Google Analytics is a useful tool for understanding website traffic and user behavior. However, Google Analytics’ pricing model might present some challenges or limitations, especially for smaller organizations.
Here is all you need to know about Google Analytics’ pricing model and how it suits different types of customers.
- Is Google Analytics free?
- How much does Google 360 cost?
- What about Universal Analytics?
- What are the differences between the free and paid version of GA360?
- Why you should check alternatives
- Why Simple Analytics is not free
Is Google Analytics free?
Google Analytics comes with two plans: a free plan and a premium one called Google 360.
The free plan is free. Well, kind of. Google Analytics collects visitor data and analyzes it to provide insight into your website’s traffic and performance. Google then re-uses these data to power its extensive ad tech ecosystem. Like other Google services, it is a privacy-invasive tool that customers pay with their data.
Google Analytics also features a premium plan that caters to large businesses. This plan offers extra features but comes with a big price tag.
How much does Google 360 cost?
Unlike Universal Analytics 360, GA4 360 follows a usage-based model for Google 360.
Google does not publicize its pricing criteria, but Google 360 reportedly has an entry fee of $50.000 per year with additional usage-based fees. Enterprise-level customers typically negotiate the agreement directly with Google’s sales team, leading to different prices on a case-by-case basis.
Overall, Google Analytics 4 is a powerful but pricey product aimed at enterprise-level customers.
What about Universal Analytics?
Google is phasing out UA. UA is no longer supported, and UA360 will stop being supported in July 2024. If you still use UA360, you must transition to GA4 or move to a different service altogether.
What are the differences between the free and paid version of GA360?
Before deprecation, Universal Analytics recorded only 10 million monthly events per property. A Google 360 subscription was required to record events beyond the threshold.
Google Analytics 4 is different. The free version's explorations use data sampling to examine the past 10 million events, which degrades the data quality.
On the other hand, Google 360 relies on data sampling for exploration over the one billion events threshold. Paying customers can manually turn data sampling on and off as needed to speed up the processing.
In other words, UA's old event limit is now a data sampling threshold. What does this mean in practice?
Data sampling is a technique that makes data analysis easier at the cost of some accuracy. Imagine having to count all the trees in a forest: you could count them one by one or count the trees in an acre and work it from there. This is what Google Analytics does when sampling data.
The quality of the sampled data depends on the sample size. Suppose you only exceed 10M events by a small margin. In that case, GA will use large sample sizes and give you fairly reliable data, while higher volumes of traffic lead to smaller sample sizes and less accurate data.
So, the free GA plan is probably fine if you don’t exceed the 10M events threshold by a large amount. However, data sampling can skew your results if you analyze large traffic volumes.
Also, note that some interactions that did not count as events in UA are recorded as events in GA4 due to the new attribution model. This change effectively inflates event count in GA4: organizations that were below UA's old event traffic threshold may find themselves above the data sampling threshold for GA4, especially if they analyze a lot of app traffic.
The free version of GA has other quantitative limitations, such as a limit on the number of audiences and conversions that can be configured per property.
The free version of GA4 has a 14-month retention limitation for all data and metrics. GA360 still has the 14-month retention limit for properties, but it allows storing other events for up to 50 months.
Retention limitations are a major drawback of the free GA4 experience, as customers will be severely limited in their ability to analyze long-term trends.
Integrations are a big selling point for GA360.
The free version is compatible with a handful of Google Services (e.g., Google Ads, Adsense, Ad Exchange, Search Console), and that’s it. GA360 has many more integrations, including Big Query, Salesforce, Search Ads 360, Display Video 360, and more.
Big Query is an especially important integration, as Google’s serverless data warehouse allows companies to speed up queries on large data sets.
Google 360 includes features such as a data-driven attribution model and custom funnels. These advanced features cater to enterprise-level customers with a full marketing team on board.
Only GA360 offers service-level agreements in its Terms of Service. Free customers are likely to experience more downtime. They should not count on the service being restored promptly after disruptions, as the company will likely focus on paying customers first to honor SLAs.
GA 360 refreshes data and reports more often than the free version. This is not likely to impact most customers but might be useful for those who want to get their real-time insights.
Only Google 360 customers enjoy customer support. Free users can rely on Google’s technical documentation and ask the GA community for help. Still, it is ultimately up to them to solve any issues they may experience with the service.
It is worth noting that most of the information on Google Analytics’ community forums refers to UA and might be outdated.
Why you should check alternatives
Like UA, GA4 is built around cookies. While first-party cookies are better than third-party cookies, they are still an intrinsically invasive technology.
Companies are moving towards privacy-friendly, cookie-free solutions as the general audience becomes increasingly concerned about online tracking.
In addition, governments are cracking down on services like Google Analytics. Numerous EU governments (like France & Italy) have already banned the use of Google Analytics. You can check whether Google Analytics is banned in your country here.
Cookie banners cause a loss of data
Unfortunately for companies, people do not like being tracked and frequently decline cookies when presented with a transparent choice. This leads to data loss for GA customers: users who decline cookies are practically invisible in the data.
Cookie-free web analytics services such as Simple Analytics can solve this problem and make these visitors visible again. They can also be combined with GA or other cookie-based services to mitigate the data loss from cookie banners.
A complex UI
Universal Analytics was known for its unintuitive UI, and Google Analytics 4 is even worse. The interface is cluttered with advanced features that most users do not need, making navigation difficult even for users familiar with UA. Better options exist when it comes to UI: This is what the Simple Analytics dashboard looks like.
The price tag
Let’s be real- $50.000 is not exactly peanuts for many organizations. Some small or medium-sized businesses may find the restrictions of the free GA experience problematic while not being able to afford GA360’s entry-level prices. These companies would do well to look for a cheaper alternative.
The perfect time to change
Right now, organizations need to move to a different service whether they like it or not. UA properties are already deprecated and UA360 properties will soon be. If you are a UA360 customer, this is a great time to try a privacy-friendly service (and by the way, Simple Analytics allows you to carry over all your GA data).
Why Simple Analytics is not free
As we explained, the “free” version of Google Analytics is not exactly free: your visitors pay for it with their data.
We at Simple Analytics dislike the pay-with-your-data business model that is so prevalent today. Privacy is a right, and personal data are not a commodity.
We store your visitor data securely and don’t sell it to third parties for advertising purposes. This is why Simple Analytics charges a fee - that is affordable for everyone, starting at as little as €9 per month for smaller organizations.
If this resonates with you, feel free to give us a spin.