Google Analytics 360 starts at $150,000/year. That’s a pretty big jump from the free version of Google Analytics, right? You’d think at that price point that Google would send you a wall-size touchscreen interface to analyze your amazing new data—something you’d see out of Minority Report.
To be frank, that’s not the case. GA 360 can be extremely valuable because it removes data limits and adds new ways to slice the data. However, GA 360 provides more granularity in the data than many companies will be ready to handle.
For most companies, the free version of Google Analytics has more than enough power and room to grow. We’ll go through how to maximize your existing free version and discuss at what point GA 360 becomes worth that price tag.
Data limits are the most important part of the decision because if you are making decisions on a snapshot of your true data, you’re in for trouble.
The most important limit of Standard is 10 million hits per month per property. Think of a hit as a pageview or any additional custom event tracking that has been set up, for example:
Click Tracking - A click on a button or something else you want to track.
Scroll Depth - if someone has scrolled down a certain % or amount of pixels. (Typical setup is every 25%, 50% 75% and 100%).
Download - When someone downloads your whitepaper
Custom Path Tracking - If someone goes through a key set of pages that you want to explicitly track
So if you’ve only set your site to track pageviews, then you have 10 million pageviews per month until you lose data.
Here’s where things can start to multiply really fast: the limit is based at the property level, not the view level. Assuming you have properly configured your property with a raw view, test view and master view, you are limited to around 3 million hits per month because they will be tripled counted for the entire property.
Once you start to implement custom tracking like scroll depth and click tracking (which can be very useful to understand visitor engagement), you can have multiple hits per visitor. It would be very easy for someone to have 20 - 50 hits in a visit if they visit multiple pages with custom events set. Now, that 10 million hit limit is feasible to attain even if you have less than 500,000 visitors a month.
Get a quick gauge on where you’re at. Go to Google Analytics and click on Admin > Property Settings. Then scroll down until you see the Property Hit Volume information like so.
Compare this information with your usual level of traffic to make sure that you’ll be under the hit limit at the end of the year. As far as GA 360 goes, 360 is limited to 20+ billion hits per month per property—good luck beating that.
Standard accounts that send more than 200,000 sessions per day to Analytics will result in the reports being refreshed only once a day. Not necessarily a deal breaker but if you are a data-driven company who relies on fresh data throughout the day, this can be a blocker for marketing and the business intelligence team.
One of the best values of GA 360 is unsampled reporting. Sampling can be dangerous because viewing a portion of the data can lead to inaccurate conclusions. The more sampling you have in your data, the greater variance you might see in the final results. If you’re basing your analysis on 99% of the data with a large size, it’s probably pretty good. But if you are only using 50% or 75% of your data, you could be way off such as reporting a 15% YoY increase when you actually were down 4%. That can be detrimental to your forecasting and team morale when you have to tell everyone what happened.
In Standard GA, the chances of sampling go up with the more data that you have and how much you slice that data such as applying a segment or filter. If you apply a segment with a moderate level of traffic going back a year, you’ll likely see sampling.
Here’s how to tell if your data is sampled. If a report has the green check mark next to the report name in the left hand corner, you’re safe.
When it’s yellow, you’re in trouble.
If you are able to apply your segments and look back several months without seeing any sampling, you’re probably in good shape.
For those looking to maximize their analytics capabilities, GA 360 goes above and beyond.
More customization options
200 custom dimension metrics versus 20 with free
50 custom variables versus 5
Deep Integrations with tools like Salesforce, Big Query, Google Ads, and DoubleClick. Not to mention if you’re looking to offer a personalized experience, you can then use Google Optimize 360 which also boasts better capabilities than the free version.
Dedicated support from Google. You’ll get an Account Manager and the GA team will offer implementation audit & support. If you need it, they can train your team so you can hit the ground running.
So What Should You Do?
The bottom line is: The free Standard version is sufficient for a lot of companies. Look to maximize the free version before you think about upgrading.
Limits - The more custom tracking you set up, the more hits you’ll get per session. We love click tracking, scroll depth tracking, and other custom events but they all have a time and a place. A company should not track everything. A company should only track what they need.
If you’re concerned about limits, do an audit of your custom tracking first. Sometimes you can cut out the fat and get well under the 10 million hits limit. If not, then maybe it’s time to consider GA 360.
Sampling - Since sampling is based on the amount of data that you’re looking at, there are ways around it. Say you’re looking at six months of data and you see sampling— you could just look at two-month intervals separately which might not have sampling. However, this can severely bottleneck your analysts who are constantly having to load reports.
Ask your team if they deal with sampling a lot. If they don’t, you’re in the clear. If they do, ask them how much time they spend doing workarounds. Then ask yourself: are you okay with them spending that amount of time getting the data vs. analyzing it. There are some legitimate ways to get around sampling. Read this awesome guide to unsample your GA data.
We’re glad you’re at least considering what tools you need to put in place to empower your team with data vs. opinions. Let us know if we can help you get the most out of either version. Good luck!