Everyone from online business owners to those who host a personal website turn to Google Analytics for relevant insights into their visitor traffic and marketing performance. But when we’re talking about SaaS companies, there are some things to consider that will ensure you get the right data and insights when using Google Analytics.
Whether you’re just starting on your SaaS journey or already have an established product, Google Analytics is a great analytics platform, but you need to assess it differently than other businesses. In standard eCommerce stores, you would account for transactions and gain leads from online forms. In SaaS, you’ll have registered users and recurring revenue, instead of single transactions.
The structure of Google Analytics wasn’t originally created for user behavior tracking, but you can tweak the platform to give you the results you need. With slight implementations and changes, you can accurately boost data on your products and marketing efforts.
There are other analytics tracking platforms out there, such as Heap, Amplitude, and Mixpanel. While they are fantastic for analyzing user-product interactions, they can be quite expensive and not needed in some cases, especially if you’re just starting out. Google Analytics is much more accessible to SaaS owners of all stages, and should always be used, alongside a specialized SaaS analytics tool like the ones previously listed.
We will work on the basis that you’ve already got Google Analytics as well as Google Tag Manager set up on your website. We’ll be focusing on how to adjust your Google Analytics implementation for your SaaS product.
Here, we’ll assume that you have successfully installed Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager on your website and application.
Customized Tracking for SaaS
Google Analytics primary interface and setup is not the most useful tool for those with SaaS apps or websites. Since most SaaS apps operate on only a single page, you’ll need to do more than just pasting in the tracking code and expecting in-depth results. While the main tracking screen for SaaS apps is beneficial, they are not the most essential piece of information you will gain from your Google Analytics. For SaaS tracking, you’ll gain the most insight from the events and goals that you set up within the platform.
Events and Goals
Regardless of what type of SaaS business you operate, the main goal is always going to be the same, subscriptions. So, within Google Analytics, you’ll want to set your top goals that support your main goal, which can be referred to as micro or supporting conversions.
Google Analytics only allows you to set up 20 goals within the basic version unless you want to upgrade for the paid version. Because of this, it’s essential to set them for optimal data insights. Build a funnel with your goals that will allow you to see your visitor’s conversions clearly. The funnel will also let you see at which point you are losing customers via abandonment or drop-off.
You can use this information to alter those areas specifically and model them after the sections of your funnel that are working well. These improvements will allow your sales pipelines to perform better and, in the end, result in more subscriptions.
The events/goals that are important to track as a SaaS business are:
As a SaaS product and business, your primary goal is subscriptions, so some important goals would probably be a purchase and secondary goal might be a registration or a lead subscription.
See some examples that would make sense for a SaaS company to track:
- Changes to existing plans/upgrades
- User invites
- Subscription purchases
- Invoice or report creation
- Uploads (files, documents, images)
- Filled out forms
And examples of Custom Dimensions to enrich your application data:
- Size of the users’ company
- The industry of users company
- User ID
- Occupation of user
- Type of plan or account
- Subscription type
- When the user joined
How to Track Page Views in Single Page Apps
The page tracking within the standard Google Analytics setup is best suited for typical websites or those that have multiple pages. It is because the tracking code runs whenever a visitor moves to a different page. As you can imagine, that can pose a problem when your site only has one page.
With a SaaS, single-page website or app, the tracking code will only run once, when the user enters the site. Since the user will be on that single page the duration of their session, there is no reason for the page to reload. That means the tracking code won’t run again.
Within your reports on Google Analytics you will only see a single page view. While you may notice alternate URLs, they are just different to give the idea that you’ve got multiple pages.
It’s not only Google Analytics that creates this issue. Most analytics and web tracking platforms operate the same way. They are built to track page loads and, therefore, best suited to websites with multiple pages to follow the customer journey. For single-page apps, you will need to be creative with how you use these web tracking platforms.
Almost all SaaS websites will be single-page apps. Instead of tracking actual pageviews, you will need to track virtual page views within the app. Since Google Analytics doesn’t have this option, you’ll need to use other triggers that will count as a pageview. Doing this will allow you to see pageviews within your reports. The trigger you will need to use is the history change one.
Simplify Your Reports by Cleaning Up URLs
There are only a set number of unique values allowed by Google Analytics per day. Because of this, limiting the variety of unique characters can help streamline your reports and ensure you’re collecting all the relevant information.
Tables that contain information processed daily can hold about 50,000 rows in the free Google Analytics. If you have Google Analytics 360, then they can hold 75,000 rows.
For tables that process information from multiple days, you can hold 100,000 rows on the free Google Analytics and 150,000 rows on the premium version called Google Analytics 360.
If your data values go past the defined limit, then the platform will pick which values it will display in the table automatically. It will add all other values to a new row, which will be called “other”. It’s not ideal as Google Analytics does this on its own, and you may lose track of some of the values that may be crucial to you.
Have a look at your URL paths. If they have any elements that are dynamic or changing, like ID numbers, then take them out of the page path in your GA pageview. Those numbers are not necessary and don’t generate much insight for you anyways. It will simplify your reports in general and make them more organized.
Google Analytics Views
Receiving all your user traffic information in one place will make it confusing and hard to analyze. As there are many sources of data coming into your Google Analytics, from a variety of unique visitors, it’s vital to organize the information. Separating the data into segments will allow you to look at each chunk separately first and pull insights from it. It’s much more straightforward, and you’re less likely to get overwhelmed with all the data.
Then you can view and make relevant comparisons to other data segments. For example, you can look at user interaction within your application in one section and compare it to types of visitors and how they arrived at your website.
These data segments within Google Analytics are called “views.” At the very least you will want to have these three views set up within the platform:
- Main Reporting View – Where you can apply relevant filters
- User ID View – To track your SaaS user information
- All Website Data – Unfiltered data
Ecommerce and Tracking Recurring Revenue
Google Analytics platform wasn’t built with SaaS products in mind. Since your analytics aren’t based on multiple purchases but based on subscriptions, there are some creative tweaks you’ll need to make.
As a SaaS business, the main metrics you’ll want to keep track of are:
- User signups/registrations. They may sign up for a free trial or just register an account.
- Users that upgrade to a paid subscription. User has entered their payment details and confirmed their subscription.
- When payments are taken to continue their subscription. Each time that the subscription renews, whether that’s monthly or yearly, it needs to be tracked. It can include payments taken via PayPal, Stripe, or whichever processing system you use.
If you have Google Analytics Enhanced Ecommerce, you can track this information, but it can become difficult to track what happens after. Since it’s a subscription, the processing of payments and other events takes place over multiple sessions and therefore is hard to track.
Google Analytics tracks data within a session structure, so when actions take place over multiple sessions, it may not group the data correctly. But, there’s a workaround.
You can create custom dimensions for all user subscriptions using their user IDs and client IDs.
But what about tracking recurring revenue? That’s the revenue that is processed on a recurring basis based on the particular subscription. Google Analytics will receive the payment details from the app’s transaction information via Google Analytics Measurement Protocol.
To reiterate, I will mention that Google Analytics isn’t best suited for tracking recurring revenue, and although a great eCommerce analytics tool, when it comes to recurring revenue you’ll need some workarounds to make it work.
AARRR Model (Pirate Metrics)
Like many other SaaS products, you want to be able to attract and retain new users and tracking everything around them is especially important.
The AARRR metrics (also known as Pirate Metrics) are:
- Acquisition: Where visitors come from through various channels
- Activation: Visitors that convert to registered paying users
- Retention: The users come back and stay using your product
- Referral: Users that refer your SaaS to other people
- Revenue: Users that pay to use your SaaS product
Google Analytics is a great analytics platform when implemented correctly to help you answer questions involved in the AARRR model to find meaningful insights from your results.
User ID and Multi-Device Tracking
The Google Analytics platform tracks users by issuing them a unique ID number called a Client ID. These numbers will only apply for a single platform. Therefore, if the same user accesses your website from multiple platforms or browsers, they are given a different Client ID number for each. It’s unhelpful since you cannot identify the users accurately. The best way to change this is by setting up User ID tracking.
You can use Google Tag Manager and Universal Analytics to set up this tracking and have it send the data over to your Google Analytics. The User ID will identify each user, but it should never contain any personally identifiable information like their name or email address.
Using the User ID tracking will allow you to see how users behave overall, including when they use other platforms or devices. It will also simplify your data since all individual user information will merge into a single user.
The User ID Tracking report is excellent for understanding the users with the highest activity on your website. You can also add additional data streams and metrics or change your current ones to make the report relevant to you. The easiest way to identify your highest value users is with the User Explorer report, which you can find under the Audience.
EU Visitors and the GDPR
Whether you live in the EU or not, you’ve likely heard of GDPR. But what does it mean and how will it affect your data?
If your website receives any traffic from EU visitors, then you will need to have consent from each user to setup User ID tracking. If you do not have their permission to use this information, then you’re going against the GDPR.
For GDPR compliance, your user journey should look like this:
- A person visits the landing page,
- A banner displays and asks for consent to track user,
- A person can agree or disagree to have them tracked and their data processed by you,
- The consent can then be stored in a cookie.
For more detailed information see Google’s policy and the implementation of this can vary greatly by application and development team.
Google Analytics is a free tool that, when implemented correctly, can still provide useful insights to SaaS businesses. If you stick to our guide, you can use creative loopholes to pull data from your analytics reports that are relevant to your specific industry.
These implementation steps are just the beginning. Beyond only SaaS app reports, it’s a fantastic resource for your marketing and product analytics. You can use the information gained to optimize your marketing efforts and product development.
Eventually, you will want to go further and dive deeper into product analytics. Using additional platforms such as Mixpanel, Heap, or Amplitude to give you a fuller picture of your application data that Google Analytics cannot. Since it’s not built for SaaS, you’re not going to get the depth of granular data you will get with paid, but it’s a great place to start.