Google Analytics is an analytics service based on a freemium model. It is part of Google’s marketing platform. It helps organizations to track the actions done by users on their websites and mobile apps. Tracking user behaviour goes a long way in establishing focussed marketing efforts, improving the conversion rate, and even improving the products. Beyond basic tracking, Google also provides reports and dashboards for you to get an idea of how your users are behaving on your websites. Even though Google Analytics is one of the best free analytics service providers, it comes with its set of gremlins. This post explores Google Analytics limitations when compared with its competitors.
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Let’s learn about Google Analytics limitations in detail.
Understanding Google Analytics
User behaviour is captured in terms of dimensions and metrics. Dimensions are attributes of your data like the location of the user or the originating URL. Metrics are aggregated quantitative measurements, captured based on dimensions. Customers can also create custom dimensions and metrics using Google Analytics dashboards.
Most features of Google Analytics come as free with the basic service. The enhanced feature set comes with Google Analytics 360 that is priced at a whopping 1,50,000 $ per year.
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Google Analytics Limitations
In this section, you will cover Google Analytics limitations in detail. Let’s see the various Google Analytics limitations, as listed below:
- Sampling Distortion
- Getting Access to Hit Level Data
- Limits on User-Defined Dimensions
- Customer Support
- Limitations of the Data Model
- Rate Limits and Quotas
- Cohort Tracking Limitations
- Ease of Setting Up
- Website Focus vs Product Focus
- Pricing Flexibility
1. Sampling Distortion
One of the compromises Google made while offering Google Analytics free for users was to put a cap on the data that needs processing at the backend. They did that by making guarantees of showing you the actual data that comes from your website or mobile app beyond a point. In Google’s defence, sampling takes place only after 500k sessions in the free account, but the data you see may be sampled, if your analytics implementation is complex. With no information about this complexity, it is impossible to know if it’s the original data or sampled data.
2. Getting Access to Hit Level Data
The biggest problem with Google Analytics service is its difficulty in accessing the actual hit level data from the Google Analytics dashboard. Google actively prevents users from getting access to this data in their free service and reserves it to Google Analytics 360. It is still possible to get access to this hit level data through some intelligent coding and generating user identifiers on your own, but that is best left to advanced users.
3. Limits on User-Defined Dimensions
Google places a limit of 20 on custom dimensions. The limit is increased to 200 in the case of Google Analytics 360. Another caveat is that the custom dimensions once created, cannot be deleted. They can only be disabled. You can edit the dimensions, but that would mean your old and new data will come up mixed and the filters will not be able to separate them.
4. Customer Support
Since Google Analytics comes as free in its default form, there is no such specific individual customer support offered. Google Analytics 360 comes with its own support, but considering the price that is charged, it is debatable how many actual customers can benefit from it.
5. Limitations of the Data Model
Google analytics works based on a session-level access data model. It means Google does not make an effort in detecting and recording a user as data is based on browser sessions. It is possible to get user-level data by ensuring that your users are signed up or by using session unification, but with some limitations. This issue becomes obvious when your users switch between devices or browsers. Some of the competitors, like Mixplanel, do a better job at this. Also check out Google Analytics for Ads.
6. Rate Limits and Quotas
There is a blanket limit of 10 million hits per property in a month, for free users. There is also a throttling limit that starts with an initial value of 20 hits and then replenishes itself at 2 hits per second.
7. Cohort Tracking Limitations
Cohorts are groups of users with the same value for specific dimensions. Even though Google provides facilities for cohort analysis, its feature set is limited when compared to competitors, like Mixplanel. The number of dimensions and events that can be tracked to create cohorts is limited. There is also a limit on the number of total cohorts at 60. Demographic dimensions are subjected to restrictions to protect user identity in case there are few members in a group.
8. Ease of Setting Up
Google Analytics is easy to set up when compared to its main competitors, like Adobe Analytics and Mixpanel. But this mostly ends at beginner level setup or first-time use. When it comes to setting up custom dimensions, metrics, and additional keys, there is a learning curve involved. So if your use case involves anything more involving and you are a digital marketing novice, you may struggle with all the manual configurations.
9. Website Focus vs Product Focus
Google Analytics is great when you need to track traffic on a website, but does not do a good job when you want to combine your website with your app. In most cases, your website is your marketing asset, and the app is the actual product. Unified reporting of both these assets is not very seamless in the case of Google Analytics. In case your use case involves only tracking behaviour in an app and not a website, then Google’s reports may become inadequate.
It is true, in case your digital product has a complex onboarding process, and you want to track the unfinished things by users and analyze their behaviour. Funnels in Google Analytics are also less detailed and fairly limited.
10. Pricing Flexibility
Google Analytics only offers two usage modes – one is free, and the other costs 150,000$ per year. Google Analytics 360 is the paid offering that comes with most of the features a typical user will ever need and even addresses some of the limitations mentioned here. But at that steep price, it may not be affordable to most organizations who are beginning their sales journey and requires such facilities the most. Bringing in some middle ground concerning pricing can attract a lot more people towards Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is an excellent choice for tracking user behaviour if your use cases are fairly straightforward. Some of the Google Analytics limitations mentioned can be worked around by integrating third-party reporting tools or by taking Google Analytics data in your database and analyzing it.
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