, unsampled data exports (and unsampled reports can be collected via an API)
  • Data imports can be configured for query time processing, meaning that imported data doesn’t have to be in GA before the tracked data that it’s being merged with
  • BigQuery export – very powerful, discussed below

With the integration and data quality benefits of GA360, core analytics can reach its full potential as a central component of your marketing technology stack.

2. Custom Funnels

GA360 brings a game-changing reporting capability in the form of Custom Funnels. These reports are used to study users’ progress through the steps of a custom-defined funnel.

  • They are defined very flexibly, by some combination of dimensions (including custom dimensions), events or page paths, and simple segments
  • Funnel steps can be defined by user behaviour across multiple sessions 
  • This reporting is retrospective. It doesn’t rely on goal definitions, or on anything to be defined in advance.
  • It’s easy to define segments and audiences on the basis of funnel steps

There are some limitations to Custom Funnels, which are worth noting briefly.

  • In GA custom reporting, you’re limited to five funnel steps. In the Advanced Analysis module, you can have ten.
  • The definition of each funnel step is limited to five rules (although each rule is regex compatible).
  • You can’t apply more than one segment per funnel.
  • You can’t apply complex segments to your custom funnel report. That means no
    • ‘or’ clauses
    • sequences; or
    • negations

3. Advanced Analysis

The Advanced Analysis module, unique (for now) to GA360, offers three powerful reporting formats.

  • Custom funnels (with 10 steps – as discussed above)
  • Segment Overlap; and
  • Exploration

Segment Overlap is an insightful visualisation and analysis tool. It can quickly reveal the relationships between audience segments that would otherwise be difficult to see.

Exploration is a data tables analysis tool, with a very special feature: you can click any cell in a table and – with reference to the users represented by the data in that cell – automatically create a segment or build a new audience. It’s an analysis tool with in-built shortcuts for taking action on insight.

4. Data-Driven Attribution

Conversion attribution methods seek to credit marketing activity fairly for having caused conversion. They should try to avoid crediting activity simply for its having been involved in a conversion; and they should avoid crediting activity wrongly, for conversion that was actually caused by some other activity.

With this in mind, we know we really need a data-driven attribution model: a method that accounts for all user paths, both converting and non-converting; and one that algorithmically assigns fractional conversion credit across any of our marketing touchpoints.

We get data-driven attribution (DDA) in Google Ads, and in Google Marketing Platform’s Campaign Manager too. But in both these places, the attribution model is limited to the marketing channels that are available to the platform. Google Ads tracks only paid search; Campaign Manager will track all paid media, at best.

GA360 offers a valuable solution. The DDA model (available in GA360, but not the free version of GA):

  • Covers all channels, including direct and organic ones
  • Includes impressions from Google Ads and DV360 among the campaign touchpoints
  • Can include offline data sources for either marketing touchpoints or conversion
  • Supports rules-based customisation to the DDA model

Attribution in GA supports a lookback window of up to 90 days; but a notable limitation is that the DDA model does not award credit further than four steps back from conversion.

5. BigQuery

A unique benefit of GA360 (over the free version of GA) is its support for export to Google BigQuery. A GA360 technology contract will also include an allowance for some free usage of BigQuery.

BigQuery is a cloud-based data warehouse, “as a service.” It performs extremely well, returning queries across big datasets very quickly; and it scales without limitation. However you use it – however much you use it – you never need to worry about configuring it or optimising it. “As a service” means there are no databases to operate. You can connect it straightforwardly to common data visualisation tools. You use APIs to import data, and query it. That’s it.

When you enable export from GA360 to BigQuery, you’re exporting a copy of your log-level GA data. This means that a dataset in BigQuery will be filled automatically with all the data that describes every individual hit, session and user tracked by GA. It’s very valuable:

  • You can work beyond the limitations of the Google Analytics interface. Sometimes, even custom reports can’t answer the question you need to answer; and data processing limitations can get in the way (e.g. 90-day lookback windows or reporting date ranges). In BigQuery, your queries are unrestricted.
  • You can match the log-level GA data in BigQuery with data from some other system that your business uses. A common case would be to unite data from GA with the customer records in your CRM platform. You might, for example, want to provide new insight to your call centre operators; or you might need to be able to produce custom reports with queries that join GA data and warehouse logistics data.

And for individual businesses there will be other types of benefit too. Access to log-level data means being able to build just about any custom automation or application based on your GA data.

Measuring App and Web in Google Analytics

Danny Kim, Measurement Solutions Consultant at Google, presented at the Serpico event on the topic of the new Apps and Web properties in GA.

Danny started by laying out the mission for Google Analytics: to build a unified offering for user-centric analytics across app and web. With “Apps and Web” properties, Google is bringing together the best of Google Analytics and Google Analytics for Firebase.

In the new properties, we’re able to report total conversions and total users, for cross-platform journeys.

This represents the beginning of a new platform and new architecture for Google Analytics. Data in the properties is unsampled – for all accounts, free and GA360 – and can be interrogated by Advanced Analysis features (as seen with GA360): exploration, funnels and paths. The properties support code-less interaction tracking (scrolls, downloads, video views) and the reporting interface features new machine learning-powered insights, anomaly detection and prediction.

For now, “App and Web” properties are not recommended for GA-only non-Firebase customers. If you’re an app & web customer, you should dual tag, i.e. with the new property alongside your existing app or web tracking.

At present, client stitching (i.e. the resolution of the same user across multiple browsers, apps and devices) is based on the UserID. This is an ID that the tracking implementation supplies to Google Analytics. Often, it’s an account ID for logged-in users.

In the future “Google Signals” will expand the client stitching for the “App and Web” properties. This means that Google’s identify graph – which is supported by users’ Google account logins – will be used to resolve user identities wherever a UserID isn’t available. Crucially, once this development is delivered, cross-platform journeys will be represented in full detail, ready to be analysed, even for users that don’t log in to your website.

For now, the new properties integrate with Google Ads for the purpose of exporting audience definitions. Later on, Google will add integrations with Google Marketing Platform, YouTube and BigQuery.

Get in touch

If you need help with Google Analytics or GA360, or you simply want to find out more, drop us a line at [email protected].

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