Web analytics isn't for the faint of heart. Understanding visitor behavior can be hard enough even with the right tools. Terminology is always important. Last week, Google Analytics announced a major change on their Google+ page that includes, among other items, changes in terminology used within the popular Web analytics software.
In an effort to help site analysts better understand how visitors interact across all digital platforms (websites, Web apps, mobile apps, multiple devices, etc.), the Google Analytics team has integrated Web data and app data within the same reports. These new views roll out to all accounts starting this week.
This is being done on the property level in Google Analytics. Any data you send to the same property will, starting sometime this week, start appearing in all reporting views, regardless of the originating digital asset that collected the data. So, if you use the same property ID for a website and your mobile app, both sets of data will now appear in the same reports.
What This Means for You
Probably the most noticeable change is the change of two terms:
- Visits will now be called "sessions"
- Visitors will now be called "users"
These name changes drill straight down to the API level, too, where metric and dimension names have also changed.
If you don't send Web and app data to the same property, you should see no other changes to your reports in Google Analytics. However, if you have multiple digital touchpoints that use the same Google Analytics property ID, you'll have an integrated way to see and measure all interactions with your brand, regardless of platform.
You have several options by which to isolate the data. You can:
- Use a filter
- Create custom dashboards
- Use advanced segments
- Use secondary dimensions
- Create custom reports
But ... Why?
It's hard to speculate on reasons for these changes. However, it's fairly clear from Google Analytics product manager Nick Mihailovski that there has been confusion in the past with app metrics and Web measurements. He explains:
Until today, some metrics and dimensions used different names in app views and in Web views, even though they presented the exact same data. Now, all metric, dimensions, and segment names are the same, regardless if they're used for Web or app data. This gives you a clear and consistent way to analyze and refer to all of your Google Analytics data.
Most Web analytics practitioners, myself included, have often called "visits" by the term "sessions." Mobile apps technically don't have "visits." But a Web user's visit can be synonymous with a "browsing session." The way a session is calculated is the same as it was for a visit, according to the Google Analytics Session Help page.
Further, Google has always been on the quest to make data consumption easier for the masses. While this change will initially confuse some, the overall effect is that all digital asset touchpoints are available in one report. To separate the data for the websites from that of the apps is now no different than segmenting traffic sources.
For better of for worse, what do you think of these changes? Is it about time? Or is your reaction more like "OMG WHY?!" Tell us in the comments.