Google Analytics

Google Analytics - Features, Pricing, Alternatives, and More

Nathan Snelgrove
Reviewed by Nathan Snelgrove
Last updated December 14, 2017

Google Analytics is the closest any marketing app has ever come to being a household name, but does that automatically make it the best option?

Compared to its competition, Google Analytics is perhaps the simplest all-in-one analytics tool you could use. Without any configuration, it just works. All you need to do is copy and paste a single line of Javascript to your website (or, if you’re using a platform like WordPress, install a plugin).

And just that like, you’ll be tracking page views on your website for free, at least on sites with less than 10 million pageviews a month.

When it comes to tracking information, Google Analytics differs from its competition in a couple key ways. Unlike some of its competitors, Google Analytics tracks visits to your website. It doesn’t track visitors. That is to say, it doesn’t track individual users the way that some competitors (like Mixpanel) do.

For most people, that’s fine. But that means Google Analytics works best when you’re using it to track overall trends. Although it can be used to track eCommerce, it’s not the easiest way to do so. Setting up funnels on Google Analytics can’t be done retroactively, which means you need to have some idea about your expected user flows before the launch of your website.

Google Analytics tracks users with cookies, which has some pros and cons. The best part about using cookies to track your audience is that it requires no setup. The worst part is that cookies don’t allow you to meaningfully identify individual users over a long span of time. Some of your visitors may be identified multiple times by Google Analytics as their browsers’ cache refreshes.

Using cookies also means that Analytics isn’t particularly good at providing real-time data. While there is a panel in Google Analytics to look at real-time data, it’s not particularly accurate (and it’s not always displaying in real time).

What all this means is that true data fiends may want to look elsewhere for their analytics solutions. If you plan on running a lot of A/B tests, or you need real-time results, or you’re looking to optimize for funnels retroactively, then you’ll need to look elsewhere.

But for most people, Google Analytics is a good fit. And when it’s good at something, it excels.

If you plan on purchasing any advertising with Google AdWords, the tight integration between AdWords and Analytics makes it an easy choice to run the two together. Analytics integrates well with their SEO monitoring options as well, making Google Analytics a particularly obvious choice for those of us in the role of webmaster. And, if your site is like most, the majority of your traffic will come from Google search results—and Google Analytics is great at tracking search queries and marketing campaigns to give you a full picture of your overall traffic.

What makes Google Analytics most compelling, though, is the degree to which it’s been integrated in a variety of site builders and online platforms over the years. Like most things Google makes, Analytics’ ubiquity is largely due to third party companies who have integrated it with their products.

But there’s a reason that Analytics is so popular with these third parties. It might not be the easiest to use, but it’s flexible to most users’ needs—and having access to the same data Google sees on your site helps you optimize for their all-powerful search engine.

With all that in mind, Google Analytics is the easiest tool to recommend to most people who just want to track their website. Is it the perfect tool? No. But for most of us, it will be all we ever need—and if helps us all optimize our websites for SEO, then that’s a huge perk.

Have any feedback on this overview, or something we should change? Let us know!

Google Analytics Features

  • Collect and visualize visitor and traffic data from your website or app
  • Analyze your audience’s behaviour to understand their flow as they move from one spot to another on your site
  • Create custom funnels, variables, and metrics to analyze the customer path to purchase
  • Integrate with Google AdWords to understand your demographics and re-market your products or services
  • Segment your audience and use that information to create ads targeted to specific demographics
  • iOS and Android apps available

Google Analytics Pricing

  • Free for up to 10 million hits per month
  • Enterprise pricing available beyond that

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Google Analytics is an industry standard freemium web and mobile analytics package.