In this post, I will mainly discuss the advantages and disadvantages of Google Analytics tool when it comes to product analytics.
I’ve been using Google Analytics (GA) since I started my blog 5 months ago. I tend to figure out if my weekly posts are popular among you, my dear readers. GA enables me to learn about a number of views and sessions, acquisition channels, the geographical location of users, most visited pages, etc. The daily, weekly, monthly statistics are available.
I have a free of charge, out of the box capability to collect quantitative data and analyze them to make my product better. The installation of GA doesn’t need solid software development skills. On the internet, there’re a lot of guides on how to set up this tool.
Thanks to GA, aspiring creators of digital products and services have a chance to validate if their value proposition arouses interest across different segments of users. I’ve taken advantage of this opportunity.
However, when I started to dive into product analytics deeply, I realized that insights that I have from GA are the tip of the iceberg.
In-built GA’s Features don’t Allow Measuring Value
Among other things, product analytics is aimed at measuring users value a product or feature generates. Product teams should capture a value moment (also known as a critical event or aha! moment) to analyze a customer journey, prevent frictions, and make a product more valuable and usable.
For example, a value moment of Booking.com is achieved when a user books a room. This critical event is important for both the user and business itself. The user receives value by finding and booking an appropriate place to stay in a few clicks. Booking.com benefits from this event by taking a commission on each booking.
I wish to start measuring user value for the blog Right Product by measuring how long a reader stays on a page. For this purpose, I created the focus metric. Read my to learn more about how I created the focus metric and my way of measuring the success of my product.
, a business analytics service company, suggests treating users who achieved a value moment as active users. Definitely, it makes sense. As long as a user doesn’t experience value, she can’t be treated as an active user.
Let’s learn about how GA defines active users. The core feature of this tool is based on page views. When the active users metric is used in the context of the active users report in GA, it refers to the number of users who visited a website. What does it mean?
It means that GA counts all users who reach a product as active users. It overlooks a complete customer journey in the middle of which a user is expected to gain value (reach (reach of a product) > activation (reach of a value moment) > engagement > retention).
I think from the marketing and sales point of view, this definition of an active user might make sense since GA allows tracking the number of reaches of a product. It helps to analyze the performance of a promotional campaign.
In my opinion, from the product point of view, it’s risky to measure product success by looking at GA’s active usage report only. It’s a typical vanity metric. The vanity metric makes you look good to others but don’t help you to understand your product performance in a way that informs future strategies.
For example, let’s look at the GA’s weekly active users report for my blog for the last four and a half months. I consider this metric as the vanity one.
The graph shows that from the end of August till mid-October, there have been between nearly 50 and 140 active users weekly. Since I already know that these figures show all users who have reached my product, I can only assume that some of them have gained value. But I am still missing this evidence. I don’t know if these users have been activated and engaged.
Here is supposed to be the graph. It is not available for the time being.
Therefore, I created sample metrics that I expect to help me not only to prove or disprove the success of a marketing campaign but also show the performance of my product. They are provided by the table below (scroll right on a mobile device to see the entire table).
The Tools to Measure Value
In fact, GA allows tracking customer actions if you write and send custom codes as events to GA.
However, I learned that tracking user actions is easier in dedicated product analytics tools. I consider the three tools to be used to mainly measure a value moment: , , and .
To use Mixpanel and Amplitude, I need the support of a software engineer since these tools don’t have in-built events and don’t allow creating them without touching source code. Some functional changes are needed to be done by an engineer. For the time being, I decided to look for alternatives due to this fact.
I came across Heap since it allows creating events in the without any manual modification of source code. In my next posts, I will share my experience with Heap.
GA is an accessible tool for creators of new products and services who wish to validate market interest in their value proposition easily and free of charge.
When it comes to measuring product performance and success, GA becomes a less powerful tool. GA’s active users report may mislead product people since GA treats users who reach a product or service as active users.
In fact, in the product world, active users are those who gain value by using the product. The product analytics tools, such as Mixpanel, Amplitude, and Heap enable product teams to track users’ actions during all customer journey phases by definition of events.