A handy guide to Google Analytics vs Analytics 360

Google Analytics (GA) feels like it has been around forever. In fact, it launched almost 13 years’ ago. Since then, in 2016, Google replaced Google Analytics Premium with Google Analytics 360 (GA 360) – which is essentially the paid-for, more comprehensive version of standard GA.

Google targets GA 360 towards the needs of ‘enterprise marketers’, and we’ve found ourselves using it more often for our clients, especially e-commerce brands. To help you decide whether GA 360 is worth your investment (after all, it’s not cheap), we thought we’d share the key differences between the two and offer a snapshot of what we think are the key advantages of GA 360 when conducting data analysis. If you don’t have the time or quite frankly don’t fancy it, find our handy comparison chart at the bottom of the blog.

Integrating GA with other Google products

It’s possible to link AdWords and Search Console in standard GA. Linking the two means that dimensions and metrics that are traditionally only available in these tools, can now be combined with dimensions and metrics in GA. Handy, right?

GA 360 takes this one step further, allowing you to integrate DoubleClick and BigQuery – and with DoubleClick as the go-to ad-serving and delivery platform, this is pretty useful as it opens new opportunities within media buying. By linking a mix of Google products into one single platform, we have a greater overview of cross-channel campaigns which allows us to conduct more in-depth analysis.

The integration with BigQuery is pretty awesome too, and there are lots of ways you can use it. With BigQuery acting as Google’s cloud storage platform, we use this as a data warehouse from which we make SQL queries to extract relevant data.

Linking analytics to BigQuery actually sends data on a hit basis, rather than being aggregated into sessions. This is great – as being able to analyse this data on a user basis allows us to view how these individuals convert; a much more granular basis to conduct deeper analysis. BigQuery can also be connected with other data sources, such as Point of Sales (POS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or email marketing systems, which means GA no longer needs to be used in isolation.

Data-driven attribution

Just the word ‘attribution’ can make any Data Analyst’s knees shake from fear. Its value is one of the most hotly debated topics in any integrated agency. The reason being? Traditional attribution models are rule-based and static, meaning they can quite easily under or overvalue multi-channel marketing efforts.

As a result, Google has built its own Attribution platform to help improve this issue. GA 360 has gone one step further by introducing the Data-Driven Attribution (DDA) model which attempts to more accurately assign the value of conversions to touch points and channels. To help show the major benefits of this model, here’s an example:

Imagine you owned a trendy e-commerce site that sells all sorts of hipster t-shirts! In week one, a user may research different sites that sell these types of tees. Eventually they could enter your site by clicking one of your PPC Ads. The user is keen on buying one of your products, however they want to take some time to consider their purchase to make sure they’re getting the right t-shirt for them (this tends to happen for e-commerce sites, especially for high value purchases). After a week, the user is dead set on making the purchase, but this time, they enter the site through Direct Search, since they’ve already visited.

Standard GA uses a last-interaction model by default. In this model, 100% of the value of the above sale would be attributed to Direct Search, and none of the credit would be assigned to PPC despite this playing an important role in making the conversion. Essentially, this hides the value of PPC, which is frustrating at best – especially as by nature, PPC brings a cost to the channel.

Table showing attribution values

Using 360’s DDA model allows for far more accurate attribution of the value to channels. The DDA model is more dynamic; applying algorithms to find statistically significant data and assigning to the 4 most influential touch-points. In the example above, PPC would be rewarded with some of the value for the conversion instead of being fully attributed to Direct Search.

There are other attribution models in standard GA (see below examples), but these are still very static.

Attribution models available in Google Analytics

Custom Dimensions & Metrics

You’ll find that standard GA tracks a lot of things as default, but to make the best use of analytics, you’ll need to setup custom tracking on elements, for example, when someone makes a purchase, clicks a social share button or adds a product to their basket. Often the best way to display custom tracking in GA is by setting up Custom Dimensions and Metrics. In standard GA, we’re limited to only 20 dimensions and metrics, in comparison to GA 360, where it’s possible to have 200 of each.

Data processing

Data can take up to 24 hours to refresh in standard GA. This isn’t a problem with GA 360, as data is updated within 4 hours – so not only can campaign performance and conversions be monitored more closely, but the data we send to our dashboards will also be more up-to-date. The key advantage here is that it allows us to be far more reactive to changes.

Additionally, sampling can be almost totally avoided when using GA 360. Chatting to any Data Analyst, they’d tell you that a large proportion of their time can be spent exporting the same report several times for smaller date periods to avoid sampling. When a property exceeds 500k sessions, the sampling issue kicks in with standard GA, and when you’re performing data analysis, you’ll quickly find that you exceed this limit. With GA 360, the threshold is closer to the 100 million mark which means sampling doesn’t tend to be an issue. Where possible, you should avoid sampling because it can change figures substantially in some cases.


So, there you have it. That’s all the key things we think you need to know to help you make the right choice for your business when it comes to investing in Google 360 or not. For future reference, we’ve popped all the important bits in this easy-to-digest table. Don’t say we don’t treat you!

Google Analytics vs Analytics 360

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