#57 Who you Lookering at? (with JJ Reynolds @ LookerStudio.VIP)

The Measure Pod
The Measure Pod
#57 Who you Lookering at? (with JJ Reynolds @ LookerStudio.VIP)

This week Dan and Dara are joined by JJ Reynolds to chat about the recent rebranding of Data Studio to Looker Studio and what it means for the rest of us. They share many ‘hot takes’ on where they think this change came from, and where they think it’ll go in the future.

The announcement from Google on the Looker Studio name change is at https://bit.ly/3eIG5Gt.

Check out LookerStudio.VIP at https://bit.ly/3COv8Lu, and the (not so) secret page showing all of their traffic, revenue and number of subscribers across all time at https://bit.ly/3eUKrtT.

In other news, JJ gets out and about, Dara goes to the cinema and Dan escapes!

Follow Measurelab on LinkedIn – https://bit.ly/3Ka513y.

Intro music composed by the amazing Confidential – https://spoti.fi/3JnEdg6.

If you’re like what we’re doing here, please show some support and leave a rating on Apple, Spotify, or wherever really.

Let us know what you think and fill out the form https://bit.ly/3MNtPzl, or email podcast@measurelab.co.uk to drop Dan and Dara a message directly.

Quote of the episode from JJ: “this Data Studio thing is pretty sweet. Let me spend way too many hours writing some blog posts about how you can use it

Quote of the episode from Dan: “a lot of people don’t know that Google isn’t doing what it says on the tin”

Quote of the episode from Dara: sometimes people ask for more customisation, but then when you get it you don’t necessarily know what to do with it



[00:00:15] Dara: Following the recent news about Data Studio changing to Looker Studio, we’re joined on The Measure Pod today by JJ Reynolds from LookerStudio.VIP, who talks about the changes, talks about his thoughts about, Looker Studio, aka Data Studio, and also various other topics, related to the industry and to do with GA (Google Analytics) and sharing lots of hot takes.

[00:00:36] Daniel: And to get more of JJ’s hot takes, visit LookerStudio.VIP and find out all about his Looker Studio training courses and of course you can visit measurelab.co.uk and see all of our resources, training content, and yeah, we’ll share all the links to this in the show notes of course. So enjoy.

[00:00:52] Dara: Hello and welcome back to The Measure Pod, a podcast for people in the analytics world to talk about all things analytics. I’m Dara, I’m MD at Measurelab.

[00:01:02] Daniel: And I’m Dan, I’m an analytics consultant and trainer at Measurelab.

[00:00:52] Dara: We’re also very happy to be joined on today’s episode by a special guest, JJ Reynolds from LookerStudio.VIP, and also from Mediauthentic. So, JJ first and foremost, welcome to The Measure Pod. Thanks for agreeing to come on and chat to Dan and myself.

[00:01:20] JJ: Hey, thanks so much for having me, it’s going to be a blast, I’m sure.

[00:01:23] Dara: So JJ what we usually do is rather than me trying to do a really bad job of introducing you, I’m going to hand it over to you to introduce yourself. And you can go into as much or as little detail as you want. But the question we usually ask is just how did you fall into the wonderful world of analytics and maybe what got you to the point that you’re at today, and what are you up to currently?

[00:01:43] JJ: Yeah, so I’ll just start from the top and or I’ll start from the top and work my way backwards and then we’ll go back up again. So I’m JJ, basically started Mediauthentic, which is a measurement agency. We just provide insights and reporting and also like personal insights as well. Every client has a manager, so we make sure that we’re also helping them guide towards the insight, right? Sometimes a number is not always as insightful as between us three think it might be. And earlier this year, at the end of 2021, I was like this Data Studio thing is pretty sweet. Let me spend way too many hours writing some blog posts about how you can use it and buy a domain name and I’ll just be like, this will be a fun thing to show people that you don’t have to be super nerdy to like do this stuff.

[00:02:30] JJ: And then they changed the name to Looker Studio. So now I had to rebrand DataStudio.VIP to LookerStudio.VIP, which was a fun little sprint right there. And yeah, so that’s like the story of where I’m at right now at the top. And then how I got into it, which everybody’s got a story is I was actually shooting video in high school and university. I was like a videographer, I’d shoot weddings for fun to make some money on the side, would shoot where I went to university there was a lot of wine. I’d shoot winery promotional videos and stuff just for fun and would make these awesome videos that then would just sit on the shelf because no one knew what to do with them. Like at these wineries that have been around for a hundred years, and they’re like, what’s the internet?

[00:03:11] JJ: And so, I got into some Facebook Ad stuff where I was like, oh, if I put a dollar on this thing, like I can then get a thousand people to see it. Like what? And so then I had like slowly got into the Facebook Ads of like promoting these videos because I was like, no one’s seeing these, let’s put it on the Facebook and then you’re going to push the little boost button and then people see it and you just spent a little bit of money relative to like your overall budget to have more people see it because only a thousand people visit your winery a month. But I made a video that got 10,000 people to see it and so that was kind of like what I did on videography. Slowly got into more Facebook stuff, that kind of thing. Got a job at a Google Ads agency, so like higher volume, like most clients were between 50K and 150K a month in spend and was just running ads like around Google and then saw this kind of like this cadence occur of like, signing a new client they’re stoked. They’re like, oh my gosh, I want what you’re selling, sounds like a plan, let’s get into it.

[00:04:07] JJ: And then like month one comes by and they’re like, okay cool things are going great. Month two comes by and you’re like, all right, like maybe we’re hearing less from the client. Month three comes by and they’re like, what are you actually doing? Do we make any more money? Like, what’s happening? And this kept happening, where it was the same kind of concept of like the clients always being like, is it working? And I was like, what do you mean? Of course it’s working. Look at the Google Ads dashboard, right?

[00:04:26] JJ: You’re like, of course look at these zeros we’re just tacking onto the end of this ROAS. But obviously like looking through the Google Ads lens, you’re like, everyone’s going to tell you it’s positive, right? And so I ended up like leaving that agency doing more freelance stuff now with Facebook Ads, which I was probably spending with like a couple of side clients, like around, I don’t know, less than a million, more than 500k a year on Facebook stuff just like on the side. But then I just found this world of trying to set up measurement for the actual, like pixels and things. I was like, how do I exclude people who are logged in to like a SaaS product? And I was like, how do I know if they’re logged in or not? And then like, this is really funny, how I did it first is I saw that they had like a username. I did it the most inefficient way ever possible, is I used a jQuery to get your name, hash your name in Tag Manager and send that as your User ID like not talking to a developer, just all in Tag Manager. And then slowly snowballed down to the world of getting more and more detailed and granular and like Mediauthentic and then hiring people, and now we just do that starting from the ads running into slowly measurement. So that was probably a longer story, but hopefully everybody had a little bit of a insight into the world of JJ.

[00:05:41] Dara: No, it’s brilliant. And often the stories we get are people move from one area into a completely different area and leave the old one behind, but you’ve been able to bring your videography into what you’re doing now, which is quite interesting, really. And I found it that it really brought back a lot of memories, hearing you talking about hacking, basically, you know, your early days of learning. Learning how to do things by doing them the hard and inefficient way, and then gradually from that thinking, you know what, there must be a better, easier way of doing this.

[00:06:08] Daniel: It’s always under the guise of it being a temporary solution, right? However, those temporary solutions seems to mount up on top of each other and never seem to be getting fixed, I mean, I’ve had that exact example JJ before, when you’re talking about scraping a username at the top to see if they’re logged in, I’ve been there and I’m not sure if it ever changed, you know, just that scraping solution. Yeah, I don’t think we ever progressed past that, to be honest. But that’s the way of this stuff is we hack a solution, we get what we need from it and if if it falls down, it falls down. But that’s where you think, okay, if someone notices, it’s important enough for us to fix it properly right?

[00:06:36] JJ: Exactly yeah. And like now there’s like the good, better, best approach, right? Like good enough is like whatever you have access to, right? You’re like I can just do this thing, but probably not the most like best practice. And then you’ll get better where you’re like, oh yeah, like I could just like use a user ID or whatever, and then like the best is where you’re like, oh yeah, like I’ve got a data layer, what the heck is this thing that has actually information that is actually true, that’s kind of the approach, probably still use a lot of that stuff today.


[00:07:03] Dara: So JJ, obviously, you know the news is still ringing in all of our ears around this change from Data Studio to Looker Studio and I guess the broader changes that’s teeing up as well. But before we properly get into the nitty gritty of it, I’m keen to know how frantic that period of time was when you had to switch from DataStudio.VIP to Looker Studio. Was there a mad panic to get that domain name? Did you already have it lined up? Did you kind of foresee that this might be happening?

[00:07:29] JJ: So full disclosure, this is like a side project. Like this does not make any money, I’m not reliant on DataStudio.VIP to like bring in money, it pretty much just covers its costs. If anyone wants to go buy the course on there, feel free to do so. It’s 149 bucks and you can be way better at using the tool if you’re on a team or an agency. Fun fact is like if you go to LookerStudio.VIP/open, there’s a look studio report that has the real numbers, like how much money the site’s made, how many newsletter subscribers there are. You can see all that number just go to LookerStudio.VIP/open.

[00:08:08] JJ: So like that’s my disclosure when I say, when I’m about to say is like, it doesn’t really matter. It’s made $6,000 ish year to date. It launched in March 2022, so whatever month that is, like six months, give or take. So about a thousand bucks a month, which is nothing that just started like most would kill for that. But like I run an agency where we make money and have salaries and like $6,000 for when you’re paying people like top dollar for like being the best at stuff is not a lot relatively. So that’s my disclosure, my very long disclosure when I say I’m about to say is that I love people that are in affiliate marketing and niche websites because they’re so scrappy, right? Those are the most scrappy people on the internet, is niche website bloggers and it’s like only for this very subgroup of people, like there’s like only a thousand people on earth that are meet this criteria, whatever right?

[00:08:56] JJ: And so like I’m a part of a few niche blogs and I basically said like, hey guys, affiliate marketers, Do you think I should change this thing? Is it good or bad for SEO? I’m not a SEO guy. Like obviously I have a domain name that like is the thing. So I’m like, hey, let’s cheat our way to the top. And they were like, sure, go for it and I paid some guy 500 bucks, I’ve messaged him on like the forums and stuff and 500 bucks later we’re now Looker Studio with a giant search and replace. The logo right now, if you look at it, is duct tape over Looker or over Data Studio. There’s duck tape over it and people have DM’d me on LinkedIn like, wow, you’re such a smart marketer.

[00:09:29] JJ: The real story is, I didn’t get the design files from the designer, and so I was like, how do I give this person that I paid 500 bucks to like a search and replace for the image that I have for the logo? And I was like, I don’t know what font this is, I don’t have time. So I just went into Adobe XD and found some probably copywritten PNG of duct tape, put it over, put Looker with some permanent marker font, and we’re off to the races. And because I didn’t have the actual file, like I didn’t have the file to like actually manipulate it and I didn’t have the time to rebuild it. So that’s the story of the genius marketing that is putting duct tape over your logo when they change the company name. So that was a very long story.

[00:10:10] Dara: That is scrappy at its finest, really is. So what do you make of the, I mean obviously we can dig into what we think it might mean because it is early days, isn’t it? But what were your kind of first thoughts when you read the article from Google about the change and what it might mean for the industry.

[00:10:26] JJ: I was like, what on god’s green Earth is Looker? I had heard about it I was like, what is this? Let me go Google what the heck Looker is first, and then I’ll figure out what the studio thing is they tacked onto it. And then I was like, this is the stupidest branding I’ve ever heard. Like why they have two products, one is Looker and one is Looker Studio. Talk about being confused, like that’s like the most confusing product delineation I’ve ever heard, like if Google was in Y Combinator they’d get kicked out. And so that was my first thought, and then I was like, okay, Looker is this enterprise tool, I like have heard about it, like we’ve like obviously like I know what it is like loosely before this and to dig into what the heck Looker is, and I was like, is this like the bastard child of Looker? Like what is this product that is now Looker Studio.

[00:11:11] JJ: So that was kind of my thought process. And then I read into like their announcement of like, hey, here are the features of things that are going to come down the pipeline. But in my experience with like this newsletter for LookerStudio.VIP and like people DMing me about like very complex, and like a YouTube channel that talks a lot about like visualisations and like data stuffs is like 95% of people don’t use 80% of the product currently. I tell people about parameters and their minds are blown. And then I tell people like, you can use URLs to like inject parameters into the report so it loads differently depending on where you’re coming from, then they’re like mind melts. So like I’ve just blown a mind and melted a mind by a current feature that we’re not using APIs, we’re not like doing any type of data modelling. We’re doing nothing that Looker is promising or Looker does right, and I think that’s like going to be the crux of this. Most people don’t even use the current features to build something, so we’re just adding on more features when the majority of the market doesn’t care or doesn’t even know to care, so that’s my thoughts on that.

[00:12:15] Dara: Yeah, and it’s even more confusing than you said, because you’ve got Looker Studio, Looker Studio Pro and then original Looker, which they’ve now I think bolted a bit in brackets, which is Google Cloud Core so there’s three different flavours of Looker, one of which is really at the moment just Data Studio. Yeah, really, really confusing.

[00:12:34] JJ: I forget the count like Google keeps these things like no one’s business. The Google Cloud platform, like how many apps or like products are in there? I remember when I first discovered BigQuery and I was like, oh, this is epic. And then I learned about, and someone asked me to teach a mini course on Big Query, and I dug more into like all the products that are outside of like the APIs and the basic stuff that you use when you’re using BigQuery. And I was like, what? Like I was just like, why is this like, it’s so confusing. I’m not like a developer by any means, like I can write some SQL that probably is bad and I can get the job done and I know enough to like get in trouble, but like the majority of people aren’t going to be using this. I just feel like what’s the marketing strategy because Google Analytics is like a play for data for Google, in my opinion, right? Like it’s a free tool to get a lot of data. Google Ads, I’m sure benefits from Google Analytics, I’m sure they don’t tell you how much it benefits, but it has to be beneficial.

[00:13:29] JJ: So then what is the play with Looker Studio or Data Studio? Is it just to get people familiar with a tool? Because theoretically you can’t, they can’t see your data. So like what’s the play for the free tool? Because there’s not really a benefit for Google, aside from market share of people using Google’s tools.

[00:13:47] Daniel: I mean, from my perspective, just keeping them in the ecosystem. Like you never have to leave the Google world. And if they take a hit on a product, you know, like the free version of Google Analytics, they know they can monetise you in other ways, but if they can enable you to easily visualise your BigQuery data and Google Analytics data and Google Ads data in a free tool, and there’s loads of templates and it’s all within the ecosystem, in a sense you never have to leave and then while you’re there you can see what other connectors you can connect it to. It’s a way to keep you within their ecosystem, even if it’s not a data ecosystem, it’s their product suite and I think that for me is kind of like where this initiative comes from. And where I think they’re going with Looker makes a little bit of sense, or at least the Looker Studio side, because Data Studio has always been a bit of an anomaly to me.

[00:14:30] Daniel: So even when we went to some of the sort of Google partner summits over in San Francisco, I mean obviously years ago now, but we were sitting in some of the Data Studio rooms talking to the product owners and product developers, like from memory, like this is one of the very few products they built from the ground up. They built from scratch and they were releasing it incrementally every like two weeks they’re releasing new features and you know, every other product it’s pretty much a Google-ism now where they just buy a competitor or someone doing it and they rebrand it and they evolve it, like look at Google Analytics and all the other products they’ve got. But this was always a bit of an anomaly to me, and I just wondered what that purpose was, but rolling it into something like Looker, which you know, is about data orchestration and data governance and kind of like centralising it all within one hub. And maybe we’ll touch upon this in a minute, but some of the other announcements they released in the blog post was around how, for example, Looker can plug into Power BI and Tableau and stuff, which means even if you’re using some of these other products, you’re still within the Google ecosystem. You’re never allowed out.

[00:15:24] JJ: Yeah it’s going to be interesting. Everyone swims in different circles, right? There’s like a venn diagram of everyone on the internet, right? Of like you guys talk with people and you have different clients and you see other people, right? And like in your scope it’s like this, and then I’m over here on like the other side and then overlap is like where we connect, right? And I feel like everyone that I speak with, even clients, like clients that are like billions of dollars that used Data Studio, used Looker, the free version because it’s so powerful, it’s just so powerful to build like pretty much anything your heart desires within reason. Are people in general going to like understand this, the data governance and like the data, like people don’t understand like the basics of what governance means, it’s like talking to very large companies even, and you’re like, you mean that you’re running this entire thing off this Google Sheet with this like API or Apps Script that someone wrote like eight years ago and that’s how you know the answer to this question, right? Like that’s like common.

[00:16:23] JJ: Like this thing that like has gone from free, like I’m a little bit scared of like it going upmarket faster than people will catch on and then everyone else is going to be like, I’m going to go instead of like learning a little bit about like asking a better question to get a better action, is like going to like the plug and play platforms that are like, they give you a report that is like how many sessions your site has and how much revenue you have. And I’m like, what on earth am I going to do with this? Like, there’s no action at all. If revenue dropped by 50% tomorrow, like what am I going to do? Nothing. Like call up the users that we had last week, like what is the plan here? Because that’s like what all the default templates that like other tools give you, and I’m just a little bit scared of that.

[00:17:03] JJ: That’s my like opinion is that we’re going to go too upstream, too fast and then leave everybody that like was just starting to ask better questions and like use Data Studio, and be like blending two things together and they’re like, they’re using their Shopify data and then they have their like fulfilment centre data and then oh my gosh we’re so profitable in this product. That’s what I like love is like those scenarios and I’m scared, scared of that.

[00:17:23] Daniel: Just kind of riffing off that really JJ but like my brain kind of like goes crazy thinking about all these things too. And I think that, you know, I find the same, even if you take something like Google Analytics. Even something as basic for people like us at least as something like things like the campaign timeout or attribution modelling, or the way that it kind of masks what it’s doing within the kind of reporting interface. And now in GA4 specifically, you’ve got traffic acquisition and user acquisition, but then you’ve got attribution over here, which is defaulted to data-driven and it basically is like, don’t ask questions, here’s your numbers. Especially now with all the machine learning models they’re layering in for things like behavioural modelling. So when people aren’t consenting for analytics cookies, Google is doing some, basically sampling in a sense, and kind of filling in the details.

[00:18:01] Daniel: And I think a lot of people don’t know that this thing is happening and a lot of people don’t know that Google isn’t doing what it says on the tin. So if they’re looking at page views they think that’s how many page views or pages are viewed, where that’s not necessarily the case. If they look at number of users, they think that’s people, they think that’s people and they are coming into the website and that’s not necessarily the case. Leaning into this, obviously the future of data is becoming a bit more modelled and muddled, and I think wondering whether this all connects into things like the ad platforms like Google Ads, but plugging in machine learning and giving that out for free, keeping people’s numbers higher, keeping a plug and play ecosystem for some of this stuff is going to be basically a way to maintain revenue streams rather than maybe become profitable in different ways. It’s just about maintaining revenue rather than losing revenue. I mean, look at the stuff with Facebook over the last couple of years with iOS 14.5 and all the changes there, and they’ve just seen crumbling revenue streams and I’m wondering if Google looks at that and says, Jesus, let’s push back the third party cookie deprecation, let’s create some systems that maintain our revenue streams just to kind of mitigate risk in a way.

[00:18:58] JJ: I think in general it’s going to be this weird dichotomy of modelled algorithms that are like trying to do something. What we’re trying to do, like not a hundred percent sure, but there’s some PhD people that are like writing algorithms or like writing these things to be like, hey, this is what you should do. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the people that want to know how many, like people, not even real people, just like give me like the number of people who’ve opted in. Or opted into cookie consent, if we’re going to be super strict on that, give me that number people, I’m okay with knowing that it’s not a hundred percent. I’m okay not even knowing the percentage that it is, like I’m okay not even knowing this is 80% of all tracking. I’m just okay knowing 10,000. Cool I know if I look at my bank account or like my CRM or whatever, it’s going to be more than 10,000 people. But knowing that like actual number and then being able to like model the trend and pattern off of that, I think is like, in my opinion for like the companies that are less than like a hundred million dollars, which is the vast majority of businesses, like 95%, the market share is less than a hundred million.

[00:20:07] JJ: I think it’s almost more useful to have a number that is not a percentage or that is like a percentage of the thing that you don’t know the percentage of like 10,000, that you can then trend over time and then be like, even if your conversion rates go up because you have less people on the front like you’re able to like trend and pattern that out and then take action. On the algorithm side, it’s almost impossible to take an action because it’s like you’re looking at this thing like, what do I do? Like what do I do? And that’s what I like, when we build reports for clients, and it’s mostly like us writing simple like CASE statements, like five outcomes. And that’s what I’m worried about is like with all of the AI things currently.

[00:20:47] JJ: I think it’s going to get better. Okay, first I need to send them to Facebook and then I need to send them an email, but I don’t have their email address, shoot. Then I need to send them a Google Ad but what if they don’t use Google as a browser? Darn it. Now I don’t like have this perfect path to acquisition. I can’t bid on that, like bid on the perfect path of acquisition, like that’s not a thing. So that’s my take on the whole spectrum of numbers that are not correct to like modelled to being accurate around that. I don’t know, I’m sure you guys have hot takes on that as well.

[00:21:18] Daniel: Do you know, JJ, it’s reminded me of a chat we had a couple of weeks ago. We had Rick Dronkers on the podcast talking about things like GDPR, privacy, consent banners, all that kind of lovely stuff. We got to a point in the conversation, I mean we were chatting, I don’t know what the edit came down to, but we were chatting for well over an hour and we got to a point where if a couple of people that do this for a living can’t really make heads or tails and make perfect sense of it and explain it coherently then how is the layman going to do it? How is a business owner or a marketer going to do this that’s just been thrown Google Analytics, been thrown CMPs, thrown all this stuff onto their plate alongside running these ad campaigns. And I think that this kind of stuff happens too, like it’s easy for us to say, well, you know, it depends on attribution or it depends on your modelling capabilities or what models are being applied. But the reality is and we see this time and time again, but Google makes it so hard to even know that’s happening.

[00:22:04] Daniel: If you know where to look, you can see it. But if you don’t know where it’s happening, and I think the, to the average user of these products, of Looker Studio, of Google Analytics, of whatever. They’re just not going to know, and they’re not going to know anything’s changed. And so all they’re going to see is a continuity of data. They won’t know that all of a sudden data modelling is introduced when consent was, for example. They won’t know that attribution modelling behind the scenes has changed to data-driven attribution, which then has, you know, opens another kind of can worms around how they reward kind of Google marketing and things like that. So it’s not really kind of having a hot take, but it’s just, you know, I find these conversations fascinating and obviously one of the reasons why we do the podcast. But I just wonder how the average person using Google Analytics, Looker Studio, these things, what in reality are they going to have if they aren’t working with people like us that do this for a living.

[00:22:48] JJ: The problem I think is going to arise more and more is like with Universal Analytics, there’s all these default reports, right? Like ecommerce, acquisition source/medium, whatever else. Take your pick, right? There’s like, I don’t know, 25 of them. Some of them use more than others, but there was like these default reports that they gave you like, here you go, go out and market to the world, live strong. GA4 comes along and is like you get events, do what you want, pretty much, right? Like we’ve got events and parameters and like, yes, there’s sessions and users, but like basically everything’s an event, right? And then I kind of think of it as like, session is like a parameter of the event. Like the session ID is like a parameter of the event. It’s just an event and like it’s a row in a column, that’s all it is. But just think of rows and columns and you got a parameter that you’re count distinct of, of session ID. Very simplified, but like more or less that’s kind of what it is.

[00:23:37] JJ: And now the marketer has to ask the question that is actually helpful, because there’s no default reports or like there’s very bad default reports. Because default is customisable, I could put like, Dara was here whenever you show up on the website, like I’ll probably break a few laws, but that’s cool. But like you can make whatever event you want to and it will show up in your reports. Whereas previously you had to have like your ecommerce, your products, your SKUs, your event category, label, action, etc. But that was it you had like six different knobs to pull. Now we have any parameter you’d like to write, just create out of thin air, any event name you want to create out of thin air, you can do anything you want to you, so now you just have to ask really good questions because anything’s possible. You can’t blame like, oh, that’s product scoped, sorry. We have to, as marketers, you have to ask better questions so you can build out like that. And I think that’s going to break people’s minds, and it is, it’s breaking people’s minds in GA4 of like, what do I do about this?

[00:24:31] Dara: Yeah it’s the flip side to giving people more choice, isn’t it? You can end up with kind of choice paralysis. It’s like asking somebody, what’s your favourite song, you need to kind of narrow it down a little bit, don’t you? So sometimes people ask for more customisation, but then when you get it you don’t necessarily know what to do with it, which probably is part of the resistance to GA4 when you’d speak to people who say, maybe I’m one of these, where you say, oh, I liked Universal, I knew where I stood with it. So then there’s two reasons for people to struggle, there’s the, it’s completely customisable, so you don’t necessarily know what questions to ask or what to do, and then you’ve got that mixed in with the fact that a lot of the data is modelled. So you don’t really know what’s happening behind the scenes. It makes it more difficult for your kind of typical user or maybe someone who isn’t working with the tools day in, day out to know where to start.

[00:25:17] JJ: Yeah and that’s like the root of it, right? I like hate, this is this another hot take. It’s like everyone right now is like charging like $2,000 to like $10,000 for like boot camps of get GA4 up and running. It’s always like the basic stuff, it’s like the stuff that you could Google on the YouTubes. And part of me wants to make a really in depth course and sell it for a buck and be like, stop buying these really expensive courses just for GA4. If it’s like a holistic approach of like everything, go for it, or if it’s one to one strategy call, like I do one to one calls with people of like paying me, like they’re like, this is my exact thing, this is what I’m trying to do, how do I do that? Here’s money per hour, let’s get this up and running.

[00:25:57] JJ: And what I always tell people is like, close your eyes and ask me questions of your marketing. What are your questions? Like, don’t even think of Universal Analytics, don’t think of anything. And like, write them down, like think of it like there’s no bounds. I don’t care, you want to know how many people saw the blue button, don’t care, okay. So I’d have them close their eyes, write down everything or close their eyes, think of it, then open their eyes, then write it down unless they’re really good at closing their eyes and writing. And like then, right? So we have this, and then we open your eyes and I’m like, okay, what are you going to do depending on the answer to this question, if 80% of people are seeing the blue button, what are we going to do? Add more blue buttons, make all buttons blue. Are we going to change the font? What are we going to do depending on your questions and like 50% of the questions, worthless. Like what are we going to do about this? There’s no action, not a single action you can take. So like just throw it out the window, like that’s a self-validating metric we can track it for your boss, but you’re not going to look at it.

[00:26:51] JJ: And so like that’s what GA4 gives you like the opportunity for is like that deep strategy of like saying like, for example, we have like an SEO agency that we work with that we track all the WordPress like categories and tags that is on every content. So now it’s, and like it’s so much easier in GA4, you could do it in Universal, like kind of like custom dimensions, all that jazz, but it’s weirdly scoped, oddly done, etc. But like in GA4 it’s really easy to like have a post category parameter that you send with every single event. So you could say how many leads did we generate from this category? How many posts exist in this category? Count distinct of like post URLs in this category, how many clicks does that get? How many leads does it get? So much easier if you ask the question of like, do we target CRM questions or do we target like marketing director question.

[00:27:44] Daniel: I love it JJ, and I think we could talk for forever about this and actually I want to bring, I want to bring it back slightly if we can. Just take Looker Studio, right. So Google built this from the ground up, they released it in 2016 and actually it was later that year that they actually released a free version. I think that, if you remember, they had a paid version. It was all paid seats and it was all very expensive and odd and then they backed out of that and then created it for free. And then 2020 they bought Looker, and then 2022 we are now at the world of kind of conjoinedness. Where do you see this in the next two, four years? Like where do you see this kind of going? Or at least do you have a view or another hot take, another JJ hot take of what Google’s plans are with now Looker Studio, seeing as that seems to have evolved over the last couple of years.

[00:28:26] JJ: The tool of Looker Studio, like the free tool is so powerful right now, that the wishlist I have is very small. It’s so small in the sense of like yes, you could add like community visualisations that are like more like, or self integrated visualisations of like specific things. I would love for them to change how they get the data model for custom visualisations, right? If you’re making something custom, it’s kind of irritating where you can’t have the same model as like a default one. Like those are like very 1% to 5% of people that would even care.

[00:28:59] JJ: I think what they’re going to have to do is focus on some sort of caching of speed somehow, not exactly sure how, I’m not going to tell you how to solve it because that’s a problem is how long it takes to load things. So there’s something of whether it’s inside of like Looker, like in my mind it’d be epic of like a Looker Studio Pro that like the only thing you’re paying for is like five gigs of like randomly automatically cashed information across any data source, any blend, anything. That like reloads every six hours that would solve so many problems and would be epic. I think just general market education about like how to use the tool because I think a lot of people don’t fully understand it, but other than that, I don’t have a huge data governance like, oh my gosh, be epic for this thing, or like, use this API. Like it would be cool for like 20% of our clients that would probably you could build something with, but like the mass market, I just don’t see being, we just need to catch them up to like what’s currently possible. How about yourself? Do you guys have anything that you’re like, we want this?

[00:29:58] Dara: I think the speed, the speed issue you mentioned, that’s the one we come up against the most really. It’s hard to see where they’re going to go with, like at the moment there’s a big difference between what they’re now calling Looker Studio and the full Looker product. So are they going to start to merge them a little bit more. Are we going to get some benefits in Looker Studio in terms of like the infrastructure, the speed that maybe Looker has, or is it just about bringing it under a kind of product name umbrella, and is Looker Studio just going to remain the same and then actually they’re going to spend more and more time developing Looker over time. So it’s hard to know, but I think if they could make it, you know, because you’re right for the vast majority of users, Looker Studio is perfectly, perfectly suited to what they need. If people do advance their requirements and do realise they need to have a more enterprise level BI tool, then that’s when Looker comes into its own. Maybe an improvement to the speed and maybe some kind of bridging towards those enterprise level solutions without it becoming a completely different product. And for those who do want the completely different product, they go for the full Looker experience.

[00:31:01] Daniel: I mean, right now the domain name’s already, it’s still Data Studio, right? They’ve got a new logo but we’ll see that happening. And I’ll be really interested to see what parts of Looker they released for free under Looker Studio and what Looker Studio Pro becomes, whether it’s like a GTM360 version where very few people even know it exists or care, or whether it becomes very predominant in the market and it becomes kind of like a feature thing where you need to unlock certain features. So yeah, we’re very early into this kind of news, but we’ll see how that evolves and I’m really hoping that we’ll start seeing some of their full Looker features in Looker Studio, and especially some of the two-way connectors where you can actually communicate with things like Google Ads and pause campaigns based on certain data parameters and things like that. And I’d love to see some of that activation element, not necessarily the models, kind of what you were saying JJ earlier. But that would be nice, but it’s not going to change my life in any meaningful way. But a way to action data is going to be really interesting if we can put that in the hands of the majority but yeah, we’ll see.

Wind down

[00:31:50] Dara: Okay, JJ this is the point where we change gears completely and ask you what you do outside of work to wind down.

[00:31:58] JJ: Oh man, I love mountain biking. I live in Reno, Nevada, so right next to Tahoe. So, mountain biking, normally like I travel a lot. At one point my fiance and I lived out of a pickup truck, and we would just drive from city to city and like I’d work at co-working spaces for like a year. So that’s always fun. Like, so those are the kind of things, like travelling and then yeah, mountain biking and like hiking, outdoor stuff, that’s kind of my jam.

[00:32:23] Dara: Nice, Dan what have you been up to lately?

[00:32:25] Daniel: Less exciting than hiking and mountain biking, me and my wife went away for a long weekend, just this weekend gone for our birthdays. So our birthdays are two weeks apart from each other, so we try and do something every year just to, rather than buying each other crap that no one wants, we decided to spend it on a little sort of vacation. So, yeah, we just come back from a long weekend away in York, sort of the northeast of England. And beautiful, beautiful town and yeah, just really decompressed from life and work and everything else and just switched off.

[00:32:52] Dara: Well, mine is neither active nor particularly interesting, but we go to the cinema a lot. And we went a couple of nights ago to see Emily, which is the new film about Emily Brontë, which is really good, I recommend it. But yeah, other than that, I haven’t really done anything. It’s a terrible question really when you say what do you do outside of work and you think, well, sometimes I just work more.

[00:33:12] JJ: You’re like, I started this blog called LookerStudio.VIP.

[00:33:20] Dara: Yeah, buying up domain names.

[00:33:23] JJ: Oh yeah, don’t ask me about those.

[00:33:25] Daniel: Well look JJ, it’s been lovely to have you on. Thank you so much, and we’ll have to arrange another one to actually talk about Looker Studio at some point.

[00:33:33] Dara: When the dust is settled, we’ll have to do part two.

[00:33:36] JJ: When the dust has settled, the features are locked in and we’re off to the races.


Dara: Yes, we all have our own interests. That’s it for this week, to hear more from me and Dan on GA4 and other analytics related topics, all our previous episodes are available in our archive at measurelab.co.uk/podcast. Or you can simply use whatever app you’re using right now to listen to this, to go back and listen to previous episode.

Daniel: And if you want to suggest a topic for something me and Dara should be talking about, or if you want to suggest a guest who we should be talking to, there’s a Google Form in the show notes that you can fill out and leave us a note. Or alternatively, you can just email us at podcast@measurelab.co.uk to get in touch with us both directly.

Dara: Our theme is from Confidential, you can find a link to their music in the show notes. So on behalf of Dan and I, thanks for listening. See you next time.

Written by

Daniel is the innovation and training lead at Measurelab - he is an analytics trainer, co-host of The Measure Pod analytics podcast, and overall fanatic. He loves getting stuck into all things GA4, and most recently with exploring app analytics via Firebase by building his own Android apps.

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