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Podcast: Tools of the Trade: Google Analytics 360

Insights / 02.08.2019

Red Door /

As the marketing industry – and the world at large – continues to experience its own digital transformation, marketers have seen an explosion of channels, platforms, and of course, data. To better understand the reality of today’s marketing landscape, and the tools at our disposal – look no further than Google Marketing Platform, Google’s unified advertising and analytics platform, built for smarter marketing and better results.

In this episode of The Marketing Remix, Andy Batten, Sr. Director of Data Analytics, and John Faris, President, discuss an integral part of the Google Marketing Platform, Analytics 360 – a suite of analytics products that allow enterprise marketers to analyze consumer behavior, develop relevant insights, and deliver a more engaging brand experience.

What is the Google Marketing Platform? 

John: So, we first learned about Google marketing platform at last year's Google marketing live conference, and when we saw the roll out at the conference it very much seemed like just a rebrand of the DoubleClick products more than anything, that Google had acquired several years ago. And then they did have what they were calling an integration component, but it was a little bit of vaporware because ultimately it was like a single login page for all of your different Google 360 products, so that you didn't have to go to separate URLs to log in to each. But there wasn't a lot of true integration there as far as we could see. Since then, in the last six months or so, they have really started to pull the platform together and provide a lot of documentation for marketers about how you can integrate the various components. So the various components are Google Analytics 360, which we'll dive deeper into today, and then all of the former DoubleClick products that Google acquired. So that was Google Campaign Manager, which was the former DoubleClick Ad server, it's Google Analytic or Google Search Ads 360 which was a former bid management tool for search from DoubleClick. And then you have Google Display & Video 360, our least favorite [chuckle] in terms of names.
 
Reid: Yeah, more verbose in there.
 
John: Yeah. So we call that GDV 360 internally, and that is the old DoubleClick demand-side platform, programmatic advertising platform.

What are they key features of Analytics 360? 

Andy: I would say as the customer journeys are getting longer, more devices, there's so much more data flowing in. One of the biggest challenges... Well, one of the challenges that typically we run into is needing to join that view across those devices and understanding how users are interacting with your brand, interacting with your ads, what they're being exposed to and how that their behavior might change across devices. So being able to get all of that into one place where conversions are happening on your site, but also seeing that those acquisition details, is one of the key things that Google Analytics 360 gets you. And then there's the laundry list of features you get with GA 360, is pretty long and we can go through I think some of them that are the probably... They get the most attention.
 
Reid: Most compelling, yeah.
 
Andy: Sampling. Yeah, what we run into frequently is sampling, for those that use Google Analytics the free edition, you are exposed to sampling and that really causes a lot of problems for people, not initially.
 
Reid: Andy, can you explain what sampling is real quick, for those that may not be familiar with the details of this?
 
Andy: Yeah. So Google will take a snapshot of your data and if you exceed a certain amount of amount of hits over a certain period, and really, it's defined by users. Google will try to extrapolate how much traffic you actually got instead of trying to crank through their entire database of all hit sessions users, and show you that exact number. So you end up with numbers rounded to zero and five, and it can, directionally, it's usually still pretty good, but you've start to run into problems when you're doing calculations and building calculated metrics off two different numbers that were both sample, can really start to change the story in your data. So we were under the end of that one quite a bit.
 
Reid: Yeah. Now that muck things up in a handful of different ways. But when you're talking about large brands or something like that, is it that big of a deal or... I think people are really trying to get a lot more detailed these days.
 
Andy: It is, yeah. It's definitely a bigger deal. And a lot of people don't realize they're being sampled or their data is being subject to sampling, so you have to really be familiar with how you're pulling the data and use some different ways to avoid sampling, but with Google 360 you don't even have to worry about it. There's still is a sampling threshold, but it's much, much higher that most people would never approach it. And so it really becomes a non-factor and Google continues to change what they're tracking and the actual measurement tag itself. And so things like timing hits, so tracking your site speed, and those kinds of things are just built into Google and it'll do automatically, but that counts towards your hits and a lot of people don't realize that. So there's things that can impact how subject you are to sampling that you may not even realize, and that's what we run into quite a bit, in our kind of day to day is some people are being sampled because their implementations aren't very solid. Google 360 helps you get pass.
 
Reid: Yeah. So it's about accuracy at that point, and you don't know how inaccurate you may be given certain circumstances. The way the implementation was, things like that. And so you're saying basically that Analytics 360 cleans a lot of that up?
 
Andy: Yeah.
 
Reid: Awesome. And now, some of the other features that are big highlights.
 
Andy: Yeah. And I think some of the ones that are easier to talk to, but probably don't get as much press, are just around the SLA. So Google with GA 360, you have product support as part of any Google 360 engagement, so typically any bugs or anything like that that come up in the tool or if you're just wondering if this is a bug or the tools not behaving as you would expect, you can actually connect with a real person and get that support whereas with the free edition, you don't get that. And then in terms of data freshness, where your data availability is down to four hours. And what that means is that Google doesn't call your data final after until 24 hours later. And so typically, even with the free edition, you can see your data pretty quickly, but if re-processes again and your data is not considered final until 24 hours, but in the case of GA 360, you get that shortened quite a bit to four hours. And so, for much larger brands that get a lot of traffic, this may come into play and be a bigger factor for them.
 
Reid: Well, that will make a huge difference if you're running a time of day campaign or if you're doing a product launch, or something like that, you really need to know this stuff so you can make adjustments, quickly.
 
Andy: Yeah. In Google, free and the 360 version, both have real-time reporting for monitoring those things but in terms of being able to report on final data, you can do it much faster with 360.
 
Reid: Right. Okay. Anything else that you feel like we should be highlighting?
 
Andy: Like I said, there's a lot of ones. I would say one of the bigger areas that we take advantage of a lot and when we're doing implementations and activating 360 is just the customization, and that covers a lot of different grounds. So, in Google Analytics terms, this is you get 200 custom dimensions and custom metrics, and what those are essentially places you can store custom attributes about the user, about the page, anything you want, so that you can do more granular reporting across all of those things. And so, with Google free edition, you're limited to 20, and really that has become pretty limiting especially for larger companies, and really by expanding to that 200 for metrics and dimensions that allows... Really Google is catching up with Adobe in that respect, Adobe Analytics has always been a little bit more customizable until 360, and 360 now has the capability which I think really completes their suite of analytics.
 
Reid: Well, it's an interesting spot there to insert the privacy and some of the concerns that people have over all those different dimensions. Does it start getting down to personally identifiable information or anything that people should be concerned about or are there any features that help deal with that?
 
Andy: And actually this exists in the free tool as well, so I would say not unique to 360 itself. Google in their terms, don't allow you to push any personal identifiable information into the platform, if it arrives in the platform then you're in breach of that, and so you can never pass that kind of information into custom dimensions. And this was kind of their old definition pre-GDPR, so it's email, name, phone number, address, those kinds of things. Now, obviously with GDPR and those components, Google has rolled out tools to address that, with a user removal tool or request your removal tool, as well as data retention settings. But again, those exists in both free and 360.
 
Reid: They may have to accommodate on both sides. Obviously, it's just as soon as you get into all the different dimensions you can slice and dice. It starts to feel like you can get down to some pretty individual data, but at the end of the day when we're talking about some of these big companies, you have to cut it down by you're looking at product lines or you're looking at geography. There's a ton of different ways people wanna look at this data that still has to do with the breath, and it still preserves a ton of breath, because they're just trying to make better decisions about their marketing, which is the crux of all of this.
 
John: One thing to consider about that, the expanded number of dimensions though is when you're pushing that data somewhere else, don't push every dimension out to the other platforms because you're just kind of creating blot. And in some instances, if you're using like a cloud-based BI platform, then you could be reaching limits of the number of rows of data that you're allowed within your license fee. So that's just something to watch for.
 
Reid: That makes us data management. Andy, you had some more to add to there?
 
Andy: Yeah. And I guess one of the other key selling points around 360, and we've used this on our clients is just that integration that they announced, I think it was late 2017 with Salesforce, and being able to push that data in. Integrations can be a whole another topic, but that's a key one that we've...
 
Reid: Which we will talk about, a little bit, too. Yeah, yeah.
 
[chuckle]
 
Andy: But that's a key one when it comes to those custom dimensions, because what you end up being able to do is by integrating with Salesforce, you can push data back from Salesforce into Google Analytics. And any attribute that is stored on those Salesforce records can be pushed into a custom dimension, and then you can build audiences and do analysis of on-site, or web behavior based on something you know about them in your CRM which is pretty valuable.
 
Reid: Wow, that's huge. I can tell that the excitement is growing with all the different features and this particular part of the product and what we can do, which seems to be probably one of the meatier things in terms of analysis is concerned. Now, integrations you talk about Salesforce, what other things currently integrate? Obviously, the Google's own products, I recognize that, but you talked about Salesforce. What other products? As some of our listeners are thinking about, "Well, here's all this stuff I have. Salesforce might be one of them." What else should they be keeping an eye out for within their martech stack or marketing technology suite?

What sort of integrations are (or can be) built into Analytics 360?

Andy: It integrates with a Google BigQuery, so Google's database platform and what that native integration allows you to do is push a hit level, essentially every hit that occurs and goes to Google can be pushed directly into BigQuery as well. And so, if you're doing advanced data modeling and events analysis, using from your database side and sitting something on top of that, then all of the data can go in at the hit levels. You don't have to... You build another system that pulls it down for you and configures all night to use 'em, and things like that. It's just a native integration so that one's pretty huge.
 
Andy: And then, we touched on Salesforce already but I think in the scheme of where that fits into a broader mature marketing program, I think it's worth calling out. So I talked about in the case of Salesforce, you can push those attributes back into Google Analytics, but as you kind of touched on, that then integrates with other Google platforms, so you have Display & Video 360, Google Ads, Google Optimize, which is their on-site testing platform. And by pushing all of the data back from Salesforce into Google Analytics from there, you can build audiences in GA, when I say GA, Google Analytics. [chuckle]
 
Andy: Build audiences in GA and then push those audiences to those other platforms, and what that allows you to do and then not just analyze in GA based on something known in your CRM, but actually act on that data and maybe it's a lead score that you're pushing in from Salesforce or somebody's job title or interest. Anything from your CRM can then be pushed into these other platforms because it sits in GA and your building audiences around that. So you might run ads targeted at this person based on a community maybe they visited if you're a home builder. And then once they get into the site, you can target that experience using Google Optimize, so it's not just that they integrate with one or the other, is that they can all be taken holistically to build a consistent user experience and really target, kind of at the user level.
 
John: Yeah. And this is where we talk about making the most out of your first party data, and using that to personalize experiences on your site and even the capability with Google to personalize experiences in the media landscape.

Are there any competitors to Google’s analytics offering(s)? Are they in a league of their own?

Andy: I would say Adobe Analytics is kind of the only one. There's other players in the space, but in terms of a full ecosystem of different platforms that integrate, Adobe is definitely the biggest competitor, but with them, they don't have quite as many of those integration points and the ability to see those users across device. So one of the advantages of Google, and specifically, I talked at the beginning about that cross-device view, and being able to have that in GA, is Google rolled out a new feature a few months back, called Signals, and what that essentially does is it leverages their own data from that Google has about users not even just from your data. But a lot of people log in to Chrome or a lot of people have Android devices, and they use all of that data to determine whether people visited your site on mobile and then came back on desktop. So the challenge of joining those people if they don't log into your site, has started to wash away a little bit because Google nows. And granted there obviously are privacy implications of that as well, but you have to have a certain amount of data for Google to even return anything, so they try to anonymize that and make sure that there's no privacy implications. But they do have that capability now, to understand if you were exposed to an ad, and then converted on a different place, knowing that that is the same person.
 
Reid: The big thing that we're now highlighting is the integrations, and all the different features, which seems to be a competitive advantage for Google Analytics and 360 at a higher level here. What other integrations do you maybe foresee or predict folding into this, that might be a reason why you wanna evolve into this kind of a platform?
 
Andy: Yeah. And I don't know whether... [chuckle] I have been predicting this for a few years and Adobe jumped on it first. Years ago, I said Adobe's gonna buy Marketo, or market automation platform, and they did, and so they're now... They have an email program as part of the suite, and Google doesn't quite have that yet, so I feel like that is potentially an area maybe not in the next year but in the next couple of years that they will either acquire somebody or build it to have their own ESP as part of it.
 
Reid: Well, and that's actually broader than ESP right, so account-based marketing and enables, if you're thinking of it from that side. Obviously, listeners will think in terms of buckets, or how do you bucket what these products can do? So marketing automation, email as being a part of it, which enables account-based marketing or down to audience level or individual level behavioral targeting and that sort of thing. What would we maybe dream of in terms of, "Oh, God, I wish one of these guys did this?"
 
John: One of these guys being...
 
Reid: Yeah, so Andy was saying Marketo for Adobe or one of those. What are some other places that we think that a product like this should be exploring?
 
John: I think it probably gets into the realm of customer data platforms and that full cross-channel personalization experience, which Google is pretty close to here with the site side optimization and paid media optimization. But like Andy mentioned it's that CRM aspects that's missing that some of the CDP, the customer data platform tools out there do have, so that's definitely one. And you think about... I don't know that Google is not in a position probably to acquire Salesforce, but that would pull it all together, right? Because they've got the CRM aspect, and they've got the email and social aspect, which Google hasn't been able to figure out the social side of things, in a sustainable sort of way, so that would be really interesting. I don't think that necessarily the government would allow that to happen, because there's already talk of trying to break up Google, and break up Facebook, so I don't know how much more they could get away with in terms of huge acquisitions like that.
 
Reid: So, this is where integrations become more, more important. The other part of it I think is kind of this location-based stuff and what they can do on that side with Android specifically, but probably even more broadly in terms of any integrations around location specific in a retailer. That's a big thing about how do you get people into storing it and attribution for what did I do that influence someone to show up like a LiveRamp or something like that, that's out there, that helps you figure that out?
 
John: And I think that's sort of their initial play with Google Pay, is to start to capture some of that data. But it's just not quite ubiquitous enough I think to.
 
Reid: So with this, is then some of these things are may be the impetus for somebody moving over to a Google 360 knowing that more and more of this stuff is gonna start showing up, I would imagine. The pace of this is where we started this conversation is six months ago, we were just learning about this and it seemed a little bit like vaporware to where it is now, which is a powerful, really powerful based on a lot of stuff that Andy was saying. Andy, what do you think in terms of... Now, somebody's saying, "Hey you know what, I'm in. I think that Google 360 is something or Analytics 360 is something that we should be investing in." What are some of the common implementation challenges for Analytics 360? 'Cause Lord knows they're probably sitting on GA right now, Google Analytics at the moment. So is there any new challenges that they should be considering?

What are some common implementation challenges for Analytics 360 or any analytics tool? 

Andy: Yeah. I would say new challenges, they're probably not new, but they're definitely challenges that if you're owning up for 360, you need to get your house in order. And so typically, what we run into is a lot of data integrity issues with any... I don't think we've done a tracking audit where we haven't run into a long list of issues that they had no idea existed. But then, I guess, beyond the data quality and integrity side of it, which I think is a... I think we've done a podcast on this. [chuckle] But in terms of making data a tool and planning for what you should be tracking and what you could be doing with data, and really evaluating from that standpoint, that's what we typically try to do. We were going through a new implementation, is look back and evaluate the business, do your business requirements and stakeholder and they were using things like that. And understand what they care about, and they have no idea they could track it and they can integrate it. When I say they it's typically clients or marketers that didn't realize we could track a certain thing. And so trying to anticipate what those data questions will be, and plan for what's gonna be most useful to integrate with these other platforms.
 
Andy: Those are the challenges that we typically face in one of these implementations, because as I mentioned, you get all of these new dimensions you can track and those integration points, and so we wanna leverage that and define those integration points and the different attributes that should be captured. And then, I guess the one, this is a more tactical item on it, but it is critical, especially with a bigger implementation like this, is defining a data layer. And so what a data layer is is it's essentially a snippet of code that exists on every page of your site, that tells our tag management platform something about the page. And it could be the product category, the product name, the skew, I'm just using any commerce example, but everything that you might need to know about that page and making sure that's consistently applied across the entire business, and defining all of those data layer elements so that they're coming directly from your database, and your tag management system is not trying to guess or look for something on the page. That is a challenge that we always face and make sure that we go through the steps to really define that and work with the development teams and write the technical requirements to get those in their hands and make that part of the site.
 
Reid: All of this, to enabled any of this, it's a partnership, you've got tech, you've got implementation, you talked about data quality. Obviously, the needs on the site, what do marketers need in order to make good decisions, attributes and a lot kind of stuff, so it takes a village I think particularly as it relates to something as significant as 360. And you brought up the data quality thing too. Just to plug for the episode, I think that you're talking about is one of our earlier episodes of our podcast is the Importance of Data Quality. Garbage In, Garbage Out. So be sure to check that one out 'cause I think it goes into that detailed quite a bit.
 
John: Yeah, and you alluded to it, both of you, but it's another one of those scenarios where it's not just about the platform and getting the platform and the new shiny object, there's the people and the process that goes along with that, and both those are even more critical than the platform.
 
Reid: Right. Yeah, that's one thing you see all the time is like [chuckle] people getting involved in it. And are they put in the right information in? But also the work flow of it all as well.
 
Andy: There's a training aspect of it as well. So, I think just to wrap up that point on the challenges and the things that we go through, is not just incorporating all those groups into planning the implementation and what data you wanna track, but when you're done, make sure people know how to use it and what was implemented, and really get that data out there so that people understand what they can do with this new found tool.
 
Reid: New found power.

[laughter]
 
Andy: Yes, probably better.
 
Reid: There you go. Well, guys, thanks for joining and educating our listeners on the power of this particular tool. I know we'll go through in future podcast, some of the other tools that we put to use because there's the aspect of the tool, and then there's the aspect of actually implementing these tools and using them right. So I appreciate you guys guidance on that.
 
John: Yep, thanks for having us.
 
Andy: Yeah, thanks for letting me geek out a little bit.
 
[chuckle]
 
Reid: You're always welcome to do that here. So listeners be sure to check out our partners page, where you can learn more about Red Door Interactive's relationship with Google as well as learn about the tools, technology and services we provide. And while you're there, check out our Learn section of our website to read or share the show notes from this episode and others that we've done in the past. So as always subscribe to The Marketing Remix. Leave us a review on iTunes and we look forward to you next time.

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