Google Play's "referral flow" streamlines app tracking

Editor's Corner
Shane Schick

You can spend what feels like your entire life looking at the numbers in Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Analytics. The reports just go deeper and deeper, with each area bringing up more questions about what's relevant and what's not. Or what's actionable and what's not. There are probably lots of developers that would rather just get on with making their next app.

This may explain why Google recently made the decision to allow developers to link their Google Analytics with their Google Play Accounts. It not only means monitoring one dashboard instead of two; it also means a more streamlined report which Google calls a "referral flow." A post on the company's developer blog from Ellie Powers provided the details:

"For each campaign, you can see how many users viewed listing page in Google Play and how many went on to install your app and ultimately launch it on their mobile devices," Powers writes. "With this data you can track the effectiveness of a wide range of campaigns--such as blogs, news articles, and ad campaigns--and get insight into which marketing activities are most effective for your business."

Ultimately, this probably has less to do with Google putting more monitoring capabilities into the hands of indie developers and more to do with appealing to ad agencies and big publishers that have to work harder than ever to deliver successful marketing campaigns. For the majority of developers, Android or otherwise, there's probably not a lot of data to show, and what there is probably isn't very encouraging. I suspect many indie developers will be slow to bother linking their Analytics and Play accounts because they assume they haven't yet reached enough critical mass to see a major benefit from reports like Referral Flow.

This may ultimately be short-sighted, however. You don't have to be the size of a GameLoft or a to test out techniques and approaches to increasing engagement. Take Powers' example of blogs, for instance. Many developers have one, where they talk about new apps or works in progress. Referral Flow will provide a better picture of whether those blog posts actually lead to real installs (and, more importantly, activations) of their products. Marketers calls these "conversions," and if your blog posts aren't getting any traction at all, it may be time to think about the effort involved. A developer could conclude he's better off focusing on an ad campaign, or he might invest in a little search engine optimization to draw more of the right traffic to their blog.

As their apps attract more customers there will be plenty of opportunities for developers to take a closer look at even more advanced analytics platforms, whose reports we often cover here on FierceDeveloper. But in the meantime, Google Play Referral Flow should not be overlooked. The biggest challenge I see and hear about in discussions with developers is that when they consider mobile analytics, they don't even know where to start. You don't really have to know. Start anywhere. You'll get somewhere. -Shane