Cross device browsing and User-ID in Google Analytics

Aug 6th, 2018

We all know the importance of having a fully optimised website and the role this has on building a positive user experience (UX). However, with mobile search overtaking desktop and becoming the number one method of search it is especially important

With that in mind, we thought it best to look at cross device browsing, how the user interprets their experience of your site in terms of its value to them and the ways in which businesses can track their activity via the “User ID” features in Google Analytics.

What is cross device browsing?

Cross device browsing relates directly to the method with which a user searches. This could be on desktop, mobile or tablet and, in recent years, the technology has been developed to include voice search. The key for businesses is not necessarily where the user looks for the information, but that they are directed to the appropriate site or page and that the experience is the same on all devices.

In order to get the most from their audience and to attract and retain new customers, businesses have to constantly test their platforms to ensure they are offering the best possible performance.  With that in mind, it is vital to understand where the traffic is coming from and for businesses to have full tracking in place so that they are best serving their audience.

What is cross device tracking?

Cross device tracking refers to technology which enables tracking of logged in or registered users across multiple devices. Though this sort of tracking has privacy implications, it allows for more detailed tracking of users than traditional methods.

Under the latest GDPR (general data protection regulations), data can be collected from multiple devices used by a single user and correlated to form a more accurate picture of the person being tracked. This is the reason why businesses are now putting cookies on their websites and have been scrambling to reconfirm permissions.

The regulations mean that businesses also have to focus on performance. Cross device tracking helps with this as it identifies which channels are most successful in helping convert browsers into buyers.

Understanding the benefits of user ID and tracking

One of the best tools for looking at where your traffic is coming from and how to best monitor the performance of your traffic, is Google Analytics, specifically the “User-ID” feature.

“User ID” lets you connect multiple devices, sessions, and engagement data to the same users.

According to Google webmasters: “The User-ID feature allows you to associate a persistent ID for a single user with that user’s engagement data from one or more sessions initiated from one or more devices.

“Analytics interprets each unique user ID as a separate user, which provides a more accurate user count in your reports.

“When you send Analytics an ID and related data from multiple sessions, your reports tell a more unified, holistic story about a user’s relationship with your business.”

There are four main benefits when it comes to using the User-ID feature. They are:

More accurate user counts – In order to truly understand your audience you want to have the most relevant data to hand. Currently there are not many analytics platforms that can identify unique users across multiple devices or sessions. User-ID allows you full visibility each time someone switches to a different device or starts a new session.

Historically if the same person was engaging with your content on a phone and a tablet and logs in for two sessions they were counted as two users.

User-ID can associate multiple sessions (and any activity within those sessions) with a unique ID. When you send a unique ID and any related engagement data to Analytics, all activity is attributed to one user in your reports. Because every unique user ID is considered to be a unique user in your Analytics reports, you get more accurate user data that better reflects the real world.

User experience (UX) analysis – This feature allows you to implement User-ID in conjunction with your authentication system, so that a unique (signed in) ID is sent to Analytics. Any activity that happens when an account is signed-in can all be associated with that ID.

Because signed-in users usually engage with your content more than users that don’t sign in, the User ID lets you segment this subset of your traffic in your Analytics reports.

Access to additional tools and metrics – When you set up User-ID, you can access User-ID reporting views and the Cross Device reports. A User-ID view is a special reporting view that only displays data from sessions in which you send unique ID and related data to Analytics. A cross device reports gives you the tools to organise and gives a better idea of how seemingly unrelated touch points, sessions, and interactions are connected.

Google Webmasters give the following example: “You might discover that one segment of users searches on a mobile device and purchases on a tablet within the same day, while another segment clicks an ad on a mobile device, browses your site on a desktop the next day, and returns to make a purchase on a tablet a week later.”

Understanding exactly how this tool works gives you the full picture in terms of the customer journey.

Understand relationships between your acquisitions, engagement, and conversions – With data collected through User-ID, you can find and evaluate relationships between devices and engagement activities across multiple sessions, so you can better attribute acquisitions to conversions and see what your users do between action points. You can use this data to develop new kinds of marketing campaigns that are tailored to different device and engagement combinations, boosting UX.

Avid followers of the blog will know that we often expand on our findings here, and a full eBook on setting up these reports and how you can incorporate the tactics will follow.

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