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Guest comment: Understanding Google Analytics Premium

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by Matt Trimmer

One of Google’s latest and more significant announcements recently was the launch of Google Analytics Premium- a paid version of Google’s very popular web analytics system – Google Analytics. There has been a fair amount of industry talk since its launch with some people asking the obvious question, “This is leading up to the end of the free analytics system we’ve all enjoyed for the last six years, right?”

Wrong, it’s not. It’s not even operating in the same space.

So, what is Google Analytics Premium and who needs it?

Lifted limits

Google Analytics Premium can process up to one thousand million hits per month. What’s a hit? Well a hit is every utm.gif request made to the Google servers that for your site could include page views, events, e-commerce transactions and items, and custom variables. Every time Google Analytics sends data back to Google’s servers to build your analytics reports, it does so using an image request for a 1×1 pixel called the __utm.gif. You never see this on your web pages but it is requested and displayed.

Using Google Analytics on a very busy website utilizing advanced features like event tracking, ecommerce and custom variables might possibly hit some data processing limits. We all know Google Analytics is free, but it’s free up to 10 million page views per month per account. To use Google’s own words: “You should not send more than 10 million hits per month. If you exceed this limit, there is no assurance that the excess hits will be processed.”

So with Google Analytics Premium, the data processing limit is considerably lifted – to one thousand million per hits per month.

Another, more physical limit that larger websites might experience when using Google Analytics is what’s known as the 50,000 table limit. Google Analytics will only display your most common 50,000 unique entries in a given processing day. Think of 50,000 unique keywords in your Keywords report or 50,000 unique URLs in your Top Content report.

However, with Google Analytics Premium that limit is lifted to one million. If you are fortunate to have a website this busy that breaks the 50,000 unique entries limit, your Keywords table or Top Content table might have entries in them announced as “(Other)”. This is usually a clear indication that your site is reaching the 50,000 unique entry limit and Google Analytics Premium might be worth considering. It might also be a good idea to get some expert advice, as there are some configuration settings in Google Analytics that might need tweaking.

Another lifted data limit involves sampling. In Google Analytics, when a non-standard report is requested that involves more that 500,000 visits for the date range selected, only a sub-set of the data is displayed to speed response – so-called “fast access mode.” With Google Analytics Premium, the sampling kicks in at 50 million visits – only then is the data sampled. So again, for large websites, more data can be seen and better decisions made.

User interface

One thing many people are surprised to learn about Google Analytics Premium is that it doesn’t look any different from Google Analytics. The only physical difference you will see in the user interface is in the ability to download unsampled reports – that’s all. This fact, together with the way in which Google Analytics can be converted to Google Analytics Premium – by flicking a switch at Google – makes transitioning simple as chances are, the marketing and IT team are likely to be very familiar with Google Analytics already.

Service Level Agreements

Google Analytics Premium offers money-backed service level agreements. In the unlikely event that Google is unable to collect data 99.9% of the time in any calendar month then service fees will be refunded. The same goes for reporting availability to 99% in any calendar month and processing data within a maximum of four hours 98% of the time in any calendar month. Important features sought by an enterprise customer when contracting with an analytics vendor.

More custom variables

Custom variables are really all about visitor segmentation. Whilst Google Analytics can always tells you about your new and returning visitors, what about returning customers? When a user logs into your website, a custom variable can be set querying information from the database such as whether visitor is a simply a registered user or an actual customer. Google Analytics enables five such variables to be set. However, with Google Analytics Premium 50 are available providing incredibly powerful segmentation around a visitor, visits and pages.

Multichannel attribution modelling

One other feature that mustn’t be forgotten about is multichannel attribution modelling. Google Analytics is now equipped with multichannel funnels which allows you to understand how your traffic sources assist in conversions in addition to how they convert on a last-click attribution basis. Since conception, Google Analytics has reported sales or goal conversion on a last click attribution basis. Meaning the last source of traffic to the site is attributed with winning the conversion. Viewing multichannel funnels enables you to see a less rigid picture – in other words did specific channels not only convert on a last click but did they also assist in other conversions.

Multichannel attribution modelling takes this one step further with the ability to change the attribution model applied for example from last click to even distribution across channels or to even- weighted distribution on first and last click basis. Such modelling allows you to understand the full value of all marketing channels in your media mix and to create hypotheses and test to find the most effective attribution model for your industry and product.

Fixed budgeting

The fixed price of Google Analytics Premium is also as innovative as the original price of Google Analytics. That’s because, unlike all other web analytics products, there’s no penalty for having a successful web site. Virtually all web analytics vendors have pricing policies linked to page views or hits, which makes budgeting very difficult and has to be accounted for when planning traffic generating campaigns. With Google Analytics Premium the price is linked only to a ceiling of 1000 million hits per month.

Implementation, support and training

Included in the annual contract for Google Analytics Premium are implementation, support and training from either Google or the Authorized Premium Reseller – ivantage for example. The attraction of using a reseller will often be that a reseller will get to know your business and its website objectives over time, which should be more valuable to you as will be the consulting and insight services only resellers are in a position to provide.

Matt Trimmer is principal consultant and managing director of ivantage

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