Case Study: How to track SaaS business results in Google Analytics

We are back with a fresh pack of cool ideas for successful marketing. This time, we’re going to take a look at something we do here at Mangools.

If you are interested in getting useful information about SaaS business and how to track its results in Google Analytics, you are at the right place.

Contents:

Sleeves-up!

Are you new to Google Analytics? No problem, we’ll help you out with the very basics as well in our article: What is Google Analytics?

Universal Analytics works with “analytics.js” JavaScript library. Among other benefits, its tracking code is more flexible; it gives the option to track results from any digital device and enables users to create custom dimensions and custom metrics.

Before we start tracking the data we need to create an account and a property. We can use up to 100 accounts and have multiple properties within each of them. Every account has its own Account ID. Most importantly, every property is represented by its unique Tracking ID: UA-XXXXXXXX-X, which can be found under “Property Settings”.

We will use it as a part of tracking code (found under “Tracking Info”) for our website/application.

Screenshot 1: Google Analytics Property settings

Screenshot 1: Google Analytics Property settings

Solving the dilemma: Application vs. other pages tracking in Google Analytics

Here we go, brace up! You’ll find many thoughts, ideas, and discussions on this issue. Some of them advise to go for separate tracking and vice versa. It can be a bit of a fight sometimes.

To make it easier for you, we tried both separate tracking and tracking under one property. In this case study, we’ll take a look how it went.

When writing this post, we had two tools with separate landing page and application for each: KWFinder.com and SERPChecker.com. The third website mangools.com was built as a hub and account-managing platform. It’s the site where you can register or buy a subscription. And this is the point where where it all starts.

Using separate properties or accounts for tracking two web applications and three websites could be a reason for a real headache.

Well, not for us! We managed to track all of them under one property and make it work like a charm. Can you imagine all those lost real sources of conversions made during visits to all tools and websites we run? Moreover, we wouldn’t be able to analyse real traffic sources and evaluate our campaigns (emails, PPC, social networks, blog, etc.).

One combined does the job. Based on that, we determine where to invest our budget in the future, and that’s pretty important, isn’t it?

You can see how the tracking code for one combined view looks like below. Make sure to:

  • allow linker”; 
  • use ga(‘require’, ‘linker’);”
  • add all the domains you would like to track: “ga(‘linker:autoLink’, [‘domain1.com’, ‘domain2.com’]

    );”.

<script>

...

// Beginning of the Google Analytics tracking code ... //

 ga('create', 'UA-XXXXXXXX-X', 'auto', {'allowLinker': true});

 ga('send', 'pageview');

 ga('require', 'linker');

 ga('linker:autoLink', ['domain1.com', 'domain2.com']

); </script>

For detailed information visit Google Analytics guide.

Of course, every method has its pros and cons. The first argument against the combined view would be that we couldn’t get separate data for each website/application. Well, this can be done through segment creation.

In general, it depends on what we would like to track. Let’s say we have only one website with one application. In that case, separate tracking wins. Another determiner is where campaign tracking links lead and how we track them.

From a developer’s point of view, before choosing one of the methods, it’s important to look at the website/application structure and their architecture. Are they on the same domain/subdomain?

We’re not willing to lose a track of the customer journey, real sources of conversions, nor the customer interactions of any of the applications or websites. That’s why we use one combined view.

Internal referrals

Internal referrals will increase your numbers but at the end of the day, they will become ghosts spoiling your data. It actually doesn’t matter whether you use separate properties or not. Excluding internal referrals will rid you of duplicate values.

Select the property and click on “Tracking Info”. Once done, look for “Referral Exclusion List” and add all domains you consider as referrals providing duplicate values. Users arriving to your site via any of these domains will not be counted as referral traffic in your reports.

Screenshot 2: Google Analytics - Excluding internal referrals
Google Analytics Internal referrals

Screenshots 2 and 3: Google Analytics – Excluding internal referrals

Tracking conversions in Google Analytics

We’re getting to a very important part. Let’s hit the “Goals” option.

Screenshot 4: Google Analytics - Goals

Screenshot 4: Google Analytics – Goals

SaaS businesses generally focus on two main conversions. We’re talking about sign-ups (registrations) and paid plans (subscriptions). We provide free plan, we have registered customers who haven’t subscribed to one of our paid plans. However, we want to track them.

Sign-up (registration) goal

To set it up we used the “Create an account” template. It’s sufficiently customised to our needs.

Screenshot 5: Google Analytics - Setting up sign-up (registration) goal

Screenshot 5: Google Analytics – Setting up sign-up (registration) goal

We named the goal and chose a type: As we use unique URLs for each step of the registration process, we continued with “Destination” option. Having unique URLs helps a lot when tracking conversions.

Screenshot 6 - Google Analytics goal description

Screenshot 6 – Google Analytics goal description

The format of the URL depends on the website structure, but it should be something like this: “/sign-up/thanks”. If there’s a possibility of more than one final destination, you can change “Equals to” to “Regular expression”.

Screenshot 7: Google Analytics goal details

Screenshot 7: Google Analytics goal details

Subscription goal

It’s almost identical to the previous one. This time, we used the “Place an order” template. Of course, you can choose “Custom” option and set all fields by yourself but Google did a good job with these templates so why not to use them?

Screenshot 8: Google Analytics - Setting up subscription goal

Screenshot 8: Google Analytics – Setting up subscription goal

Similarly to the previous conversion setting, we chose again the “Destination” type of the goal and copied the unique URL, which represents the final destination. The URL should always be something like this: “/subscriptions/thanks”.

The “Value” is for monetizing the results. As many other SaaS businesses, we have more than one paid plan to offer to our customers with different prices and time periods. But the final destination URL is the same, so we couldn’t create a goal for each type of the plan.

On the other hand, it would be time-consuming to track so many values. That’s why we calculate a lifetime value (LTV) of a customer each month. Thanks to this we can track all subscriptions under one goal and enjoy easily readable data.

“Funnel” option enables to track individual steps of the process (if there’s more than one step). What we use is a funnel consisting of “Billing details” step, but there can be other scenarios as well. Let’s say we have 3-step form so the steps will be as follows:

  1. Personal details
  2. Credit card info
  3. Submission

We would add first two to the “Funnel” and the third (final) step would be the “Destination”.

Screenshot 9: Google Analytics - Destination and funnel

Screenshot 9: Google Analytics – Destination and funnel

Besides Google Analytics, you can use services such as Finteza which is great for advanced metrics that are not based on extrapolation and sampling. Though these tools are paid, they are worth trying as a great source of additional data.

Conclusion

To wrap it up, setting up the Google Analytics with all its features is a vital and ever-changing process. Google tends to launch many updates throughout the time, some of them affect the numbers, some of them don’t.

Always stay updated and play with Analytics settings, properties and segments. Setting up the conversions is an inevitable part of the process.

Whether to choose separate properties or one combined view?

It depends on the business structure, number of websites/applications and expectations of what we want to track. Should we pick just one, we’d go for the second option.

Hopefully, you enjoyed reading of this case study and learnt something new. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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