I recently went through Google's Beginner and Advanced Google Analytics courses, then went on to get a certification for Google Analytics. In the process, I learned the power of Analytics and some of it's API features which I wasn't aware of previously.
It's extremely simple, and doesn't require any kind of authentication. Send a request to the endpoint with the tracking code and hit type, and it'll get processed by your GA property.
Because it's so simple, I wondered how it might be useful to integrate with Minecraft Networks. Think about it - players are equivalent to users, pageviews to servers on a network. If you pass a player's UUID as the identifier for GA, you can also track new vs returning players and even bounce rates! That's just the tip of the iceberg, however.
Using the same measurement protocol, you can also record events from a player. One very useful event, for example, is the server vote event. This occurs when a player votes for a server on a server list. Combined with goals, you can then track what percentage of players vote for the server. If you add a label to the event, you can also track which voting sites are the most popular.
Another useful goal are donations/purchases on your network. You can track the conversion rate - what percentage of active players make a purchase in your store - and which ranks/features are most popular among players.
One more less obvious feature that several network owners requested was the ability to track player-community engagement. At the most basic level, you can see how many players interact with the community (by the amount of chat messages they send), especially useful if you segment new players only. If you have a high bounce rate (70% or more) and low to none new player engagement it could mean players feel foreign to the community or don't feel welcome.
An obvious question at this point is, how is this useful?
As with website Analytics, it's not terribly useful on it's own. However, when paired with changes you make, it's very useful. One of the most common issues with a community not increasing is that the bounce rate is very high - players quit without really playing anything. Many networks get a new user nearly every hour, which means between 20-40 new players join every day. And yet, the average player count doesn't increase (or increases only very gradually). This means there is a very high bounce rate, most servers I play on see about 90% or higher rates. And yet, they work hard to increase the server rank on vote lists and even spend money on advertising. If they managed to decrease the bounce rate to even 50%, they could see an increase in average player count of ~10 players every day - a large increase for Minecraft networks.
As with websites, people with a very short attention span - according to recent studies, about 8 seconds before we lose interest. That means you have 8 seconds to grab the player's attention with something immediately playable. Most networks have a large, fairly empty hub that looks great design-wise but does not compel the new player to make a decision within 8 seconds. Instead of a large hub, networks can see a decreased bounce rate by immediately jumping the new player into some sort of interactive story or a call to action.
With Google Analytics, you can make such changes to the new player experience, then track the difference very easily. At an advanced point, you can even use A/B testing to find out which new player experience system works the best!
I've already created a Google Analytics tracking plugin, and convinced my friend and the owner of a small network called ClownerCraft to install the plugin for testing purposes. It recently went active, and has been working very well. I also discussed using this plugin for larger networks (~80+ average players) with a developer friend, and he was so attracted by the idea he went beyond installing the test plugin on the network he works for to getting feedback from other network owners. I hope to increase the potential for this integration plugin, and in the near future it may see use on many upcoming networks.