Market Basket Analysis With Google Analytics Data

Market Basket Analysis with Google Analytics Data is one fusions of Digital Analytics and Machine Learning

The data is easily available and it is fairly easy to clean.

In this post I will share steps to present steps on how to do that.

I am starting first with the code and its logic. And later I have briefly covered some theory.

First, getting the data

You can get the Google Analytics data into R by using the googleAnalyticsR package. Grateful to Mark Edmondson and team for creating this.

http://code.markedmondson.me/googleAnalyticsR/

https://code.markedmondson.me/googleAuthR/articles/google-authentication-types.html

// if package not already installed then install it 
if(!(require(googleAnalyticsR)))install.packages("googleAnalyticsR") if(!(require(googleAuthR)))install.packages("googleAuthR")

//load the functions of the package
library(googleAnalyticsR)
library(googleAuthR)

//Login with Google to grant approval to R to access your GA data ga_auth(new_user=T)

//you can replace the above with new_user=F after initial //authentication
//Get the account data structure - Accounts>Properties>Views
my_accounts<-ga_account_list()

Now, in Market Basket Analysis we essentially want to discover how purchase of a set of items affects the purchase of other set of items

For this we need data presenting information on items bought together in various transactions

We will use “ga:productName” and “ga:transactionId” as dimensions to get the products purchased and their respective transaction IDs

We will use “ga:uniquePurchases” as the metric

You also need to provide a date range for this data in “YYYY-MM-DD” format

You need to provide the viewId which you can get from the account structure which we got using the ga_account_list() function above

//provide the view ID from the account structure above 
//ViewId="UA-XXXXXXXX"
//provide the start and end data Start="2018-12-01" End="2018-12-31"

Table <- google_analytics(ViewId,date_range = c(Start,End),metrics = c("ga:uniquePurchases"),dimensions = c("ga:productName","ga:transactionId"))

//Remove the entries without product Name
Table<-Table[Table$productName!="(not set)",]

//Remove the entries without any purchases
Table<-Table[Table$uniquePurchases!=0,]

//Remove any possible duplicates
Table<-unique(Table)

//Replace unique purchase with 1, we just want the presence of product //in a transaction, we do not want its volume
Table$uniquePurchases<-1

The present structure of the Table is something like this :

But to perform the Market Basket Analysis using Arules we need the structure to be like this :

The transaction Ids along the rows and each product name along the columns. For this we will use the reshape2 package created by the legendary Hadley Wickham

if(!(require(reshape2)))install.packages("reshape2") 
library(reshape2)

//Creating a new data frame with the above logic
dcast<-reshape2::dcast(Table,transactionId~productName)

// Replacing Na values with 0
dcast[is.na(dcast)]<-0

//Creating a duplicate to take row names
dcast1<-dcast

//The apriori function accepts only product entries the transaction..
//..Ids can't be in rows and need to be passed as rownames instead dcast1$transactionId<-NULL
rownames(dcast1)<-dcast$transactionId

//Free up some RAM
rm(dcast,Table)

//The Input to the apriori function needs to be of //datatype"transactions"

dcast1<-as.matrix(dcast1)
dcast1<-as(dcast1,"transactions")

Now our dataset is ready, we just need to input that to the apriori function from the Arules package. The package has been created by Michael Hahsler and team

if(!(require(arules)))install.packages("arules")
library(arules)

//the choice of support and confidence 'll depend of domain knowledge..
//..and business objective
rules = apriori(dcast1, parameter=list(support=0.007, confidence=0.25));

//To view the results in Data Table format you can convert the above
Table1<-DATAFRAME((rules))

//Convert the Support and confidence columns to %
// We will need scales package for this again by Hadley Wickham

Table1$support<-percent(Table1$support)
Table1$confidence<-percent(Table1$confidence)
Table1$lift<-round(Table1$lift,2)

Now, lets look at the result:

We have three terms support, confidence and lift. Lets understand each with the smart art below:

The above presents results for chances of purchase of Milk if Bananas are bought. In general, the you will read the results as chances of purchase of items on Right hand side if items on left hand side are purchased.

I personally like this solution a lot as the data is relatively easily available because of Google Analytics.

It presents quick insights on which items can be clubbed together as bundle.

Which items can be suggested at order confirmation page or through post purchase campaigns.

Which items can be suggested as add on in the purchase journey.

You can get as creative as you want.

Contact us here.

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How to enhance Google Adwords and Analytics Integration

Google Adwords and Analytics Integration- What is the objective of the blog post –

In this post you will learn how to customize your Google Adwords and Analytics Integration to link your campaign information to other areas of your site apart from landing page and conversion.

How it makes life easier –

With standard integration, one can analyse the performance of Adwords campaign along with the landing URL in terms of cost, conversion and revenue. But, what if you have other variables in the user journey that you are testing apart from the lander?

By using this customization technique you will be able to analyze how combination of your adword campaigns and other areas of your site are affecting the conversion and analyze the complete picture.

Real life scenario –

Suppose an eCommerce company is using Google Optimize to test its landing pages as well as product details pages.

The company want to see which adwords groups, lander and product page combinations are delivering the best results in terms of order conversions.

For this they create a google sheets dashboard to automate the report for analysis through the Google Analytics Addon like this :

Now, with standard integration the company will not be able to see this entire journey and will miss out on some critical information and they will rather see this ugly error:

But, they don’t need to lose hope. DataVinci to rescue. Lets get cracking.

What is the recipe?

Ingredients:
  • 2 custom dimensions sanctioned at session scope (There can be more dimensions depending on the number of variables you are playing with)
  • Custom parameters in landing URL of Google Adwords campaign
  • 3rd Custom dimension to capture the Google Adwords custom parameter. Again, set at session scope
Method:

First, enable the custom dimensions from the Google Analytics admin. Name them appropriately and note down their index numbers. Make sure to set their scope at session level.

Next, customize your Google Adwords campaign parameters by passing in any campaign related information that you want to test. Let’s assume this information is ad group and you are passing this in “_adgroup” parameter.

This video tutorial provides the steps to update the custom parameters in Google Adwords :

Now, customize your Google Analytics implementation to capture the data in the respective dimensions.

This video tutorial provides steps to setup Google Analytics custom dimensions through Google Tag Manager.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so3_bKY0mnM

Now what?

Ok, so when you set a custom dimension to a session scope, the last value that gets passed into it in a session gets associated with all the hits of that session. So, visualize this scenario in your head:

A visitor enters your site from your Google Adwords campaign. You have very smartly passed in custom information through custom url parameters in your landing URL. Your Google Analytics account captures this custom parameter information and stores it in a custom dimension, and since this custom dimension is set at a session scope, all the hits in your visitors sessions can be viewed against this value.

Also, on this landing page, we are capturing the landing URL in another custom dimension set at session scope. That means this information will also be available to be used with other data points captured through out the session.

Next, if the user navigates to the products page, we are capturing the version of the product page url as well and that too again in the session scope.

Now we have the three important dimensions which we want to see together broken down by the conversion metrics to make a decision. And this is how the report will look now:

Through the above minimal setup, the eCommerce company can clearly analyze which combinations are working better than others and push them to the broader audience.

Sweet.

Hope you liked this post on customizing your Google Adwords and Analytics Integration

How can we people?

Google Analytics is a very powerful tool when setup correctly. It can be customized to great extents and provide sensational insights to optimize your digital assets.

If you need help with this, then we are a crazy team of Google and Adobe Certified Analytics Experts who eat, breathe, sleep and dream Analytics. And we’ve made it our purpose and passion to electrify your business’s potential through Analytics.

Contact us here.

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What is an affiliate website

Have you been researching affiliate marketing? Maybe you’ve heard it’s a great way to make money online and are interested to learn more about what is an affiliate website.

Or maybe you want to know how you can make your own income producing affiliate website today.

People want to know about affiliate marketing and how it works.

Why is this a hot topic?

Because affiliate websites can make you a ton of money.

And the majority of affiliate marketing programs require that you have your own website in order to join their affiliate network.

Another major perk to creating an affiliate website is that it is a very inexpensive business to start up.

You can look at the cost difference between an affiliate business and a traditional “brick and mortar” business right here.

You’ll see two major differences between these two business models.

Most notably, the cost of start-up and the implied risk.

We’re talking under $500 to $1,000 dollars for the first year of an affiliate website business verses $10,000 to $100,000 dollars for a traditional business.

With an affiliate website business, your risk is low and your earning potential is quite high.

Now there are a good amount of factors that go into making a successful affiliate website (and I’ll discuss this later below) but if you can imagine the potential in affiliate marketing, then you’re halfway there.

In today’s post, we’ll discuss:

  • The benefits to owning your own affiliate website.
  • What it takes to create a successful online business.
  • And give you a step-by-step guide to create your own successful affiliate website.

What Is An Affiliate Website Exactly?


An affiliate website is any website or blog that utilizes affiliate marketing techniques.

So what does that mean?

What Is An Affiliate Website photo

Well, any website with advertisement banners is a form of affiliate advertising.

Also, text links.

Whenever you see a link that takes you to a website where you can purchase a product or service, again, is another style of affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is performance based advertising.

In other words, an affiliate website will only receive a commission if the visitor they send goes on and makes a purchase.

So for example, you click on a link from one of your favorite blogs or websites and that link sends you off to say…Amazon.

Or any eCommerce website for that matter where you can purchase…

  • Products
  • Services
  • Educational Classes, etc.

Then if you buy something from Amazon, the affiliate site would earn a commission from whatever products you purchase.

In affiliate marketing, there are four players.

1). The Merchant – The person providing the product or service. In our example above, this would be Amazon.

2). The Affiliate Network – Contains the products from the merchant or a series of merchants.

They also handle the payments and sales commissions. Again in our example, this would be a subsidiary company of Amazon, called Amazon Associates Program.

3). The Publisher – This would be the website owner who is publishing the content to market the product. If you look at my article, Does Amazon Sell Fake Products, and click on my Amazon link for the most popular computers, then go to Amazon and buy a computer, I would be the Publisher in this example who receives the Amazon commission.

4). The Customer – This would be the website visitor that clicks on the Publisher advertisement and then is taken to the sales page of the Merchant.

If you clicked my link above and bought something from Amazon, then you’d be the customer.

Affiliate marketing websites use tracking links and banners throughout their websites to market products.

If the website sees a lot of traffic, that means more potential customers which equates to higher potential sales and increased revenue for you.

Building affiliate websites is an art form. It’s far more than just throwing up a bunch of banner ads and affiliate links throughout your website.

Hope this was helpful.

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Analytics with React-Redux SPAs and Google Tag Manager

React-Redux has become a hugely popular web development combo, but there aren’t too many guides out there on how to sprinkle in analytics. Most implementations require some modification to your app’s code, often with analytics specific business logic.

The most common pattern seems to be with redux middleware, which definitely is a step in the right direction. The redux-analytics package encompasses this pattern nicely. Every redux action becomes a place where insights can be extracted, simply by appending some analytics information to the action metadata.

const action = {
  type: 'MY_ACTION',
  meta: {
    analytics: {
      type: 'my-analytics-event',
      payload: {
        some: 'data',
        more: 'stuff'
      }
    }
  }
};

This is a great start, and I had many of these analytics payloads throughout the codebase for a while and it worked great. The problem was that whenever someone wanted to change pretty much anything, it required a redeployment. Plus you’ll often have less tech savvy users wanting to add their own insights.

We already had an integration with Google Tag Manager (gtm.js), so I was a little biased towards this implementation. This goes two-fold for other departments who were already familiar with gtm.js, which is currently reaping it’s benefits with less development overhead when adding analytics insights.

Anyway lets get started on a basic Redux integration with gtm.js and my personal analytics platform of choice — Mixpanel.


Getting Started

If you’re not already familiar with gtm.js, you can simply inject it’s javascript snippet into your app then get going. All of the configuration is driven through the gtm web UI, which has come a long way in the years.

Now on the app side, the Redux middleware approach is still the way to go here:

const analytics = () => next => action => {
  window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
  dataLayer.push({
    event: action.type,
    payload: action.payload
  });
  return next(action);
};
// Add in the analytics middleware
let store = createStore(
  todoApp,
  applyMiddleware(
    analytics,
    thunk,
  )
);

Instead of dispatching analytics events from the application, it’s now firing everything to the gtm.js dataLayer. Each dataLayer event needs an event attribute to denote the type of event, but other than that you can structure your data format in any way that suits your application.

Now that’s pretty much it for the initial setup, assuming you already have the gtm.js snippet embedded in your application somewhere. Everything else can now be driven by the Tag Manager UI. I’ve started storing tags/triggers/variables in their own respective folders, but these can be changed at any time.


Creating the first event

To get started, lets setup the beloved page load events that management always seems to want. A typical React SPA usually has some form of client-side routing, so there needs to be a method to track the initial page view (landing) and route transitions. To capture both of these, 2 triggers are required.

Create the trigger in some folder of your choice

First, create the tag for the page load. I used the window loaded trigger here, and named it Global.pageLoad for use later.

Create the first pageLoad event

Next, create the history change event, which will capture route transitions from your SPA router (e.g. react-router). This is similar to the Window Loadedevent above, but the History Change trigger can be selected instead.

Create a new tag Page View that triggers on either of these. I’ll be using Mixpanel throughout, but the same can apply to Google Analytics or your platform of choice.


Tracking authentication

The place where Mixpanel shines is tracking arbitrary events, with arbitrary (and sometimes changing) event attributes. This is the perfect behavior for a dynamic web application, and especially for the range of redux events that are fired.

In many applications, there’ll be some kind of authentication event fired. In my current app it’s structured as follows:

const authenticateAction = {
  type: 'AUTHENTICATE',
  payload: {
    user,
    token
  }
}

1. Create the trigger

This event is now available to use in Tag Manager as a custom event. Create a new trigger referencing this authenticate action:

The Event name should match the string type field in the redux action

2. Access the data

To access variables within your redux events, you need to create a Tag Manager variable for each primitive you want to access. Unfortunately there is no object dot notation access (yet).

Access the user id variable within the redux action

3. Send the analytics event

The complete authentication tag

Now that we have the trigger, and the data, we can send an analytics event. For user identity, this often varies per analytics-platform.

Create a new tag that uses the previous AUTHENTICATE event, along with the User.id variable. Inside a Custom HTML tag, the variable can be accessed using the {{VARIABLE}} notation.

Conclusion

That’s all there is to it to get started, now try login to your application and you’ll see the identification action get triggered and sent to your analytics. Now your analytics platform can grow as your application grows, without littering the code base with metadata tags.

It’s just as easy to add other actions and variables, and create triggers that fire conditionally based on the value of a variable — all within Tag Manager.

 Hope you liked this post.
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Non-Interaction Events in Google Analytics

So what are Non-Interaction Events in Google Analytics?

You already know about event tracking in Google Analytics and using it for everything from downloads to video plays. Maybe you’re using jQuery or Google Tag Manager to capture events.

One thing to note about events is that, by default, events affect the bounce rate. That is, if a user lands on a page and an event is triggered, they are not a bounce (even if they don’t view any subsequent pages). In many cases, that’s what you want: after all, if someone engages with the page in some way, you probably don’t want to count them as a bounce any more.

However, you have control over whether those events affect bounce rate. There’s a parameter you can send with the event data to decide this called the “non-interaction” parameter. In a case where a video auto-plays when someone lands on the page, for example, we might want to set the non-interaction parameter so that the bounce rate of that page isn’t zero.

Flagging Non-Interaction Events

The code for a non-interaction event is just a single parameter you set along with the event data.

For Classic GA:

For Universal Analytics:

Using Google Tag Manager:

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 8.14.21 AM

Effect on Metrics

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 1.03.19 PMNon-interaction events are mostly referenced in regard to bounce rate, but they actually affect several metrics. Setting the non-interaction parameter has the following effects:

  • Bounce rate and time metrics (session duration and time on page) are no longer affected by the event.
  • The number of total events, unique events, sessions, users, etc. are counted normally.

Give us a shout if you need any help with  Analytics by filling in the form below

Check out our Google Analytics solutions here

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FireBase Analytics Vs Google Analytics

Why FireBase Analytics ?

Because FireBase Analytics was created exclusively for apps.

There is a reason why a lot of app development companies invest on creating in-house analytical tools rather use vendor solutions.

Most digital analytical tools including Google Analytics were created in a “pre-mobile app” era. A majority still cater primarily to website architectures. Mobile applications differ greatly from websites. Websites are click based.

Other than forms where the text is typed, a click is supposed to change the page being viewed. Events like video view or document download are afterthoughts to the basic page based architecture. Apps, on the other hand, have several elements and types of interactions over one or multiple screens. Also, users can call various action by touching, swiping, pinch-in, pinch-out using multiple fingers in various ways. Users can thus interact with various elements that trigger content without changing the screen they are in.

There are many apps out there whose interface is just a single screen. The traditional page of websites does not exist. Also, Firebase analytics has solved a big question Google Analytics is still struggling How to uniquely identify a user who may access the page from multiple devices/browsers/time gaps? For mobile apps, there is no need to force yourself to the website language of Google Analytics.

Your analytics tool has to adapt to your business reality and not the other way around. Pure play app creators need a tool that understands users and events. Firebase Analytics is that solution.

Free unlimited event reporting in Firebase Analytics unlike Google Analytics

Another consequence of the page and session based tools like Google Analytics is that events are an afterthought for them. Thus there are limits to which one can go while analyzing events. Even paid solutions like Google Analytics premium have a limit on how many events you can report and analyze. Firebase, however, provides you with unlimited reporting for up to 500 distinct events.

Did we mention that Firebase is also free?

Funnel analysis makes much more sense in Firebase Analytics than in Google Analytics

The traditional page flow analysis involves analyzing sequence of pages visited in a session prior to the desired outcome. This is not useful. This is because visitors don’t “follow” the path that we want them to follow.

The correct way to analyze user behavior flow is to identify the critical actions taken at every step of the conversion process. Since Firebase is based on events and not on screen views, it allows you to create funnels based on events which give much more value than the page-view based funnels Google Analytics has.

You can connect Firebase Analytics to Google Analytics

Imagine tomorrow your organization decides to use websites in addition to the apps. Alternatively, let us say you still have stakeholders who understand only the language of Google Analytics. Firebase has a tight integration with Google Analytics. Connect your Firebase data to Google Analytics and see your Firebase analytics reports without leaving the Google Analytics user interface.

Unlike Google Analytics, Firebase Analytics is much more than an app analytics tool

Firstly, Firebase is a mobile and web application platform. Its original product was a real time database. Along with the famous Firebase Analytics, it also has services and infrastructure designed to help developers build high-quality apps.

Firebase features can be mix-and-matched by developers to fit their needs. After Firebase was acquired by Google in October 2014, it has expanded to become a full suite for app development with many Google products like Admob also integrated into it. You can take a look at what Firebase has apart from Analytics here. Firebase as a backend service is one of the fast growing businesses in the Android market.

Unlike Google Analytics, Audiences can be used through the rest of the Firebase Analytics platform

Firebase audiences are like segments in Google Analytics. Additionally, Firebase enables audience-specific push notifications and app configuration changes to be sent out without having to collate that information separately. You can identify custom audiences in the Firebase console based on device data, custom events, or user properties. These audiences can be used with any of the other Firebase features mentioned above.

By investing in Firebase, you will be investing in many more tools from Google that helps in app development and monetization. With the purchase of Fabricdeveloper platform from Twitter last month, Firebase has again come to the spotlight. Fabric’s reach of 580,000 developers will grow the user base of Firebase. If your digital strategy is app-driven, Firebase is the right analytics tool for you.

You might like this video on Firebase :

Give us a shout if you need any help with mobile App Analytics by filling in the form below

Check out our Google Analytics solutions here

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Bucket Testing

What Is Bucket Testing?

Bucket testing (sometimes referred to as A/B testing or split testing) is a term used to describe the method testing two versions of a website against one another to see which one performs better on specified key metrics (such as clicks, downloads or purchases).

There are at least two variations in each test, a Variation A and a Variation B. Metrics from each page variation are measured and visitors are randomly placed into respective ‘buckets’ where the data can be recorded and analyzed to determine which performs best.

Companies that market and sell products or services online rely on bucket testing to help them maximize revenue by optimizing their websites and landing pages for conversions.

How It Works: An Example

Let’s look at a hypothetical example. Each bucket test begins with a hypothesis that a certain variation on a landing page will perform better than the control. Say you have an existing landing page for a free nutrition eBook, Eat Raw Foods and Live Longer.

The button on the bottom of your landing page’s sign-up form says ‘Submit,’ but your hypothesis is that changing the text to ‘Get Your Free Copy’ will result in more form conversions. The existing page with the ‘Submit’ button is the control, or Variation A. The page with ‘Get Your Free Copy’ on the button is Variation B. The key metric you will measure is the percentage of visitors who fill out the form, or a form completion.

Because you have an ad campaign driving several thousand visitors a day to your landing page, it only takes a few days to get the results from your bucket test. It turns out that ‘Get Your Free Copy’ has a significantly higher click rate than ‘Submit,’ but the form completion rate is basically the same. Since the form completion rate is the key metric, you decide to try something different.

Bucket Tests & Conversion Optimization

Bucket testing plays a big role in conversion rate optimization. Running a bucket test allows you to test any hypothesis that can improve a page’s conversions. You can continue to try higher-converting button text for Eat Raw Foods and Live Longer or you can go on to test other hypotheses, such as bolder headline copy, more colorful imagery or arrows pointing to the sign-up button that will get more people to convert.

Companies spend millions of dollars to drive traffic to landing pages and websites that promote their product or service. With simple variations to page copy, imagery, and layouts, you can conduct a series of bucket tests to gather data and to iterate towards your highest-performing version of the page. You simply create variations of the page, changing one element at a time and measuring key metrics, then collect the results until reaching statistically significant results for each experiment.

Bucket testing can make a significant impact on conversions per page, resulting in revenue increases on your highest-trafficked pages.

Bucket testing can also help to eliminate subjective opinions as deciding factors in a page’s design or layout. The author of Eat Raw Foods and Live Longer may think that her photo will drive more customer demand – or she may insist on a rainbow palette of colors.

With bucket testing, there is no need for debate on what design or page elements will work best to convert a customer. The quantitative data will speak for itself, and drive the decision for you.

Tests should be prioritized to run on your most highly trafficked pages, since you may need hundreds or thousands of visitors to each variation to gather statistically significant data. The more traffic a page receives, the quicker you will be able to declare a winner.

Common Page Elements To Test:

  • Headlines and sub-headlines: varying the length, size, font and specific word combinations
  • Images: varying the number of images, placement, type of imagery (photography vs. illustration) and subject matter of imagery
  • Text: varying the number of words, style, font, size and placement
  • Call-to-action (CTA) buttons: varying common ones such as ‘Buy Now,’ ‘Sign Up,’ ‘Submit,’ ‘Get Started,’ or ‘Subscribe’ and varying sizes, colors and page placement
  • Logos of customers or third party sites: build credibility and convey trustworthiness (could include Better Business Bureau, TRUSTe or VeriSign logos as well as customer logos)

Give us a shout if you need any help with A/B testing by filling in the form below

Check out our Google Analytics solutions here

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Split Testing

Split Testing Simplified

Split testing (also referred to as A/B testing or multivariate testing) is a method of conducting controlled, randomized experiments with the goal of improving a website metric, such as clicks, form completions, or purchases. Incoming traffic to the website is distributed between the original (control) and the different variations without any of the visitors knowing that they are part of an experiment. The tester waits for a statistically significant difference in behavior to emerge. The results from each variation are compared to determine which version showed the greatest improvement.

This marketing methodology is frequently used to test changes to signup forms, registration pages, calls to action, or any other parts of a website where a measurable goal can be improved. For example, testing changes to an online checkout flow would help to determine what factors increase conversions from one page to the next and will lead to increased orders for the website owner.

Seemingly subjective choices about web design can be made objective using split testing, since the data collected from experiments will either support or undermine a hypothesis on which design will work best. Demonstrating ROI (return on investment) for a testing platform can be measured easily because tests are created with a quantifiable goal in mind.

Split testing results

Split testing tools allow for variations to be targeted at specific groups of visitors, delivering a more tailored and personalized experience. The web experience of these visitors is improved through testing, as indicated by the increased likelihood that they will complete a certain action on the site.

Within webpages, nearly every element can be changed for a split test. Marketers and web developers may try testing:

  • Visual elements: pictures, videos, and colors
  • Text: headlines, calls to action, and descriptions
  • Layout: arrangement and size of buttons, menus, and forms
  • Visitor flow: how a website user gets from point A to B

Some split testing best practices include:

  • Elimination: fewer page elements create less distractions from the conversion goal
  • Focus on the call to action: text resonates differently depending on the audience
  • Aim for the global maximum: test with the overarching goal of the website in mind, not the goals of individual pages
  • Provide symmetric and consistent experiences: make testing changes consistent throughout the visitor flow to improve conversions at every step of the process

Habitual testing for a website owner or business helps to build a culture of data-informed decision-making that takes into account audience preferences. Each click on a website is a data point from a potential customer. Conflicting opinions can be put to the test with split testing methodology, and the visitors to the website will inform the final decision on the “best” design.

Split testing Process

Split testing is equivalent to performing a controlled experiment, a methodology that can be applied to more than just web pages. The concept of split testing originated with direct mail and print advertising campaigns, which were tracked with a different phone number for each version. Currently, you can split test banner and text ads, television commercials, email subject lines, and web products.

Hope you liked the post.

Give us a shout if you need any help with A/B testing by filling in the form below

Check out our Google Analytics solutions here

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Google Tag Manager (GTM) for mobile apps

Google Tag Manager (GTM) for Mobile Apps was first announced in August this year and has some great implications for app developers.

Perhaps most notably, the product has the potential to overcome one of the most critical challenges in the business: pushing updates to the user base without having to publish a new version on the app marketplace.

Typically, from the moment an app is shipped it is frozen, and from that point onwards the developer can only make changes to how the app behaves if the user accepts an update. By shipping an app with GTM implemented, configurations and values may be continuously updated by publishing new container versions through the web-based GTM interface.

In this post, we will cover how to get started with GTM for mobile apps and how to implement Universal Analytics tags using the GTM SDK for Android. As a heads up, this will occasionally get pretty technical, however I believe it is important to understand the product from its fundamentals.

Initial Set Up

Before we get started, some initial configuration steps need to be completed. More detailed instructions on these are available in the Google Developers Getting Started guide, but in a nutshell they include:

  • Downloading and adding the GTM library to our app project
  • Ensuring our app can access the internet and the network state
  • Adding a Default container to our app project

We will hold back on that last part, adding a Default container, until we have created some basic tags and are ready to publish. We will revisit the Default container later in this post.

Create an App Container

We need to start off by creating a new container in Google Tag Manager and select Mobile Apps as the type. Typically, we will have one container for each app we manage, where the container name is descriptive of the app itself (e.g. “Scrabble App”). Take note of the container ID on top of the interface (in the format “GTM-XXXX”) as we will need it later in our implementation.

App container for mobile app

Opening a Container

Assuming we have completed the basic steps of adding the Google Tag Manager library to our project, the first thing we need to do before we start using its methods is to open our container.

Similarly to how we would load the GTM javascript on a webpage to access a container and its tags, in an app we need to open a container in some main app entry point before any tags can be executed or configuration values retrieved from GTM. Below is the easiest way of achieving this, as outlined on the Google Developers site:

ContainerOpener.openContainer(
        mTagManager,     // TagManager instance.
        GTM-XXXX”,       // Tag Manager Container ID.
        OpenType.PREFER_NON_DEFAULT,   // Prefer not to get the default container, but stale is OK.
        null,                    // Timeout period. Default is 2000ms.
        new ContainerOpener.Notifier() {       // Called when container loads.
          @Override
          public void containerAvailable(Container container) {
            // Handle assignment in callback to avoid blocking main thread.
            mContainer = container;
          }
        }
    );

Before we talk about what this code does, let’s hash out the different container types to avoid some confusion:

  • Container from network: Container with the most recent tags and configurations as currently published in the GTM interface
  • Saved container: Container saved locally on the device
  • Fresh vs. Stale container Saved container that is less vs. greater than 12 hours old
  • Default container: Container file with default configuration values manually added to the app project prior to shipping

We will talk more about the Default container later on. Back to the code. In this implementation, the ContainerOpener will return the first non-default container available. This means that we prefer to use a container from the network or a saved container, whichever is loaded first, because they are more likely to hold our most updated values. Even if the returned container is Stale it will be used, but an asynchronous network request is also made for a Fresh one. The timeout period, set as the default (2 seconds) above, specifies how long to wait before we abandon a request for a non-Default container and fall back on the Default container instead.

We may change the open type from PREFER_NON_DEFAULT to PREFER_FRESH, which means Google Tag Manager will try to retrieve a Fresh container either from the network or disk. The main difference is hence that a Stale container will not be used if we implement PREFER_FRESH unless no other container is available or the timeout period is exceeded. We may also adjust the timeout period for both PREFER_NON_DEFAULT and PREFER_FRESH, however we should think carefully about whether longer request times negatively affects the user experience before doing so.

Tag Example: Universal Analytics Tags

We have completed the initial set up and know how to access our Google Tag Manager container. Let’s go through a simple example of how to track App Views (screens) within our app using Universal Analytics tags.

Step 1: Push Values to the DataLayer Map

The DataLayer map is used to communicate runtime information from the app to GTM, in which we can set up rules based on key-value pairs pushed into the DataLayer. Users of GTM for websites will recognize the terminology. In our example, we want to push an event whenever a screen becomes visible to a user (In Android, the onStart method is suitable for this). Let’s give this event the value ‘screenVisible’. If we want to push several key-value pairs, we may utilize the mapOf() helper method as demonstrated below. In this case, since we will be tracking various screens, it makes sense to also push a value for the screen name.

public class ExampleActivity extends Activity {

  private static final String SCREEN_NAME = "example screen";
  private DataLayer mDataLayer;

  public void onStart() {
    super.onStart(); 
    mDataLayer = TagManager.getInstance(this).getDataLayer();
    mDataLayer.push(DataLayer.mapOf("event", "screenVisible",
                                                   "screenName", SCREEN_NAME));
  }
//..the rest of our activity code
}

We may then simply paste this code into every activity we want to track as a screen, replacing the SCREEN_NAME string value with the relevant name for each activity (“second screen”, “third screen”, etc.).

Note: the container must be open by the time we push values into the DataLayer or GTM will not be able to evaluate them.

Step 2: Set Up Macros In Google Tag Manager

Simply put, macros are the building blocks that tell GTM where to find certain types of information. Some macros come pre-defined in GTM, such as device language or screen resolution, but we may also create our own. First of all we want to create a Data Layer Variable macro called screenName: this is the name of the screen name value we pass along with the event as demonstrated above.

GTM will then be able to evaluate the screenName macro, which can consequently be used in our tags. If we have not done so already, we may also create a Constant String representing our Analytics property ID at this point. These macros are now at our disposal in all container tags.

Macros for Mobile Apps

Step 3: Configure an App View Tag

Let’s set up our Universal Analytics App View tag. Our configurations are visible in the screenshot below (note the use of our newly created macros). The screen name field value of the App View will be automatically populated and corresponds to what we push to the DataLayer as the value of the screenName macro. The gaProperty macro value specifies which Google Analytics property data should be sent to (by reusing it throughout our container, for every Universal Analytics tag, we can both save time and prevent some critical typos).

Tag Manager app view tag

Step 4: Configure a Firing Rule For Our Tag

Finally, we need to set up the conditions under which the tag should execute. Since we are pushing an event with the value “screenVisible” every time an activity becomes visible, this should be the condition under which our tag should fire, as demonstrated below.

Tag Manager firing rule

Step 5: Save and Publish

We can continue to create other tags at this point. It may be beneficial, for example, to create some Google Analytics Event tags to fire on certain interactions within our app. We should apply the same logic in these instances: We need to push various event values to the DataLayer as interactions occur, and then repeat the steps above to create the appropriate Universal Analytics tags. When we’re happy, all that’s left to do is to create a new version of the container and Publish.

Tag Manager version

As we ship our app with Google Tag Manager implemented, requests will be made to the GTM system to retrieve our tags and configuration values as we discussed earlier.

Hold on, there was one more thing: the Default container!

Default Containers

When we are finished with our initial Google Tag Manager implementation and feel happy with the tags we have created, we are almost ready to ship our app. One question should remain with us at this point: what do we do if our users are not connected to the internet and hence unable to retrieve our tags and configurations from the network? Enter the Default container.

Let’s back up a little bit. In the GTM world, tag creation, configuration, settings, etc. is primarily handled in the web-based GTM interface. The power of this is obvious: we no longer need to rely on our development teams to push code for every change we want to make. Instead, we make changes in the GTM interface, publish them, and our tags and values are updated accordingly for our user base. This of course relies on the ability of our websites or applications to reach the GTM servers so that the updates can take effect. Here things get a bit more tricky for mobile apps, which partly live offline, than for websites.

To ensure that at least some container version is always available to our app, we may add a container file holding our configuration values to the project. This can be a .json file or a binary file, the latter being the required type to evaluate macros at runtime through GTM rules. We may access the binary file of our container through the GTM user interface by going to the Versions section. Here, we should download the binary file for our latest published container version and add it to our project.

create tag manager version

The binary file should be put in a /assets/tagmanager folder and its filename should correspond to our container ID (the file must be located in this folder, and it must be named correctly with our container ID). At this point, we should have both the JAR file and the binary file added to our project as shown below.

Mobile app tag manager files

Once this is done, we are ready to ship the app with our Google Tag Manager implementation. As described earlier, Fresh containers will be requested continuously by the library. This ensures that, as we create new versions of our container and publish them in the web-based GTM interface, our user base will be updated accordingly. As a back-up, without any access to a container from either the network or disk, we still have the Default container stored in a binary file to fall back on.

Summary

Let’s summarize what we have done:

  1. After completing some initial configuration steps, we created a new app container in the web-based GTM interface
  2. We figured out how to open our container as users launch our app, choosing the most suitable opening type and timeout value (taking into consideration user experience and performance)
  3. We then implemented code to push an event to the Data Layer as various screens become visible to our users, setting up a Universal Analytics App View tag in GTM to fire every time this happens
  4. We downloaded the binary file of our container and added it to our app project to be used as a Default container
  5. Lastly, we created and published our container in GTM

We are now ready to ship our application with GTM implemented!

Closing Thoughts

Google Tag Manager for mobile apps can be an incredibly powerful tool. This basic example shows how to implement Universal Analytics using this system but barely scratches the surface of what is possible with highly configurable apps that are no longer frozen. Simply put, getting started with GTM for mobile apps today sets businesses up for success in the future, I recommend trying it out as soon as possible.

I would love to hear your thoughts around Google Tag Manager for mobile apps. What are your plans for (or how are you currently) using it?

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