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Learn To Track Add-on Usage With Google Analytics

Learn To Track Add-on Usage With Google Analytics


Google Analytics can be used to analyse usage and to improve Add- ons that are widely used on Google docs, sheets and forms.

Google Apps Script is a cloud based scripting language that helps build these add- ons as web applications. You are given a code editor and you can start creating web applications right in your browser and publish them as add- ons. These add- ons can be easily accessed by Google docs, forms or sheets users. The add- ons are available in the main toolbar of Google docs. See the picture below.

Add ons in Google sheets

On clicking the add- ons button and then clicking the ‘get add-ons’ button, a library of add- ons opens up. There are hundreds of add- ons available that can be deployed to enhance Google sheets, docs or forms.

add on library

Google Analytics helps analyse the usage of these add- ons and also gives insights on how to improve these add- ons.

How to track Add- on usage with Google Analytics

We will see how data collection, configuration, processing and reporting in Google analytics is done for tracking add- ons.

Data Collection

User Identification

In case of add- ons, Google Analytics creates a new cookie every time a user opens the add- on with a new client id. Hence even though total number of sessions can be identified, the number of unique users cannot be identified. Here localstorage is used to store the client id. This mechanism is used to persist user information.

Add- ons also run via triggers such as opening of a document or filling up of a google form. In this case, the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol is used. The Measurement Protocol allows developers to send http requests to send the raw user interaction data to Google Analytics servers directly. Thus user activity can be measured in this new environment. For sending this, the apps script uses the urlFetch service  to send and receive http or https responses. A client id needs to be generated in this case too. For this, Properties service in apps script is used.  This service allows scripts to store a key- value for a document in which an add- on is used, for a script or for a user of a script.

This client id generated on the client side can be sent to the server so as to have a common client id for both the client and the server calls to Google Analytics.

Alternatively, the user id feature in Google Analytics can be used. User id enables analysis of groups of sessions, across various devices, using a unique, persistent and a non- personally identifiable ID string pointing to a user.

Many analytics technologies cannot identify a unique user across multiple sessions or devices. Each time a user switches devices or starts new sessions, a separate user is counted.

The user id can associate separate sessions with one unique id. Thus the activities and engagement data done across several sessions and devices under one user id can be aggregated and attributed to the unique user. Thus the results obtained by using user id are more accurate. While the client id is associated with a device/ client, the user id represents a unique user. This can be easily used in add- ons when users sign in and are authenticated.

Data configuration, processing and reporting

Custom Dimensions and Metrics

Due to the varied nature of add- ons, custom dimensions and metrics are used to track events. An event has following components:

  • Categories: Is a name to the group objects you want to track. eg e- mails.
  • Action: Is a name given to track what action you want to track against the categories. eg Send or Save Draft.
  • Label: Label gives further details about the event eg. the subject line of the emails sent
  • Value: Value is an integer rather than a string. eg. The total time taken to send e- mails.

Thus an event hit collects all the above values and displays it in the report. In this way, you can create custom reports and dashboards for add- ons. eg. In case of an email sending add- on, analysis of users can be done based upon custom dimensions of the type of user( paying or free) or whether email tracking is activated. See picture below.
custom dimensions

Another insight that Google Analytics gave to this add- on ‘Yet another Mail Merge’ was regarding the volume of usage. The users were allowed 100 free emails and they were utilising almost 90% of this free quota but were not graduating to the paid plans for sending more than 100 emails. The add- on vendor restricted the free emails to 50 and for the additional emails, they gave an option of referring more clients. Thus the revenue and reach both increased using insights from Google Analytics.


Thus we realise the versatility of Google Analytics in not only tracking data from websites, but also of tracking data from add- ons. We have learnt about the data collection, configuration, processing and reporting methodologies in Google analytics for tracking add- ons. For data collection, we find the use of various Google analytics techniques like cookies, client ids, user ids, measurement protocol and apps script techniques like fetchurl, properties and localstrorage. For data configuration, processing and reporting, custom dimensions and metrics, custom reporting and dashboards and event tracking are used.

Image and data courtesy:

1. Romain Vialard, Google Developer Expert

2. Google Analytics

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