Google Track users not devices

Google Analytics: Track users not devices

User-level data has never been more crucial in the marketing industry than today. All marketers want to promote their brand in as personalized manner as possible, whether it is through mailers or by re-marketing them with the products they have seen on the website. We all know how advantageous user-level data could prove for the businesses. When we talk about gathering user level data, Google Analytics is undoubtedly one of the best tools out there. But, does the standard implementation actually provide you user level data? It does not! Let us take you through the groundwork that you require to track website data at a user granular level.

Deploying the Google Analytics tracking code to your website is just not enough to provide you the user level data of your audience. In this article, we won’t be extolling about the tracking capabilities of Google Analytics. Instead, we will be taking you through the major difference between default Google Analytics reporting and User ID reporting and what impact can it make on your decisions.

Default Google Analytics Reports

When a user lands on your website, Google Analytics assigns a Client ID to that user which is specific to the browser and device of that visit. That means if the same user comes again to your website with a different device or different browser, Google Analytics will consider it as a different user and a new Google Analytics Client ID will be assigned.

For e.g., If a user visited your website through desktop and came back again through mobile phone, Google Analytics will count these visits by two different users.

This way multiple IDs may get assigned to a single user and we definitely do not want that, right? Then it will be useless to evaluate performance metrics like LTV (Lifetime Value), Revenue per User etc. We want to track users across all devices and browsers. That’s where User ID implementation comes to play. It will help you track interactions with your website across all devices/browsers and tie them to that single user. The core idea here is to pass a unique ID to the users at critical steps such as Login/Signup, Subscription or any kind of promotional popups. This ID can be passed from your CRM or sending it directly from the user session to Google Analytics.

How to track User ID with Google Tag Manager

Now that we know why and when to assign User ID, let’s jump on how to do the implementation.

Auditing the website

This will help you configure that at what all places a unique user ID can be assigned. Sending this ID at the time of Login or Sign up are the most preferred ones. Assigning IDs should be carried out in accordance with how you want to see your data in Google Analytics.

Setting it up in Google Tag Manager

There are different ways in which we can pass the User ID with Google Tag Manager. However, the most reliable way is to pass it through GTM dataLayer. With dataLayer codes, we pass the user IDs programmatically and grab those values in Google Tag Manager.

Modify & place the below dataLayer code on your website.


'event': 'UserID',
'userID':'<Server Side Variable>'


Here, we have defined a custom event which will help us to identify our code in the Google Tag Manager preview and debug mode.

Once the code is placed on the website, create a variable in Google Tag Manager to store that value and send it to Google Analytics.

User ID has to be sent with every hit such as Pageviews, Events etc. to associate it with various metrics in Google Analytics. To start with you can send it with Google Analytics All Pageview tag.

Configuring Google Analytics setup

To view user ID reports in Google Analytics, we first have to create a User ID view in Google Analytics. We can create the User ID reporting view by going to Admin > Property > Tracking Info > User – ID.

The user level data can only be seen under the Google Analytics User ID view.

Session Unification

If the user ID is assigned in middle of a session, session unification allows hits collected before the User ID is assigned to be associated with the ID. When session unification is turned off, only hits that are collected after the User ID is assigned The business with that ID. If you want to have a further understanding about session unification, you can visit Google Analytics support documentation.

Additional reports with User ID

Device Overlap

This report will help you understand the cross-device nature of your audience. You can see the engagement level of your audience through different devices. It can be utilized to segment your audience based on the devices they use to interact with your website. For example, you may find that the users who use both Desktop and Mobile have more chance of converting than the users who use only desktop.

Device Path

This report will help you to understand the sequence of devices taken by your audience and their effectiveness. You can use this report to optimize your campaign strategies to define a device path that you want your users to take.

Acquisition Device

This report will help you to understand that from which device the user landed on your website the first time. You can utilize this report to understand the role of different devices when you correlate website conversions with acquisitions.

It is often perceived that with more data, decision making will be more efficient. But tracking more data does not always mean smarter decisions. One should know what data will actually help in making a significant impact on business. Tracking metrics involving human behavior will definitely have a bottom line impact on your businesses.

We hope that we were successful in taking you through the process and significance of Google Analytics user ID reporting. If you still have queries, our Google Analytics expert will be more than happy to help you through the implementation.

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