Using RUM Data to Complement Google Analytics

March 29, 2017 · by Matt Ball ·

In the ever-changing world of web performance analytics and measurements, this is one of the most common questions we hear:

“How is mPulse different from Google Analytics?”

It’s a good question with a great answer.

Most of our mPulse users also use Google Analytics because their use cases and outputs differ substantially. This post offers both high level and “in-the-weeds” insights into how mPulse and Google Analytics differ. More importantly, this post covers the complementary nature of both tools and how, when used together, they create a fast, powerful context that will help you to do the following things:

  • make more money with your digital business
  • optimize pages most critical to user experience and customer experience
  • make your job (as either a performance manager or practitioner) easier


What each solution does

Google Analytics helps users understand the effectiveness of their marketing, SEO, and advertising spending via general web analytics. The free version of Google Analytics supports the basics of data reporting and analysis in a DIY self-serve offering.

mPulse allows businesses to monitor and optimize the web performance of their sites and apps, providing the industry’s deepest focus on how site speed and application performance affect conversion, session length, user experience, and ultimately business outcome. Because mPulse lets you keep 100% of your user data forever, you can use data science – such as predictive analytics – to give you an accurate context to make the best decisions for your digital properties.

Showing is better than telling, so we’ve rounded up a dozen real-world use cases that demonstrate how mPulse complements Google Analytics.


Make more money…

1. Live campaign tracking and threshold alerting

Live campaign tracking and threshold alerts combine key Google Analytics dimensions and mPulse real-time streaming to allow you to modify and optimize under-performing marketing campaigns as they run.

Campaigns and promotions – especially in enterprise or growth-focused e-commerce – can generate tens of thousands of dollars per minute in revenue. With mPulse’s live campaign tracking and alerting, your team gets real-time visual feedback on the health – in terms of revenue and web performance – of your campaign. And with mPulse’s machine learning capabilities, you’ll get alerts if any critical metric or KPI (e.g. page views, orders/revenue/conversion rate per minute) falls below your normal thresholds. You’re notified of performance issues instantly, and then mPulse provides context to find root cause and quickly remediate.

graph: holiday pageviews

Use case: It’s the holiday season and your IT Ops team issues a code freeze. However, marketing must still run holiday promotions. Typically, campaign landing pages are 30-60% slower than regular pages (common culprits: unoptimized images and JavaScript tags), which leads to higher user abandonment rates. Instead of finding out the next day that a campaign failed, with mPulse you receive live alerts on under-performing campaign metrics, allowing you to take instant action to remediate site issues, saving lost revenue.


2. Resource timing data

If you’re a manager, the term “resource timing data” may not resonate when compared to metrics like page load time or conversions. Most frequently, slower pages are caused by problems at the front end of your web application, where your web dev and IT Ops teams must optimize for ever-changing content across multiple browser types and a vast multitude of customer devices. Therefore, because front-end resources (JavaScript, CSS, images etc.) can create the most challenge for page load time, they require careful attention and rapid context to remediate problems.

Google Analytics can measure your page resources, but because it uses sampled data, it can provide only a narrow glimpse of the whole problem. mPulse collects, measures, and provides visuals and details about 100% of your page resources.

Use case: You know which page groups most influence conversion by using the Conversion Impact Score (more on this below, in item 5). You’ve found that your sweet spot for conversions is around 3.5 seconds (page load time). mPulse waterfall charts identify the worst performing page resources, then data Science functions and visuals allow you to isolate or remediate resources that slow your pages and cost you money.


3. Third-party SLA compliance and ad impact

For most e-commerce and media sites, third-party content (e.g. images, videos, ads, plug-ins that are hosted outside your site) can comprise more than 60% of the resources on your pages. If you’re not monitoring the impact of third-party resources, you’re probably suffering from page speed problems, leading to increased user abandonment.

mPulse measures the impact of third-party resources on your site and alerts you when third parties are hurting user engagement and business KPIs. This gives IT Ops teams context on which third-party resources or plug-ins need remediation across key revenue-generating page groups. More important, teams have visibility into which of their third-party providers are responsible for poor page performance. Now IT Ops teams have tangible proof to hold third-party providers accountable, and fully enforce SLA commitments.


Make your job easier…

4. Correlate IT metrics with business KPIs

Google Analytics provides an easy-to-understand, high-level view of key marketing and business KPIs, such as conversion rate, revenue, user sessions (by channel, paid, and organic), while mPulse goes deeper because it allows you to collect more nuanced information about how visitors use your site.

The mPulse web beacon is the most sophisticated RUM beacon in the performance monitoring industry, collecting data about 93 different metrics. It covers the same fundamentals as Google Analytics, plus data about metrics that give you a better understanding of how visitors truly perceive performance on your site.

For example:

  • Start render time lets you know when visitors begin to see content on your pages. This metric is superior to load time, which can be muddied by slow resources that are either invisible or below the fold.
  • Custom timer metrics allow you to measure when specific page elements, such as hero images, render for your visitors. Again, these can be correlated to your business metrics for a greater understanding of how the rendering of key page assets affects your business.
  • Third-party resource monitoring gives you real-time visibility into the performance of third-party scripts, and also lets you know how their performance is helping or hurting your other KPIs.


5. Focus your performance optimization efforts on the pages that matter most

Instead of trying to reduce page load times on every page across your entire site, a smarter approach is to start by optimizing performance on the page groups that matter most to your business. mPulse lets you focus on which page groups matter most to your digital business. The Conversion Impact Score uses mPulse Data Science to accurately rank your page groups in order of which pages have the most impact on conversions. Similarly, the Activity Impact Score illustrates which pages most affect session length.

Both functions allow teams to easily prioritize workload and focus on optimizing the page groups that have the greatest impact on conversion rate and session length.

graph: product pageviews


6. Use predictive analytics to calculate ROI for performance optimization

Predictive analytics utilize your historic results to calculate future outcomes. The more complete your datasets, the more accurate the model for future predictions. Since mPulse collects all your user data and keeps it forever, you can make the most accurate predictions of page speed to conversion, increases/decreases in revenue, and session lengths.

Google Analytics does not offer predictive analytics in their free version. mPulse collects 100% of digital interactions (all user sessions, conversions, and order totals) and uses predictive analytics and data science within our “what-if” analysis. This allows you to accurately predict changes in revenue, conversion, and session length, resulting from an increase or decrease in page speed.


7. Monitor and measure the performance of single-page applications (SPAs)

Each single page application (SPA) looks and behaves differently. While Google Analytics has the ability to track SPA page information, mPulse goes further by providing additional data to improve load times (for example, knowing whether the majority of load time is back-end or front-end). mPulse offers full support for all SPA frameworks.


8. Monitor and measure the performance of Google AMP pages

Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) loads around 85% faster than standard mobile pages. mPulse is the only RUM solution to collect all the navigation timing for Google AMP pages. This provides the ability to filter traffic and compare AMP versus traditional traffic in real-time.

Benefits to mPulse users include:

  • fewer network and DNS requests,
  • less bandwidth usage, and
  • improved visual feedback.


Go deeper…

9. Get mobile connection details

mPulse shows your user device types, connection types, providers (cable, cellular, corporate), and more. This information lets you optimize your app for the personas and connection performances that best match your users. Like Google Analytics, mPulse offers connection details but allows you to further correlate user experience and revenue through page speed.


10. Measure bandwidth

mPulse measures your users’ bandwidth and provides a distribution chart that divides your users into well-known bandwidth blocks and reports on how many users fall into each block. You can drill further into a single block to analyze your site’s load time histogram, browser, and geographic distribution for users within that bandwidth block.

Use case: If users from a major market segment operate on a low bandwidth (e.g. users in India), mPulse users can react and make changes that improve conversion or session length.


11. Correlate DOM size to user experience metrics

The document object model (DOM) size is a quantitative measurement representing a page’s size. The larger the DOM size, the more complexity within the page, the longer it takes the browser to render and update, the more likely a user will bounce. With mPulse, you can assess the DOM size, and correlate to bounce rates and abandonment for all page groups.


12. Discover JavaScript errors

The average web page consists of more than 100 pages of resources, and the most potentially troublesome of these resources are your scripts. JavaScript errors can result in decreased functionality and slower load times, leading to higher user abandonment rates and lower conversion rates.

With mPulse you have the ability to display the following:

  • error rate
  • sessions experiencing errors
  • errors by build
  • recent error stack
  • details on a specific error

Takeaway: Why you need real user monitoring alongside Google Analytics

Google Analytics offers a great – and free – start for digging into your site’s web analytics. It’s easy to set-up and offers you a solid initial understanding of how users are accessing site content, and what the marketing payoff is.

By combining Google Analytics with mPulse, you create a deeper understanding of how site speed affects business outcomes. Combining mPulse and GA can have an immediate impact on revenue and help eliminate blind spots in the web performance of your sites and apps.

As users grow increasingly fickle – and as technologies continue to increase in speed and complexity – combining two solutions like mPulse and Google Analytics can have a huge positive impact on your digital business and bottom line.