Archive | WAW Recaps

August 2022 – Google Analytics Alternatives

After having several presentations on GA4 migration, the haters finally got a night of their own.

Except Jason Packer, our presenter of these GA alternatives (and author of this post), actually thinks GA4 is pretty good. Jason encouraged everyone to primarily not see GA4 as the default choice, but one possible choice in a world of many different options.

And boy are there a lot of options. We took a list of 120+ and narrowed it down to about 15 products based upon existing installation base and talked about some of these products strengths and weaknesses. Then we talked about how to frame up some questions that can help us pick a few different options to evaluate.

Then we did a live consultation with a couple of volunteers to try and narrow down what options could make sense for their particular needs.

Find info on Jason’s book on Google Analytics Alternatives here.


June 2022 – Google Analytics 4 (Meetup AND Bonus Seminar)

As we are just over a year out from when Google has announced they will end-of-life Universal Analytics as of July 1, 2023, this month’s meetup included a bonus follow-on seminar on Thursday morning.

Ken Williams (creator and maintainer of in-depth Google Analytics 4 resources on and Cory Watson from Search Discovery presented at both events. Some of the highlights and takeaways from the event:

  • The entire philosophy of how the collected data is structured is different from Universal Analytics—it relies solely on events, and each event can have multiple parameters (as Cory put it, “the event is what happened, and the parameters are the context around that”)
  • This model does have more flexibility, but it’s still got some gaps in its functionality; mostly, these are things that Google is working on
  • Bounce rate was going away…to be replaced by a vastly superior concept of “engagement.” This was awesome…but there was a backlash from a sufficiently large number of users (who should really be ashamed of themselves) that Google is going to add bounce rate back in as an available metric
  • Planning is key: actually accessing the data once it’s captured will be reasonably straightforward or an absolute nightmare depending on how well the implementation is planned. Ken and Cory suggested that organizations should plan for 11 to 17 weeks to implement Google Analytics 4
  • Something to think (freak out) about is that lots of organizations expect to have access to year-over-year comparisons. That means, starting July 1, 2023, they’ll be wanting apples-to-apples comparison data that goes back to…July 1, 2022. <gulp>

This post can’t possibly do a complete recap of the material. You really had to be there.

But, if you weren’t (or, if you were, but you’d like to review the content), the next best thing are the slides, which Ken and Cory graciously shared!

The slides from Wednesday’s meetup:

The slides from Thursday’s seminar:

And, hey, just in case you wanted to see a few more pics of the event:

April 2022 – Modern Culture of Data

For our April event, Thomas Kilbane, Jeewan Singh, and Eric Hayslett from Slalom Consulting presented on the people and process side of the data: pillars that are critical for organizations to establish if they want to meaningfully put data to work on an on-going and ingrained part of the organization.

The five pillars:

  • Bold Vision—and it needs to be a vision that is clear and business-aligned (“We’re going to do AI” doesn’t count)
  • Access & Transparency—users need to be able to be able to get to the data and understand how to interpret it
  • Data Literacy—users need to have both the hard skills (using tools) and the softer skills (hypothesis development) and the incentives to be putting the organization’s data to use
  • Guardianship—governance of the data so that it can be trusted by the users as to its accuracy, as well as ensuring it is compliant with regulatory requirements
  • Embedding Insights—a pillar that is dependent on all of the other pillars: actually incorporating the use of data into all relevant aspects of the organization’s day-to-day operations

Slalom’s support for the event also enabled us to up our game on the food, with a delicious spread from Chef Jeff!

The event photographer has finally learned how to set a custom white balance on his camera. He even occasionally remembers to reset it when he moves from the meeting space out into the atrium. Occasionally.

February 2022 – The Future of Data Analytics and Where to Find Talent

The first event of 2022 was in-person and almost felt…normal. We had a good-sized crowd, pizza, some of Columbus’s finest microbrews, and a thought-provoking presentation about finding and developing analytics talent in an incredibly tight labor market.

And masks.

I said almost normal!

Jen Wells and Bill Baldarez shared the research, thoughts, and experiences they had that led to the creation of TalentID Academy. The essence of talk was that:

  • Organizations need to be more flexible in how and where they look for talent: focusing on aptitude and potential (initiative, curiosity, critical thinking, problem solving) rather than “traditional”credentials (college degrees, X years of industry experience, experience with specific tools). And, they need to be willing to hire and develop talent (Jen: “You can hire someone and spend six months developing them, or you can keep looking for another 6 to 8 months and hope you will find someone who needs less talent…but also will be more likely to hop at the next opportunity.”)
  • Job seekers need to demonstrate initiative (the Google Analytics Academy is free!), seek out formal mentors (just ask!), and explore ways to learn tools and skills that fit their budget and learning style. (Jen also counseled against being convinced to “work for free”—anything that feels like an unpaid internship, even if it goes by some other name; in this market, it’s unreasonable for organizations to expect this!)

The full deck is available, too!

The event photographer was pretty pleased with himself that, over the course of the last two years, he actually learned how to set a custom white balance on his camera. Scenes from the evening:



December 2021 – A Little Content and a Lot of Holiday Cheer

We made another run at an in-person event in December, with the hopes of being in-person every other month in 2022.

Because it had been a while since we were in-person, emcee Bryan Huber did some audience participation with some real-time data gathering (sadly, said data was not rigorously collected, so no reporting or analysis will be provided here).

Bryan Huber Surveys the Attendees

We did a light bit of actual content while we munched on pizza and sipped on mulled wine, with Tim Wilson presenting on some of the potential pitfalls of working with time-series data, and how the technique of “first differences” could be used to check that two metrics that appear to be correlated are not simply both trending over time.

Tim Wilson: Possibly a Staged Photo Prior to the Event

Tim explained that first difference is simply looking at the change in a metric from one period to another: if two metrics are correlated, then they should both move proportionally over time.

First Difference Calculates the Change from Period to Period

Correlation of Raw Values vs. Correlation of First Differences

The complete deck is available here: 2021-12 Columbus Web Analytics Wednesday – First Differences

Perhaps the evening would best be summarized with a poem:

There was laughter
But ‘nary a tear.
And pizza eaten
Washed down with beer.

There was mulled wine;
It was the season!
And “time”-ly content
For R-squared reasons!

May 2021 – Google Core Web Vitals with Mike King from iPullRank

Our May event was all about Core Web Vitals—a key part of Google’s latest effort to promote a fast and clean user experience by rewarding sites that that offer one! Mike King from iPullRank was our speaker, and he made 78 slides fly by smoothly!

Beyond just Core Web Vitals, Mike noted that Google’s shift to mobile-only indexing is a cousin of the broader set of updates, and it might actually be a more important cousin! And, while there was a big push by Google for AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), they’ve actually started backing off of that, as they realized that speed matters—not so much how that speed is achieved. As a matter of fact, experiencing delays on a mobile site causes users’ heart rates to increase as much as if they’re watching a horror movie!

Mike went on to define and explain where exactly core web vitals fall within the broader context of how a user experiences a page’s load:

  1. Navigation begins
  2. First Paint
  3. First Contentful Paint
  4. First Meaningful Pain
  5. Visually Read
  6. Time to Interactive
  7. Fully Loaded

Within that experience, a lot happens, and a lot of what happens can be impacted by large and small decisions about how a site operates, and how a “performance budget” exercise can help ensure that investments in improving the speed (and the experience) are made wisely.

We recorded the event, so, if you’re looking for a great primer on the subject, well, this goes beyond being just a primer! But check it out:

Are you interested in the slides? You can request them (contact info required…but totes worth it!) at

April 2021 – Demystifying Privacy Regulations with Jodi Daniels

GDPR? The ePrivacy Regulation? CCPA (or…the CPRA, which created the CPPA!)? Opt-out vs. opt-in vs. double opt-in? What about the distinction between what you can do vs. what you should do? These questions and many more were tackled by Jodi Daniels from Red Clover Advisors at this month’s meetup.

We dotted the appropriate i’s and crossed the appropriate t’s to ensure we were violating no privacy regulations by recording and publishing the event, so check it out:

Jodi was gracious enough to share her slides from her presentation, too!

And, separately, the following resources were discussed and shared:

It’s an ever-shifting and complicated world!

March 2021 – Google Analytics 4 Demo with Charles Farina

At this month’s (virtual) meetup, we had a packed house (Zoom meeting) for an engaging and informative demo of the Google Analytics 4 with Charles Farina (LinkedIn, Twitter) from Adswerve.

Charles started off by explaining how GA 4 is really the first fully new platform from Google in 15 years (the original urchin.js, apparently, still works!). The platform is not yet ready to replace a Universal Analytics (“GA 3”) implementation, but it is moving in that direction!

Some of the highlights of the demo:

  • The new Analysis hub that provides more flexibility when it comes to doing custom analysis, such as fully customizable and retroactive custom funnels
  • The much-improved “time” capabilities in GA 4—actually being able to look at “elapsed time” between steps in conversion funnels, and “time” being much more robustly calculated (in-page time and foreground-only time) than it is Universal Analytics
  • Dramatically improved pathing capabilities (forward and backward pathing as a native feature, for instance, with rich interactivity)
  • Improved conversions—the ability to archive them to free up slots, as well as much more flexibility as to what actually constitutes a conversion
  • Richer audience definition capabilities, as well as the ability to create events around when a user joins an event…which can then be set as a conversion (Mind. Blown?)
  • Free BigQuery integration that streams data into BigQuery within seconds and provides the data in an easier-to-work-with event-based structure
  • The ability to attribute conversions to events…and to do so with a range of heuristic attribution models (eventually)
  • Improved debugging abilities
  • And more!

Charles described how any site that is currently running Universal Analytics can go ahead and set up GA 4 to run in parallel in just 10-15 minutes of work and then get to start experiencing the new platform for their own site.

And, of course, to just explore the interface with another site’s data, the Google Analytics 4 demo account is always an option.

To check out the entire session, including a lively Q&A, we’ve got the video of the event:

Charles recommended several resources for learning more about the platform (and the first one we just tacked on the first one because…obviously):

If you’re interested in attending a future meetup, check out our upcoming events page!

February 2021 – Multi-Touch Attribution without Cookies

Tracking users across sites and across touchpoints is increasingly difficult. Between regulatory constraints and the increasing blocking and rapid expiration of third-party cookies, what is the marketer to do when it comes to determining the impact of their multi-channel (omnichannel!) marketing‽

At our February 2021 (virtual) meetup, data scientist Dr. Joe Sutherland from Search Discovery described both the challenges (and inherent shortcomings) of “traditional” multi-touch attribution and then put forth a radical, but, in many ways, not at all new alternative: randomized controlled trials (RCTs). In a nutshell, it’s like an A/B test…but using randomly assigned geographies (zip codes, DMAs, etc.) to “split” the media. This includes everything from a “basic blocking”  design (straight up “on in some, off in others”) to “stepped wedge” designs (every geo gets some media, but the level and timing of the media varies).

This approach provides truly causal results, which is something that media mix models and traditional multi-touch attribution simply could never do! Plus…it doesn’t rely on user-level tracking (it’s based on where investment is made and the results of those investments). And there was a chihuahua muffin (it’s a machine learning thing):

The slides from the presentation are available, or, if video is your jam, then you can live/re-live the experience that way:

Several books and podcasts were recommended during Joe’s presentation and in the chat: