GAUC, we were there. Here's what we learned

Google Analytics User Conference is definitely a conference that we look forward to every year. The focus, of course, was Google Analytics. But both on a technical and strategic level the conference was about much more than just about web analytics. Year after year, broadening the focus becomes a clearer trend. Here are a few takeaways that The Reference would like to share with you.

GAUC Bloovi

Web Analytics is an ongoing proces

One of the most important speakers was Simo Ahava. This Finnish blogger certainly already helped many consultants-in-need to create better Google Tag Manager work. Internally at The Reference, we call him 'the guru'. JavaScript is his mother tongue, so at a technical level, he really did have a lot of important tips and tricks to share.

However, he also shared his vision of how to tackle Web analytics within an organization. He talked about some typical pitfalls that an organization often has to tackle and that for us, consultants were very recognizable.

A frequently made mistake is that an analytics implementation is interpreted as a (waterfall-) project; with a predefined scope, a start and an end point. Once the deployment is finished, lacking space for optimization, analysis and a regular round of sparring between the parties involved (IT, Marketing, Consultant, Management, ...). Accordingly, data is only collected, maybe reported, but there are no actions taken on the basis of the insights obtained.

This pitfall can easily be avoided through the use of agile methods. The emphasis being on direct communication. Thanks to state-ups, demos, short interactions and other communication and presentation techniques, silos between all parties disappear and one can react much faster.

Technical knowledge is an absolute must!

It is not a secret: Google Tag Manager (GTM) has really simplified the life of your average Web Analytics-consultant. But it is an illusion to think that GTM makes your basic knowledge of IT unnecessary. Day to day reality teaches us that a good technical knowledge of JavaScript, HTML and other technologies are still essential. Only when you have a good understanding of what is present under the hood and how it is all connected, you can develop and manage an analytics configuration to perfection.

Some examples:

  • Simo Ahava demonstrated how familiar metrics such as bounce rate and session duration differ with reality. Based on some technical tricks, you get a completely different picture of the behavior of your visitors.
  • Claudia Kosny taught us how to integrate external data sources in Google Analytics.
  • Using Google Spreadsheets, you can easily scrape other websites.
  • Tools like Klipfolio make it possible to transfer data from Google Analytics and many other data sources and visualize them in one dashboard.

Give a targeted message for each stage of the customer journey

Sam Stals, one of our online marketing consultants, demonstrated how, using advanced segments, you can convey a relevant personalized message to the end user. On the basis of sequential storytelling users evolve through the segments.

For example, using Facebook Audience, you first build a target group that you can reach again later, via Adwords. That way, at every stage of the customer journey, you can communicate different stories without losing sight of the bigger picture.

Let technologies communicate with each other

As marketers we come into contact with many different technologies. At GAUC multiple techniques were shared to let different systems communicate with each other.

Hotjar is a conversion-optimization tool that allows you to watch heat maps, and session recordings from your visitors. That's a real handy functionality that is not integrated into Google Analytics. On the other hand, you can sometimes get lost in the many recordings you collect with Hotjar. Herman and Joost of Intracto proposed this simple and creative solution. By sending the Hotjar ID (as custom dimension) to Google Analytics, you can expand your Google Analytics analysis with the Hotjar results. This idea is of course also applicable to other technologies, like CRM, social media or e-commerce platforms.


Expand your data

We live in an age of data abundance. Web analytics tools provide excellent insights into the behavior of the users on the website. But what about the parts of the customer journey before and after visiting the website? It is an important requirement to be able to extend web analytics with other data sources. And there are several ways:

  • To import data in Google Analytics
  • Google Analytics data export to external systems

It is also clear that Google with its announcement of  the Google Analytics 360 Suite, wants to continue to respond to requests to connect to external data sources with web analytics.

  • Audience Center allows marketers to send highly targeted messages, based on the collected data.
  • With Big Query we can quickly search through huge datasets and export to wherever the data is needed.
  • With Data Studio, we can easily visualize the whole.


Since we closely monitored the evolution of Google Analytics 360 in the last few months, we can say that, in terms of new announcements, all was rather quiet. Although the presentation of Suite 360 confirmed that web analytics is an ever important foundation for digital marketing, and this in the broadest sense.

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