Superweek 2019 – this 5 day long digital analytics conference on a mountain top in Hungary was quite an unique and for sure very intense experience. I’m still a bit overwhelmed by such amount of great lectures and chats in between them. Not easy to put all my thought on the paper, but let’s give it a try. If you want to know how not to “puke with data”, what’s new in Google solutions and how to dance GTM Boogie, then please bear with me :).
Big topics: Big Query, Machine Learning and automation
After these few days, I had the feeling that nobody uses the Google Analytics interface any more. Sending data to BigQuery, playing around with BigQuery ML, visualizing with Data Studio – it’s now not only common but an obvious approach. This solution provides data quality and flexibility for advanced users, who don’t want to be limited by the tool. Traditional interface remains there to ensure data is easily accessible, however, we should still aim to go beyond it. The topic of machine learning and automation was mentioned numerous times, and it definitely is the future of analytics and digital marketing. Predicting conversions in order to define audiences, personalization of the website or gaining new insights were parts of the few presented solutions. My favourite case was presented by Zoran Arsovski and Ivaylo Shipochky. These guys used business data feed to automatically create and update ads for sport events, and then used trained models to run the campaign – minimizing workload and boosting revenue in quite impressive scale! Still, Mark Edmondson, showed us that machine learning alone cannot provide the same value as an expert in the field. Yet, as ML is getting more and more accessible (thanks to solutions like Cloud AutoML) combinations of these two can now offer whole new level of quality.
Simo Ahava loved the GTM Panel drinks. Photo: superweek.hu
Business Consulting, Cooperation and Processes
Ivan Rečević said, “we prefer to stay in the friend zone of technology, as we are afraid of serious business relationship”; “We are puking with data for 4500 years now” Sayf Sharif followed, while showing the first monthly report from ancient Egypt. Even though our work will always have roots in proper implementation (and as Brian Clifton showed, there’s still a lot to do: https://verified-data.com/study), digital analytics has reached the point where we should finally switch the focus from implementation and producing data to supporting our clients in their business goals by providing them valuable insights. This topic was mentioned in at least every second talk and panel. The idea seems pretty obvious, yet I observe that we are often stuck on reporting (even good) KPIs instead of providing actionable conclusions and recommendations for business purposes. Even Simo Ahava presented only one GTM hack (http://bit.ly/2FQZhyF), and focused on the importance of working in multidisciplinary teams to avoid silo thinking and including analytics into all the stages of the project.
And indeed, some great business insights were presented during Superweek. Lucia Hrašková talked about the importance of identifying customers who are killing the business and produce costs rather than revenue. In two other speeches, similarly, it was shown that thanks to machine learning we can reduce our marketing efforts not only for the costumers who are not likely to convert, but also the ones that will convert for sure (without us spending money on them).
Furthermore, I truly enjoyed Erik Driessen’s talk on Lean Measurement and his experiences with working agilely in analytics. He presented the concept of delivering a Minimum Viable Measurement Product (basic tracing) and building up custom tracking around it (instead of preparing bulky implementation guidelines). That way valuable data could be used faster and the cooperation with IT was improved. I absolutely loved the concept of the “failure wall” – a wall where his team sticks post stickers describing everything that has gone wrong. Once in a while they meet to “celebrate the failure” and learn from their mistakes by finding strengths, mistakes, challenges and annoyances that led to those failures.
News from Google
As always, everybody wants to know what’s coming next in Google solutions and this time was no different. Three talks from Google’s representatives gave us some answers and – unsurprisingly – left with a lot of uncertainties.
Gary Illyes presented methods on how to improve your SEO by Google images. Beside structured data that was mentioned around 6384 times, he also emphasized the importance of meaningful, informative context (mostly alt attribute of image tag), but also captions under images, page text in general, meta tags, titles, and site maps. At the evening Q&A session on organic search at the fireside, he successfully avoided giving “easy to implement” tips ;). We were again reminded that websites are built for people and not for robots, and instead of trying to meet mysterious SEO requirements, we should above all ensure that the user experience is good and the brand/product is trusted and likely to be recommended. He advised to follow John Mueller (@JohnMu) and to be cautious with the results of SEO “experiments” found in blogs (which often times have very poor quality). So sorry guys, no breaking news this time!
Q&A session with Gary Illyes Photo: superweek.hu
Scott H. Herman and Brian Kuhn talked about what is coming next for Google Tag Manager. The ultimate goal for the future is to minimalize the amount of custom HTML in GTM. Solution? Custom Templates! Soon we will be able to easily develop our own custom tags and variables, with the same user-friendly interface to populate ids or any kind of web data. Debugging seems to be very easy. If the first question popping in your mind is “will we have the possibility to share templates?” – the answer is yes :).
Once they were asked about their solution to the Firefox 3rd part domain blocking and supporting workarounds related to it. They stated that to avoid “arms race”, they are currently talking with the biggest browsers’ teams to ensure GTM will not be blocked. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for that!
Krista Seiden presented Google Analytics for Firebase and confirmed that the old SDK for mobile will not be supported in the future. Not everybody is happy about that – even BigQuery integration for free users is a great benefit of Firebase, still, for many switching to new data models is not easy. For me, working mostly with Adobe products, these 50 custom events with 25 custom dimensions (beside the other bunch of automatically collected events) is much more appealing than the simple event category-action-label structure. What is also worth mentioning is that Kirstan said “we strongly believe in this data model”. Does it mean that we should get ready for Firebase for web? After Superweek I have a feeling the answer is positive, but let’s see what the future brings.
Data Privacy is and will be the topic which we’ll be facing more and more (Aurélie Pols assured us of it in her GTPR talk). The interesting vision on possible solutions was presented by Kristoffer Ewald. In the times when “data is new oil” and everybody knows its value, users could allow user-centred analytics… but not for free! Instead of giving your data to data providers in an uncontrolled manner and for free, you could exchange it for profits like discounts, vouchers and so on. That could be a win-win situation for all (well, except for data vendors).
Stephane Hamel now on the safe side. Photo: superweek.hu
For me one of the most triggering topics of this conference was ethics in digital analytics – introduced by Steen Rasmussen and followed up by Stéphane Hamel. Since data protection has become the thing, we are fighting for any piece of data that we CAN track… often without asking ourselves if we SHOULD track it. Is it really ok to use data the way we want to? Where’s the thin line between conversion rate optimization for mutual benefit and manipulation? Are we ready to take the responsibility for collected data and use it wisely or are we just infants with guns? I guess there’s no easy answer for this question, but I’m happy we have started to discuss it.
The most interesting solutions shared
Superweek is the conference that focuses more on inspiration, vision for the future and higher level topics. Fortunately, there were also some goodies for lovers of the technical side of analytics. Here you can find some solutions that you can play around with J.
Zorian Radovančević, this year’s Golden Punchcard (Superweek’s award) winner, presented attribution analysis that connects the data from multi channels reports with core reporting and allows to split attribution reports by product, product category, device, and so on. Everything in plain, free GA: https://bit.ly/2B9LD5z (open source)
Visual interface for R
Hussain Mehmood showed how to approach data science without coding, by using a visual interface for R: https://exploratory.io (free trial).
Propensity Modelling in BigQueryML
Ken Williams presented the machine learning solution to calculate the probability of conversion in next 30 days based on any given event. http://goo.gl/KJHFKZ (open source).
R and Google Analytics
A bit of Google Analytics data science in R was presented by Tim Wilson: http://bit.ly/ga-and-r (open source).
Chrome Extension for Google Analytics interface
Stéphane Hamel presented Da Vinci Tools – his chrome extensions that adds a lot of cool features directly into GA and GTM interfaces, which is already well known among many analysts. More cool features are coming! http://bit.ly/DaVinciTools (free).
The story of one t-shirt
Erik Driessen used Google Natural Language API to analyze a sentiment of the songs of Avicii. He turn one of the charts into the graphic, that he printed on the t-shirt. He was wearing it when he received the Silver Punchcard award for this creative analysis. http://www.edriessen.com/avicii/ (the graphic available for download).
Why so serious?
What is unique about Superweek is not only the inspiring talks that will give you a boost for a new year, but also the laid off atmosphere. I could not imagine keeping the energy high and maintaining focused for five days without awesome Doug Hall and Yehoshua Coren dancing and singing. So, this is how the speakers were introduced:
…and what’s more, dancing alone was not enough for Yehoshua. Here’s the world’s first Google Tag Manager Boogie! Not bad, right?
And one more thing: Superweek should actually be called “an analytics retreat”. Being in the mountains 2 hours away from Budapest, there’s no place to escape from digital analysts and data lovers. Restaurant, bar, bonfire side or even saunas – these people were everywhere. And great talks were there with them.
Fred Pike, Tim Wilson, Robert Petković and Ivaylo Shipochky definitely have chosen wrong career path, but at least they stayed on the stage giving great lectures 🙂 Photo: superweek.hu
Thanks for the great inspiration, atmosphere and chats everyone! Hope to see you on the mountain top next year! Photo: superweek.hu
Some presentations available online:
Simo Ahava – You Can’t Spell “Measure” Without “Customization”: https://www.slideshare.net/SimoAhava/you-cant-spell-measure-without-customization
Mark Edmondson – Man vs. Machine?: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8mnw5mhficv6k0k/superweek2019.pdf?dl=0
Brian Clifton – The State of Google Analytics Data: https://www.slideshare.net/omegadm/the-poor-state-of-google-analytics-data
Tim Wilson – Digital Analytics Meets Data Science: Use Cases for Google Analytics: https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/tgwilson/superweek-2019-digital-analytics-meets-data-science
Matt Gershoff – Surprise! Its Entropy, the Theory of Information: https://www.slideshare.net/mgershoff/entropy-an-end-to-the-data-love-affair-130390036
Kseniya Anikeeva – Analytics for Publishers: Pains and Aspirations: https://yadi.sk/i/VzCb6Bs-48Lkfg
Danny Mawani Olsen – Repetitive Tasks Are Slowly Killing Us from Within: https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3A5989cac4-1afb-47dc-9608-6ad59914f877
Doug Hall – The Joy of Data V2: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/e/2PACX-1vTzN5HT7OzSioku0aZNPF_VG9WU93CqMeiCLoVDwXS8OQG98qaPMpUth0uE2Ems5bp1jXiGUY8rcD1W/pub
Doug Hall – Closing Keynote: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/e/2PACX-1vSVxKxZQdDFiFwgRKc6eTwDSUtmk4rshWQgd_GxMa6FWIdT6DuLUuSplNUc43b-hv47ybzpTafMN_6O/pub