An Overview of the New Google Analytics Alerts
Google Analytics users have become very familiar with the “yellow ribbon” notices that appear periodically in different reports.
For instance, if you have a gazillion unique page names, you may see a “high-cardinality” warning:
Or, if you are using a user-based report and have any filters applied to your view (which you almost always do!), then you get a warning that that could potentially muck with the results:
These can be helpful tips. Most analysts read them, interpret them, and then know whether or not they’re of actual concern. More casual users of the platform may be momentarily thrown off by the terminology, but there is always the Learn More, link, and an analyst is usually just an email away to allay any concerns.
The feedback on these warnings has been pretty positive, so Google has started rolling out a number of additional alerts. Some of these are pretty direct and, honestly, seem like they might be a bit too blunt. But, I’m sure they will adjust the language over time, as, like all Google Analytics features, this one is in perpetual beta!
This post reviews a handful of the these new “yellow ribbon” messages. As I understand it, these are being rolled out to all users over the coming weeks. But, of course, you will not see them unless you are viewing a report under the conditions that trigger it.
Free Version Volume Limits
The free version of Google Analytics is limited to 10 million hits per month based on the terms of service. But, historically, Google has not been particularly aggressive about enforcing that limit. I’ve always assumed that is simply because, once you get to a high volume of traffic, any sort of mildly deep analysis will start running into sufficiently severe sampling issues that they figured, eventually, the site would upgrade to GA360.
But, now, there is a warning that gets a bit more in your face:
Interestingly, the language here is “may” rather than “will,” so there is no way of knowing if Google will actually shut down the account. But, they are showing that they are watching (or their machines are!).
Getting Serious about PII
Google has always taken personally identifiable information (PII) seriously. And, as the EU’s GDPR directive gets closer, and as privacy concerns have really become a topic that is never far below the surface, Google has been taking the issue even more seriously. Historically, they have said things like, “If we detect an email address is being passed in, we’ll just strip it out of the data.” But, now, it appears that they will also be letting you know that they detected that you were trying to pass PII in:
There isn’t a timeframe given as to when the account will be terminated, but note that the language here is stronger than the warning above: it’s “will be terminated” rather than “may be terminated.”
While the two new warnings above are really just calling out in the UI aspects of the terms of service, there are a few other new notifications that are a bit more pointed. For instance:
Wow. I sort of wonder if this was one that got past someone in the review process. The language is… wow. But, the link actually goes to a Google Survey that asks about differences between the platforms and the user’s preferences therein.
Data Quality Checks
Google also seems to have kicked up their machine learning quite a bit — to the point that they’re actually doing some level of tag completeness checking:
Ugh! As true as this almost certainly is, this is not going to drive the confidence in the data that analysts would like when business stakeholders are working in the platform.
The Flip Side of PII
Interestingly, while one warning calls out that PII is being collected on your site, Google also apparently is being more transparent/open about their knowledge of GA users themselves. These get to being downright creepy, and I’d be surprised if they actually stick around over the long haul (or, if they do, then I’d expect some sort of Big Announcement from Google about their shifting position on “Don’t Be Evil”). A few examples on that front:
My favorite new message, though, is this one:
Special thanks to Nancy Koons for helping me identify these new messages!