Earlier this year Google stopped giving users a choice when they wanted to create a mobile Property to use the regular Google Analytics platform or if they wanted to use Google Analytics for Firebase (henceforth just called Firebase). Now you only get the choice of creating a Firebase Property, and it left me wondering why on earth would they do that.
Keeping the old fires burning
Note: if you do still want to create a mobile property using the old method it is doable, you create a Web Property and then a mobile View:
Blaze of Firebase
If you are starting fresh, though, Google recommends to use Firebase. But why would you?
Well, it gives you access to your raw data for essentially free. Lots of caveats around this and you will need to monitor your own usage but you will need to upgrade to the Blaze tier of Firebase, which is a pay-as-you-go service and if you connect to your free 1TB/Month BigQuery account for people with relatively small data it can be free.
Check out https://firebase.google.com/pricing/ for details around Firebase pricing and https://cloud.google.com/bigquery/pricing to see the latest details and don’t send us any bills if you get charged.
This lets you have access to the raw data without the GA360 price tag, and you can pivot and analyse your data to your heart’s content. This data can also be linked with Data Studio to create reports with no chance of sampling.
Sounds great, Sarah but I don’t have sampling issues and raw data scares me, what else you got? Well Firebase has a couple of other cool tracking features.
First, you aren’t limited to the three event tracking types - category, action, label - it allows for free form event tracking, so you give our event any name you want. So, for example, you could set up tracking like:
- Event name: “Pizza Selected”
- “Pizza” : “Hawaian”
- “Base” : “Cheesy Crust”
- “Slices” : 6
- “Extras” : “Chilli”
- Event name: “Ordered Pizza”
- “Pizza” : “Hawaian”
- “Location”: “Brisbane”
- “Payment type”: “Paypal”
- “Amount” : 20.00
- “Quantity”: 2
You can report up to 500 unique events and up to 25 different parameters for each. For those playing along at home, that’s 12,500 unique bits of info.
It looks a lot like a mixture of the dataLayer and custom dimensions but the interface for Firebase shows these without having to bring in extra dimensions and creating custom reports.
Firebase also allows you to set a user property - just like a user based Custom Dimension. But you can use it as a filter for your data without having to set up a segment. And did I mention, all this is available to you as raw data?
With the set up you also have access to other features like notifications, authentication, storage and dynamic links, which are all handy when working with mobile apps.
Burning the candle at both ends
Though I have been waxing lyrical about Firebase I do see that it doesn’t have as many useful reports as the old Google Analytics at this point. Splitting screens and events, goal funnels and of course the ever important ecommerce tracking are not part of Firebase’s reports.
This is where Google Tag Manager can step in. Previously, when setting up analytics for mobile apps, Google Tag Manager seemed to be a useless step in the process, since you couldn’t make changes without updating the code anyway.
Now that Google Tag Manager is grouped with the Firebase SDK you still need to add the code in the app but you can use GTM to send data to multiple locations. Meaning, you can do one line of code to send data to Firebase and then use GTM to send that data to a Google Analytics mobile view, send it to Facebook, send it to Adwords, etc.
So you can have the best of both worlds. Using this method you can also have roll up accounts where you can see all your users across your apps and websites.
In summary, Google Analytics for Firebase has a lot of cool features and I am sure that they are going to add to them over time but the old Google Analytics mobile view still has a lot of good reports we can’t live without. As the taco girl says - why not have both - use Firebase and GTM to send data to multiple properties to get the best of both worlds.