Chad Hetherington

These days, it’s not unusual for organizations to operate on a “freemium”-type business model. This means that, in general, a company will provide a service for free, but it often has strict limitations on features or is otherwise a “bare bones” version of the software. From there, consumers will have the option to subscribe to different tiers, often unlocking more functionally the higher up they go; the more they pay, the more features that are unlocked.

While this is technically still the case with Google and its popular Analytics software, the offering is structured just a bit differently.

Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the platform used by tens of millions of websites to track and monitor user behavior, has a premium version called Analytics 360. It’s part of the Google Marketing Platform with some noteworthy differences and deviations from the traditional Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model that make Analytics 360 a unique offering.

Here, we’re comparing Google’s standard, and free, GA4 tool with its enterprise version, Analytics 360. We’ll discuss what each is (and isn’t) capable of, and which version may be the best option for your business.

A Brief Refresher On GA4 Standard

GA4 is the latest iteration of Google’s analytics platform, which debuted in October 2020. It serves as a comprehensive tool for businesses and website owners to track and analyze user interactions on their digital properties, offering predictive insights, better integration capabilities with Google Ads, cross-device tracking and more.

Unlike its predecessor, Universal Analytics (UA), GA4 introduces a more flexible and user-centric approach to data analysis.

The following are some of the core features of GA4 that organizations and teams in marketing, finance, retail, tech, hospitality and travel, among many others, have come to rely on as part of their online business strategies.

User-Centric Web Analytics

While UA’s main focus was on tracking pageviews, GA4 has shifted the meta, helping businesses understand user behavior more deeply across multiple touchpoints. This enables users to create a more holistic view of their audience and how they interact with their assets to tailor more effective marketing and advertising strategies.

Event Tracking

Event tracking allows businesses to collect data on very specific user interactions or events on websites or apps, such as:

  • Button clicks.
  • Form submissions.
  • Downloads.
  • Video views.
  • Scroll depth.

By tracking these types of events, you can gain deeper insights into user behavior, engagement and interactions beyond just pageviews, helping you make informed decisions about user experience improvements and content optimization to improve overall performance.

Enhanced Machine Learning

Machine learning models abound in GA4, providing businesses with automatic (and fairly accurate) predictions and insights about user behavior and events. The technology has the capability to automatically identify trends, anomalies and opportunities, empowering businesses to make more informed, data-driven decisions.

Audience Building

GA4 offers more sophisticated audience-building capabilities than its predecessor, Universal Analytics, enabling businesses to create segments based on user behavior, demographics and other criteria. This helps marketers target specific audience segments with personalized content and marketing campaigns.

Cross-Platform Tracking

Gone are the days when users were solely using a desktop to access the internet (he said as he writes this on his desktop PC). Digital channels are vast and varied in today’s landscape, from websites to mobile apps and beyond.

GA4 data allows businesses to track user interactions across various channels and platforms, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the customer journey — from all angles.

These features and many, many others are what users abroad have come to love and expect from a platform like GA4. Google’s premium offering can deliver even more, but that doesn’t mean it’s a practical or even necessary upgrade for every business. Let’s find out why.

Google Analytics 360: What It’s All About

This premium version of Google Analytics goes by many names online (keywords, am I right? Ba-dum-tss). Here’s what I’ve seen just from conducting research for this piece:

  • Google Analytics 360.
  • Google Analytics premium.
  • Google Analytics 4 360.
  • GA4 360.
  • GA360.
  • Analytics 360.

Since Google seems to use Analytics 360, that’s what we’ll stick with from now on.

Analytics 360 offers several advanced features and capabilities compared to its free version. The list is exhaustive so we won’t highlight everything, but bear with us nonetheless!

One of the most important differences to note is that you don’t necessarily get more with Analytics 360 (although in some cases, you do). Rather, it’s about the amount of data you’re able to process at any given time.

In the standard version, GA4, there are caps on data processing. In Analytics 360, those caps are far higher, making it ideal for organizations that need to process and analyze copious amounts of information. As Google puts it, “Analytics 360 is tailored for the unique measurement needs of large enterprises with advanced customization, scalable tools, and enterprise-level support.”

So, while some of these features are available on both the free version of GA4 and Analytics 360, they’re often capable of more on the enterprise-oriented version.

Increased Data Limits (Exclusive to Analytics 360)

The premium offering from Google provides higher data processing limits, allowing businesses with larger datasets to analyze and derive insights from a more extensive volume of user interactions. According to Google itself, here are some of those limits:

  • Up to 125 custom dimensions and custom metrics (20 on GA4 standard).
  • 400 audiences.
  • 50 conversion types.

Google BigQuery Integration

Analytics 360 adds additional support for BigQuery, Google’s fully managed, serverless data warehouse that enables large amounts of data to be stored and processed. The premium offering seamlessly integrates with BigQuery, enabling businesses to export their raw, unsampled data for further analysis and customization.

Advanced Analysis Tools

The paid version of GA4 includes advanced data analytics tools not available in the free version, such as Advanced Analysis, Exploration and Segment Overlap, offering more powerful and flexible ways to explore and understand user behavior and trends.

Data-Driven Attribution Models

While the free version of Google Analytics provides a standard set of attribution models, Analytics 360 offers more advanced and customizable attribution modeling options. This allows businesses to assign value to different touchpoints in the customer journey accurately.

Enhanced Data Freshness (Exclusive to Analytics 360)

Data freshness refers to the timeliness of data updates — the period between data collection and analysis or reporting. The larger the dap, the greater the chance of data becoming inaccurate, stale and irrelevant.

Analytics 360 offers enhanced data freshness, reducing the amount of time between data collection and analysis to enable more accurate reporting. This is essential for use cases where high data freshness is preferred over historical data — like monitoring marketing campaign performance.

Unsampled Results

Unsampled results refer to reports and data that have not undergone data sampling during the processing of queries. Sampling helps speed up the processing of more complex queries and reports because it removes the need to analyze the entirety of a data set. That’s great for cutting down on costs and speeding things along, but with larger amounts of data, it can impact accuracy and precision.

Unsampled results become particularly valuable when you want to ensure a high level of accuracy in your analytics reporting, especially when dealing with a specific segment, custom dimension or unique query that requires precision in data representation.

In Analytics 360, users can access unsampled reports, ensuring that the data used for analysis is complete and representative of the entire dataset without any sampling limitations.

Automatic Custom Tables and Reports (Exclusive to Analytics 360)

With Analytics 360, users enjoy more flexibility and automation for creating custom reports and tables. You can generate high-cardinality tables for your most important data sets quickly and automatically with the automatic custom tables feature. This allows you to tailor analytics dashboards to your specific reporting needs to greater effect than with the free version on GA4.

Analytics 360 Pricing

There isn’t a list or chart available for pricing for Analytics 360. That’s because the cost of the platform varies based on a number of factors, mainly the size of your enterprise and the amount of data you need to process.

You’ll have to get in touch with Google’s sales team to learn more about Analytics 360 pricing and what you can expect to pay.

GA4 or Analytics 360? The Choice Is Yours

Choosing between the industry-standard GA4 or its premium, enterprise-aligned upgrade will largely depend on how much data you need to collect and analyze at any given time.

Essentially, the larger your organization, the more likely it is that you’ll benefit from the enhanced capabilities of Analytics 360.

For those small- to medium-sized businesses, GA4 has more than enough features to support your data analytics needs.