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LunaTV Ep.10 – Google Analytics – Is Google Analytics Suitable for a really large site?

This week’s topic is Google Analytics. In this episode we answer:

- Is Google Analytics (the free version) suitable for a really large site?

LunaTV is a weekly segment where LunaMetrics team members answer your questions from across the web. Got a question you want answered? Tweet at us at @LunaMetrics with #LunaTV and we’ll answer your question!

Transcript:

Phil:
Hi I’m Phil Anderson.

Dorcas:
And I’m Dorcas Alexander.

Phil:

And welcome to LunaTV where we answer your questions from around the web. We also have a blog where we post 3 times a week, where you’re probably seeing this video right now.

Dorcas:
And we also do trainings all around the country, so check out this link below, and sign up!

Phil:
So the question we have this week is one that we get all the time during trainings, Dorcas I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot and I get this all the time, which is “Is Google Analytics simple for a really large-scale web site?” If you’re making the next Facebook, is that a good time to use Google Analytics? What do you think about that?

Dorcas:
Well there are certain limitations on the number of hits that you can send to Google Analytics. The official documentation says that only send 5 million page views per month. So it’s really 10 million hits per month. Hits includes page views and things like events that you might be sending, if people are clicking to download files and things like that, if you’re tracking ecommerce it includes those hits, if you’re doing any social tracking, all of those hits are included in the 10 million hits per months. Of course there’s a new product called “GA premium” where those hit limits are raised. What do you think about that Phil?
Phil:
We’ll first, let me let everyone in on a little secret, you could use a lot more than 10 million hits a month, if Google would let you. We have some customers that really blow through those limits, however you never know if you’re going to get cut off. And there a lot of other limitations that we could probably get into a little bit, but as Dorcas just mentioned Google Analytics Premium solves this problem, it’s really meant for high volume websites. It’s cheaper than the competition, but it’s a lot more expensive than free Google Analytics, so you’re three pricing options are free, and hundred fifty thousand dollars a year for GA Premium. But that comes with support, a new things for Google. So there are lots of advantages to using Google Analytics Premium.

Dorcas:
Yeah that’s true, you’re also using Google’s servers and not your own servers. So you don’t have to worry about the servers going down or paying people to maintain those. We have some clients that use different tools on their own servers and they have big holes in their data where they just lost time on their servers, and with Google Analytics Premium you never have to worry about that.

Phil:
Yes, there a 99.9%, some insane service level. You get data freshness within 4 hours, so if you have a lot of data, it’s one of the big disadvantages to using the free Google Analytics on a large scale website, is that is takes a long time for Google to crunch that data. We’ve seen anywhere up to forty eight hours. So if you want data freshness, GA Premium with a guarantee of within 4 hours, sometimes it’s quicker than that. But really the biggest use case for premium, And maybe why large-scale web sites wouldn’t use Google for free is the limits in the rows of tables. So maybe you can talk a little about the row table limits.

Dorcas:
So there is a 50,000 limit on the number of rows, in a table. Actually I’ve seen tables with, this is another one of those limits where it says it’s going to cut you off after this number, but sometimes you can get 100,000 rows in the table. But when the table gets cut off you’ll see this row in your reposts that says other in parenthesis, so that just means that it’s aggregated all that data. The data isn’t lost, but you don’t have any information about it.

Phil:
So that’s a good point, there’s always kind of exceptions to the rule, but I think we’ve kind of summarized this, essentially Google Analytics is meant for large-scale websites, but if you can afford it go for the Premium! It gets you a couple extra features, that scalability that you’re looking for. So I feel pretty confident recommending GA for a high volume website, and when you’re ready it has the ability with Premium, so there’s room to grow now. We have a training coming up in New York at the end of July. If you want to hear more about this and talk to someone like us in person, and you can visit our website to read more about those trainings. We tour the country! And if we’re not in your city, let us know where we need to be!

Dorcas:
We’ll see you next time!

http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2012/07/11/luna-tv-ep-10/

3 Responses to “LunaTV Ep.10 – Google Analytics – Is Google Analytics Suitable for a really large site?”

webberanalytics says:

When does the free version of GA start to hit it’s limitations? I am currently evaluating using GA free or Adobe SC and trying to determine if it’s worth paying for SC at all. For example, when does sampling in GA start to become an issue after a certain volume of traffic? Any input into considerations would be much appreciated. Ultimately I’d like to understand what factors should be considered when choosing SiteCatalyst of GA Free. Thanks!

Dorcas Alexander Dorcas Alexander says:

Sampling is an issue for many large websites using GA. However, even for my largest clients, there is no sampling in the standard reports. Sampling only comes into play when you apply an advanced segment or add a secondary dimension. You do get a lot of built-in segmentation in GA’s standard reports (and no sampling), but there are times you want to apply a custom segment. For my largest clients, this means I also have to report what sample the resulting data was based on. Just to give you an idea how sample sizes vary (when applying a segment or requesting anything outside the scope of the standard reports): clients around 2M hits/month = sample size around 50%, clients around 10M hits/month = sample size around 25%, clients around 100M hits/month = sample size around 2.5%. As mentioned in the video, the Terms of Service “limit” you to 10M hits/month, but so far this has turned out to be a soft limit.

Sampling in GA shows up at 250,000 visits (whatever the analysis or period chosen, you can manually push it to 500,000.
Over this, say goodbye to working in a professional environment, you’ll miss things in your reports ;)