Google Analytics: App+Web’s Enhanced Measurements, things to consider before enabling

Someone in the digital analytics industry once told a crowd of conference attendees that tag management experts, like myself, won’t be too happy with Google Analytics: App+Web’s Enhanced Measurements feature. Since the conference, I have been giving this comment and Enhanced Measurements’ potential some thought.

UPDATE Download my free Google Analytics App + Web guide to quickly learn all you need to know with regards to updating from Universal Analytics to App + Web.

TL;DR

Enhanced Measurements makes it easy to track more than just page views. Some options may impact your Terms & Conditions for Google Analytics negatively such as Scroll tracking.

Consider wisely what Enhanced Measurement tracking option you want to enable and why. In other words, what purpose will the data that you will start collecting serve in improving your business? If you cannot answer that question with a valid reason, then don’t enable that specific feature.

The following is a collection of considerations on the impact of Enhanced Measurement options, what you should consider before enabling them and links to articles that shed more light on the subject.

Hello, my name is Enhanced Measurements

With the launch of Google Analytics: App+Web Bèta we learned about a feature called Enhanced Measurement. The feature’s goal is to simplify the enablement of tracking functionalities that otherwise would have to be setup and deployed using Google Tag Manager or hardcoded using Google Analytics.

Enhanced Measurements can automatically track common interactions with little effort needed from yourself. Besides page views, which cannot be disabled obviously, Enhanced Measurements allows you to track:

  • Scrolls
  • Outbound clicks
  • Site search
  • Video engagement
  • File downloads
Enhanced Measurement options during Google Analytics: App+Web Beta

In any case, enabling any of these options will enhancing your data collection efforts. However, each option does come with a few things to consider. This is my attempt to share these considerations with you in the hope to better prepare yourself before flipping the switch.

Legend, no not John…

I have added 2 emojis to each subsection to help you get through this text much quicker. Because eventhough Google would like for everything to work straight out of the box, there can be situations where some consideration is required.

Here are their definitions:

  • ✋ before enabling, there is something you should know…
  • 👍 who am I to stop you, enable it already!

Page Views ✋

It is obvious that tracking page views is crucial to 99.99% of all digital analytics implementation plans. Eventhough Google Analytics is shifting to an event based data model, page views will still be a ‘thing’.

In the last several years, we have witnessed a dramatic shift from the standard definition of a ‘page’. With the arrival of Javascript frameworks like React, Angular and Vue, to name just the main players, it had become a challenge to page views properly.

No longer were pages loading in your browser, and with it instantiating Google Tag Manager. No. These new Javascript frameworks were merely changing the state of the page, the contents of the DOM (Document Object Model), without reloading it at its core level.

Plenty of solutions were offered in how to track so called SPA’s (Single Page Applications), with success. Google has luckily taken SPA frameworks into account with Enhanced Measurements as long as history state changes are logged.

History Listeners not working in SPA environment

If the History listener returns undefined as a value then you have some work to do. It is most likely that your SPA setup has not implemented history state change functions properly, so make sure to speak your developer.

Recommended Reading:

How To Track Single Page Web App with Google Tag Manager by Julius Fedorovicius

Scrolls ✋

Why? Scroll tracking using percentages is one of the most over-rated and over-valued tracking option that has ever existed. At least how Google Tag Manager offers it. In my experience, I have seen this trigger/event combination be good for 50% of all events tracked on a website while not even delivering any valuable insights in return.

Rob Flaherty knew how to effectively do scroll tracking, and his free Scroll Depth solution was used by many to gain useful insights. The big difference? He allowed you to use element ID values, ie. <div id="comments"> to track when they had been viewed, ie. visible to the user in their browser’s viewport.

Google Tag Manager does allow you to track element ID’s using the built-in visibility tracker in combination with the IDs you want it to trigger on. Until then, without a specific goal, Google Analytics: App+Web’s Scroll solution will be nothing more than a waste for your hit limits unless you target your setup specifically for ie. an optimization project.

Recommended Reading:

The Element Visibility Trigger In Google Tag Manager by Simo Ahava

Outbound clicks 👍

Nothing much to write home about on this one, just enable it.

Outbound click tracking has been around for a long time and is a strong behavioral indicator. It allows analysts to gain insights on which external links are interesting for users and are used most often to either leave your website or to reference during a visit.

The cons to using this Enhanced Measurement option are pretty much non-existent, if you know of any, please leave a comment below.

Site search ✋

Enabling Site Search has always been a easy setup in Google Analytics, but nothing beats a one step setup. Google Analytics: App+Web’s Enhanced Measurements feature for Site Search makes it even easier but like its predecessor it does come with a technical caveat.

Current method for enabling Site Search analytics in Google Analytics

Besides enabling Site Search, you need to make sure your website is built in such a way that will allow for automatic tracking using Google Analytics: App+Web.

Google Analytics: App+Web in essence only monitors a user’s browser and looks for one of five predefined query parameters in the URL. Those 5 query parameters are:

  • q
  • s
  • search
  • query
  • keyword

I am making an assumption in saying that Single Page Applications will work with Site Search functionality by listening to history state changes.

If, however, you website’s search functionality does not work with query parameters then you are a bit out of luck. Luckily, there are Google Tag Manager hacks available for making Site Search work.

Recommended Reading:

Fix GA Site Search With Google Tag Manager by Simo Ahava

Video engagement 👍

Another feature with a long history. From a custom script for Google Tag Manager to a built-in functionality, Video engagement tracking has come a long way since the dawn of tag management.

Video variable options in Google Tag Manager

No surprises are to be expected in the Enhanced Measurements version of Video engagement. The above list of variables matches perfectly with what will be offered by default in Google Analytics: App+Web:

  • Source URL: ‘video_url’
  • Title: ‘video_title’
  • Provider: ‘video_provider’
  • Play time: ‘video_current_time’, ‘video_duration’, ‘video_percent’
  • Whether the video is visible on-screen: ‘visible’ (boolean)

So, unless you are Youtube or a video content focused website and have Youtube embedded videos on your website or in your app, then definitely enable the Video engagement option.

File downloads 👍

Last but definitely not least is the File downloads option. This Enhanced Measurements option will take care of all the event tracking surrounding the downloading of specific files. When enabled, Google Analytics: App+Web will automatically track downloads for the following file types:

  • document
  • text
  • executable
  • presentation
  • compressed file
  • video
  • audio

The tracking happens when the file is referenced in the link. Just like Video engagement tracking, the tracking of File downloads will not immediately pose a threat to your monthly tracking limits unless your name is Kim Dotcomm.

The insights gained from File download data can be significant in a many number of ways. My advice would be that if you do offer files to be downloaded, even if it is just a Terms & Conditions document, Excel templates, activate the option and let the data flow in.

Google Analytics: App+Web Support

If you or your company has Google Analytics: App+Web’s Enhanced Measurement customisation needs that go beyond the basics, then please feel free to contact myself or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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I am a Tag Management Expert at Tagticians and help companies get to grips with optimizing their digital data collection activities. Father of 4, husband of 1.

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Matthew Niederberger

Matthew Niederberger

I am a Tag Management Expert at Tagticians and help companies get to grips with optimizing their digital data collection activities. Father of 4, husband of 1.

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