Have you ever wondered how Google Analytics, the free edition, differs from the premium edition Google Analytics 360? ZoomOwl brings this guide to show you the key differences and help you choose the right product for your traffic analysis needs.
The year 2005 marked the beginning of web analytics as a serious, hardcore business with the advent of Google Analytics (GA). A huge percentage of webmasters like you and me gravitate to GA for traffic measurement.
Google Analytics (GA) managed to destroy the competition fast: As of 2018 April, it enjoys over 690,818 websites among the top 1 million (69.08%) according to BuiltWith. GA is a complete solution to gather insights on the traffic to your website, however popular it is.
But you also have Google Analytics 360, the premium version, targeted at large and medium businesses and high-traffic blog networks.
Many people wonder how the exorbitantly priced ($150,000 per year) Google Analytics 360 differs from the widely used free version. Let me give you an idea on that.
Google ships several products for traffic analytics and audience measurement. Google’s audience measurement suite (also known as Google Analytics 360 Suite) comprises six products: Google Analytics, Tag Manager, Optimize, Data Studio, Attribution, and Audience Center. As you can see, Google Analytics, the product, and Google Analytics 360 Suite, the collection, are two different things.
But Google is merging the 360 Suite with the Doubleclick platform to form the Google Marketing Platform.
Each of these products exists for a specific purpose. And if you are shelling out for the 360 Suite, the products take the “360” suffix: Google Analytics 360, Tag Manager 360, etc.
Here, I would like to take you through the key differences between Google Analytics standard version and Google Analytics 360. So, we will not be checking out the other 360 Suite products.
The key differences discussed across this article are given in the comparison image below.
Let’s look at each individual item in detail now, shall we?
GA 360, being the expensive, premium version, is meant for large enterprises with websites and apps enjoying enormous traffic—we are talking about millions of users.
Say, you have massive traffic coming to your site, can you still track it all with free Google Analytics? Majority of websites only need the GA standard, which is already full-fledged and capable of analyzing reasonably heavy traffic. To give an idea, even websites getting tens of thousands of visits every day can be comfortably tracked using GA standard.
Both products excel at collecting data across websites and apps. The standard version itself supports data collection through an API. All major reporting features including real-time visits and User-ID-based data are available on the standard version. User and account administration features are also quite the same.
Let’s now look at some of the advanced features either not present or present only in a basic form in Google Analytics standard.
Do you know about the Funnel Visualization in Google Analytics? It’s a visualization of the custom events and goals you are tracking on your website. Image 1b.4 is an example of a Funnel Visualization report that I had on our corporate website.
GA 360 provides more advanced Funnel Visualizations. As in the Image 1b.5 below, your Custom Reports section shows the additional “Funnel” option. This allows you to create “Custom Funnel reports.”
The Custom Funnel reports can have up to five stages with up to five rules in each. Custom Funnel reports let you track all kinds of sequential actions your visitors take—page views, events, duration, etc.
Unlike the regular Funnel Visualization, which is auto-generated based on your goals, Custom Funnels allow you to track any wild path your visitors might be taking.
Custom Funnels are perfect to track crazy pathways that lead to handsome conversions—for instance, you can track a visitor going in a path for which you don’t have a goal set up, like blog entry -> about us -> testimonials -> sign-up.
You need to identify the right actions and pathways that lead to conversions. That’s how you learn where to put your dough.
Attribution Modeling allows you to accurately credit the actions and sources that lead to a conversion on your site.
For instance, Last Interaction Attribution Model gives credit to the last interaction the customer has taken on the website before conversion.
Imagine a visitor coming to your site five times over the course of a week through various sources—an ad, a link on a third-party site, a social media post, and finally an email. In the last visit (through the email), he makes a purchase. As per the Last Interaction Attribution model, the entire credit of that purchase is imparted to the email.
Other Attribution Models include Last Non-Direct Click, Last Google Ads Click, First Interaction, Linear, Time Decay, and Position-Based.
GA 360 introduces something more advanced—Data-Driven Attribution Modeling. It uses the actual Google Analytics data to impart conversion credit. Instead of tracking the last interaction or the first, wouldn’t it be smarter to use your own conversion paths to impart conversion credits?
Also, Data-Driven Attribution Modeling uses the data from all linked Google products, such as Google Ads (formerly AdWords), Google Display Network, and DoubleClick. Also, it considers the data uploaded via the Cost Data Upload feature.
Crediting conversion paths in this way is much more logical. And that’s why Data-Driven Attribution Model is brilliant.
Imagine your company has country-specific domains (company.co.uk, company.in, company.ca, company.fr, etc.) Each of these domains can be analyzed as a Property in GA.
Standard GA doesn’t let you view the data from such different Properties in one place; you will come across the hassle of switching among Properties.
GA 360 provides Cross-Property Roll-Up reporting feature that allows you to view the data across Properties in one place. Roll-Up Properties are special Properties that aggregate data from multiple Properties.
Roll-Up reporting allows you to remove unnecessary clutter in your reports and the need for signing into multiple Google Analytics Accounts to view data across your Properties.
GA standard is already powerful, capable of tracking huge volumes of traffic. Up to 500,000 sessions can be tracked in a month per Property. When you overrun this, Google places a notice at the top: “This report is based on N% of sessions.” This means Google Analytics has taken a subset (known as the sample) of your actual data to generate the reports.
For instance, if your actual traffic is 600,000 and GA takes a 25% sample, your report will be based on 25% of 600,000 visits or 150,000 visits. Obviously, sampling reduces the accuracy of your reports.
If you select the “greater precision” option, your report will use maximum possible sample size to give the best possible accuracy. “Faster response” allows you to get the report faster with a smaller sample size, but with less accuracy.
But in the case of GA 360, you will come across no practical difficulty in getting the most accurate reports because the hit data collected is 200 times that of GA standard. Up to 100 million sessions per month can be tracked before sampling is even considered. In addition, this is per View, not per Property.
Also, as shown in Image 1b.3, the standard GA API doesn’t support unsampled reports.
As mentioned in the Image 1b.3, Google Analytics 360 allows integration with Google BigQuery. This is for raw data export and analysis using the BigQuery platform.
BigQuery is a database query platform through which you can analyze huge chunks of data by running commands using the structured query language (SQL).
Google Analytics 360 allows you to export your entire raw data to BigQuery and analyze it better with the query language.
BigQuery allows you to analyze up to 1 TB of data and store up to 10 GB of data in a month for free. BigQuery also provides seamless integration with BI tools such as Tableau and MicroStrategy.
Hence, for large organizations, the raw data export from GA 360 and analysis using BigQuery can unearth key business insights.
Google Analytics standard’s data freshness is around 24 to 48 hours. This means, your standard reports will show a visit only after at least 24 hours have passed.
On the other hand, Google Analytics 360 has a data freshness SLA that ensures visits are analyzed and reported usually within 4 hours. In addition, something called “enhanced data freshness” allows GA 360 to generate fresh reports as early as 10 minutes from a visit. Check out the Table 1b.1 below.
While you need to implement the standard version of Google Analytics yourself, as shown below, GA 360 provides implementation services.
Also, if you are a GA 360 customer, you are treated with special support options from Google or one of its partners such as Lunametrics.
As shown in Image 1b.3, Google Analytics imposes some data limits. While the standard version collects data up to certain predetermined limits, GA 360 takes it much higher.
The number of hits tracked by GA standard is up to 10 million per month. Also, each visit enjoys a huge hit limit of 500.
A hit is the most basic interaction a visitor makes on a web page. For instance, a page view is a hit that is tracked by default. If you implement custom events such as a button click or a video play or custom variables, those are also tracked as hits by the system.
Every visitor generates a few hits within his session—a click here, a page view there, etc.
10 million is a huge number in itself. This means, even if every visitor on your website generates 50 hits each (very high a number at that), GA standard can still track up to 10,000,000/50 = 200,000 visitors in a month.
On the other hand, GA 360 can track up to 1 billion hits per month. Beyond the 10 million hit limit, GA 360 provides you tiered pricing.
Let’s talk about custom dimensions and metrics.
GA standard allows you to create up to 20 custom dimensions and metrics each per Property. GA 360 on the other hand allows you to track up to 200 custom dimensions and metrics (each) for every Property.
Every web Property can have up to 25 Views on the standard version, while GA 360 allows as many as 400 Views or more.
As mentioned earlier, GA standard tracks up to 500,000 sessions for every Property before sampling is needed. In case of GA 360, the limit is per View, and it’s as high as 100 million.
In addition, as you read in Image 1b.3, GA 360 allows custom tables and unsampled reports with up to 3 million rows.
It’s definitely possible to analyze a high-traffic website using Google Analytics standard, but large organizations and high-traffic blog networks can take advantage of the massive data collection limits offered by GA 360.
Google Analytics allows native integration with certain other Google products and some third-party solutions. You can get the linking done if you are the admin of your Google Analytics account.
Linking is done on the Property-level as shown in Image 1b.9. In your Admin page, under your Property, you can find the “Product Linking” section.
Click on “All Products” to get a list of all the Google products that you can link to your Analytics Account. GA 360 allows you to link a lot more products than GA standard. Even Salesforce Sales Cloud, a non-Google product, can be linked to GA 360.
As mentioned earlier, Google BigQuery is a cloud-based platform that helps you analyze large chunks of data using a DB query language such as SQL.
To use the BigQuery platform, you need to be able to export the raw data from Google Analytics to BigQuery, a feature available only in GA 360. If you have the free version, you can use a workaround provided by Dayne Batten.
BigQuery integration lets you generate additional insights from your Analytics data by querying it with a DB query language and transferring the interpretations to a business analytics tool. This will show you unusual data patterns, site issues you may want to fix, and key opportunities you don’t want to miss.
Another key integration available on GA 360 since Jan 2018 is with Salesforce Sales Cloud, the leading CRM software. This was the direct result of Google’s partnership with Salesforce that went into effect in November 2017.
Salesforce is the market leader in CRM and enjoys over 100,000 customers worldwide.
Integration to Salesforce Sales Cloud will radically improve the data accuracy of Google Analytics 360 as you can now bring the sales lead data from Sales Cloud to GA 360 and use it to improve your Attribution Models, bid optimization, audience creation, and remarketing.
Similarly, the GA 360 audiences will be available on Salesforce Marketing Cloud for use in your Salesforce campaigns.
Hence, for organizations that depend on a CRM, this integration would be extremely logical and essential.
Google Analytics standard is a free tool, quite like most of the Google products. GA 360 on the other hand is somewhat exorbitant at $150,000 per year, billed monthly to the customers.
Check out the Table 1b.2 below showing the pricing of competing digital analytics products.
Even though the pricing may be indicative of their data collection and reporting limits, these competing products are also perfect for tracking even high-traffic websites and apps. However, they are nowhere nearly as pricey as Google Analytics 360. Why?
Also, IBM Digital Analytics is a major contender, but its pricing information was not available.
As mentioned, GA 360 is probably the most expensive of all the digital analytics solutions out there. Even Adobe, notorious for its overpricing, provides a more affordable product. However, Adobe Analytics could cost as high as $350,000 depending on your custom requirements.
But should you really treat GA 360 as prohibitively expensive? G2Crowd’s user-reported pricing data tells otherwise. GA 360 ranks at 61st percentile in terms of cost in the digital analytics category.
The customer discount is also given in the Image 1b.c.
Individuals and small businesses may find it unnecessary to pay for such an analytics product as they almost never reach the level of traffic that GA 360 is designed for.
It may seem counterintuitive to spend money while GA 360’s promise is to save some. Let’s see whether the investment is properly justified for large and medium businesses.
Imagine you are optimizing your site based on the real-time data and additional unsampled reports available on GA 360. Your data accuracy and the capability to integrate with several products are certain to elevate your conversion rate.
As a practical example, consider Domino’s Pizza, a pizza lover’s favorite.
According to a Google case study published in 2015, Domino’s Pizza, UK generated a monthly revenue boost of 6% in 2015 by the implementation of Google Analytics 360.
Domino’s UK had a revenue of GBP 757.8 million in 2014. By 2015, the 6% increase had generated an additional revenue of GBP 45.47 million, merely due to the implementation of GA 360.
Now, the ROI of this would be:
ROI = (Revenue/Cost) – 1
i.e., ROI = 45,470,000/150,000 – 1 = 302.13 or 30,213%
Domino’s was able to achieve such a whopping ROI because its revenue was already high, and even a small improvement could bring a handsome revenue boost.
That kind of an ROI completely justifies the usage of GA 360, doesn’t it?
However, before implementation, you should consider a few things.
- To justify the use of GA 360, your website and apps should be large enough pulling massive traffic, of the order of millions of users.
- You should have a dedicated team or an account manager for managing digital analytics.
- You should be prepared to utilize the information obtained from GA 360 to improve your marketing campaigns and channels. You shouldn’t let personal opinions interfere in this.
- Your organization uses a business analytics suite that could take advantage of raw data on your traffic.
So, GA 360 is a perfectly justified investment if your organization is large enough and you don’t want to miss out on insights from your high-traffic websites and apps. Google Analytics standard version is free and feature-rich, and it’s more than enough for a medium- to high-traffic blog or a small business website.
Lenin VJ Nair
Lenin Nair has years of experience in marketing for software and technology domains. He is a certified specialist in marketing and enjoys exploring new ways to market products and services for small and medium businesses. He enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and ideating. He holds an MBA in marketing and a bachelor's degree in IT.