Over the past few months, Amplitude has had many Google Analytics customers reaching out to inquire about our analytics product. This is being driven by the unexpected sunsetting of GA Universal. Since I know more about Google Analytics than most here at Amplitude, I have become the de facto person to help with these conversations. While many different topics surface in these conversations, there are many questions that I am asked repeatedly. So, in this post, I will share the most common questions I have received and some short replies. Please note that this post differs from my previous post, in which I shared my answers to questions about the sunsetting of GA Universal.
How difficult is it to migrate from GA to Amplitude?
One of the chief concerns of current GA customers is the work effort to migrate to a new platform. Many organizations are stretched thin, and switching analytics vendors was not something they had planned. Google’s hurried and unexpected migration deadlines have caused much unnecessary stress. Unfortunately, moving from GA Universal to GA4 is not the flip of a switch, so either way, organizations using GA Universal will have to re-implement something.
The analytics is likely implemented with Google Tag Manager (GTM) if your digital property is a website. If so, you likely have an analytics data layer feeding data into GA Universal via GTM. If so, you can use Amplitude’s free Google Tag Manager template (client side and server side) to re-use all of your previous work and begin sending the same data elements into Amplitude. All you need to do is set up your events and properties in Amplitude and add some new rules to GTM. We even partnered with BlastX to create a tool to help you migrate your GA Universal taxonomy to Amplitude, leveraging APIs from both vendors. Amplitude also offers a robust free plan to get you started, so you can leverage the GTM template and the taxonomy migration tool to begin sending data to a free version of Amplitude within hours.
If your organization has a mobile application, you must replace your GA or Firebase SDK with the Amplitude SDK. For this reason, I recommend starting with the website so you can get up and running quickly, learn how to use Amplitude, and then move on to the mobile app. But the good news is that Amplitude began its life as the leading mobile application vendor and is consistently the highest rated, so you know you will be in good hands. You can combine website and mobile app data into the same Amplitude project if you want to see comprehensive, multi-platform customer journeys.
Amplitude has many other ways to implement that can often be even easier than Google Analytics. If your organization has a data collector (homegrown or using a CDP like Segment, mParticle, or RudderStack), you can easily send that data into Amplitude. Amplitude also has integrations with data warehouses like BiqQuery and Snowflake.
Can Amplitude Track Ecommerce?
Tracking eCommerce is a primary use case for Google Analytics. GA customers want to know how often visitors look at products, add them to the cart, and purchase. GA offers a prescriptive “Enhanced Ecommerce” implementation configuration to track this. If GA customers follow the explicit instructions associated with Enhanced Ecommerce, they can see a robust set of Ecommerce reports with the GA interface. One of the unique features of the Enhanced Ecommerce implementation is that it offers a way to track products (items) so that each product can have its own data set. This is often called a property/dimension array. GA dimensions cannot have nested arrays except for the “item” dimension included in Enhanced Ecommerce. This array includes data points such as item name, brand, category, price, discount, etc. The GA item dimension allows your organization to have different dimension values for each Ecommerce product. So, leveraging GA Enhanced Ecommerce provides the benefit of getting pre-canned reports, conversion metrics, and item-specific dimension values via a dimension array.
Can you track Ecommerce in Amplitude? Of course! The main difference in Amplitude is that we do not prescribe exactly how you need to implement Ecommerce tracking, and we do not automatically configure specific reports and metrics. While having reports and metrics pre-built for you is enticing, it also means that you are confined to how GA wants you to track Ecommerce. Amplitude has best-practice Ecommerce implementation suggestions that mirror what you can do in GA, but we let you choose how you want to implement them. You can add more events and properties than GA offers or replicate what you had in GA. Also, while GA only has one dimension array, Amplitude provides an unlimited number of dimension arrays! So you can track sub-dimensions (properties) anytime you’d like! Amplitude also has dashboard templates that can replicate the out-of-the-box reports you are used to in GA.
Can Amplitude Track Marketing Channels and Campaigns?
One of the blessings and curses of being the best product analytics vendor in the market is that it is easy to get typecast. Amplitude is synonymous with product analytics, and its ability to power growth for digital products is unparalleled. But last year, Amplitude, anticipating the forthcoming convergence of digital analytics technologies, added a massive amount of marketing analytics capabilities to the product. Since I have a marketing analytics background, one of my goals in joining Amplitude was to build a “super-product” that could combine the best of marketing and product analytics. We know that the primary use case for Google Analytics is marketing performance. Google originally acquired Urchin to show advertising customers how their campaigns were performing, so analytics around marketing and acquisition are core to GA’s DNA. The top GA features used by marketers include:
- Acquisition Channels – Automatically associating sessions and events into the correct marketing acquisition channel (e.g., Paid Search, SEO, Email, etc.)
- Multi-Touch Attribution – Assigning different attribution models to marketing channels and campaigns to help marketers see which channels and campaigns should receive credit for conversions
- Advertising Network Integration – Enabling marketers to view campaign metrics like ad impressions, ad clicks, and ad cost for campaigns combined with the ability to view conversions from those campaigns to compute return on ad spend (ROAS)
- Ad Network Audience Sharing – Enabling marketers to push a cohort of users (audiences) to an advertising network for a campaign or re-targeting
While Amplitude had always excelled at analyzing website and app usage after acquisition, we added Acquisition Channels, Multi-Touch Attribution, and Advertising Network Integration to the product so our industry-leading product analytics features could be merged with these marketing analytics features. While Amplitude was building these new marketing analytics features, we attempted to improve upon what was available in GA. For example, in Amplitude, you can have as many acquisition channel views as you’d like. Perhaps you want a high-level and more detailed view (e.g., Paid Search-Google, Paid Search-Bing, etc.). We also made acquisition channels retroactive, so any changes will retroactively impact historical data, not just future data. Amplitude has also added the ability to view landing pages, bounce rates, etc.
Amplitude removed the GA 90-day lookback window associated with channels and campaigns for multi-touch attribution. In Amplitude, you can use any lookback window to include campaigns as far back as you’d like. In GA, unless you are in the specific channel attribution report, you can only assign an attribution model in the general settings area, which applies to all property reports. In Amplitude, we allow you to configure attribution for any event/metric you want in Data Tables (Amplitude’s version of Explore). In Amplitude, you can see the same event/metric side-by-side with different attribution models. This functionality is not currently available in GA4.
Amplitude imports Google Ads impressions, clicks, and costs. We also built an additional integration with Google Ads that allows you to view Google Ad campaigns using all of the rich campaign metadata. In many cases, the new marketing functionality we built surpasses what is available in Google Analytics.
Can I Send Audiences from Amplitude to Google Ads?
One of the most popular features of Google Analytics is its tight integration with Google Ads. If you find an interesting segment of users while using GA, you can convert the segment into an audience and then link your GA account to your Google Ads account. These audiences will be automatically populated in Google Ads. There they can be re-targeted or used as part of bidding strategies. However, this capability only works if you are using Google Signals. Google Signals is a way that Google Analytics can identify anonymous users across different websites if they haven’t opted out of ads personalization within their Google account. But the use of Google Signals can have some privacy implications, and many organizations (especially in Europe) have disabled it within Google Analytics. If Google Signals is disabled, your ability to sync audiences from GA4 to Google Ads will not work.
Within Amplitude, we have always had a robust way of sending audience cohorts to advertising networks through our long list of partner integrations. This functionality can create cohorts of users and sync them to Google Ads. You can link Amplitude to your Google Ads account and choose the ID to connect Amplitude users to the same users in Google Ads. This linking is typically done using a hashed email address, a mobile advertising ID, or a CRM/customer ID. Once the user ID link is established, cohorts of users will be synced to Google Ads and used there like any other Google Ad audience.
Another thing to note is that Amplitude can sync cohorts of users to many advertising platforms, not just Google Ads. Google Analytics primarily sends audiences to Google Ads, but it doesn’t make it easy to sync audiences to other advertising networks.
Does Amplitude Have Integrated Experimentation Capabilities?
The Google Analytics community was recently surprised to learn that Google is shutting down its free experimentation/testing platform, Google Optimize. Most digital analysts understand there is a tight relationship between performing digital analysis and experimentation. Analysts find opportunities in the data and then use experimentation to see if those opportunities lead to increased engagement or conversion. Then when running experiments or tests, they use analytics to measure the impact. These two technologies have a symbiotic relationship that can help power digital product growth.
Amplitude introduced its experimentation product two years ago and is fully integrated with the analytics product. Amplitude Experiment offers feature flagging, A/B testing, and all other experimentation features you would expect. While Amplitude Experiment isn’t free, its integration with Amplitude Analytics creates a synergistic effect for product growth.
Does Amplitude Scale? Have Data Cardinality Issues?
Even though Google Analytics is part of Google, which has some of the best technology, GA is not known for its scalability or speed. GA has long been known for data sampling, limitations on metrics and dimensions, and other reporting limitations. Within the GA4 interface, there are some strange limitations:
- Data sampling for high-cardinality queries (limits vary by report type)
- Marketing attribution with a maximum of a 90-day lookback window
- 125 event-scoped custom dimensions per property
- 100 user-scoped dimensions per property
- Only one dimension array (Enhanced Ecommerce)
- Event and event parameter name length of 40 characters
- Event property value length of 100 characters
- User property value length of 36 characters
- User ID value length of 256 characters
- Page Location value length of 1,000 characters
- Reporting range of only 93 days when using user-based segments
- Explore reports have a max of only five dimensions, ten metrics, and five-hundred rows of data
- Waiting 24 hours to get new custom metrics/dimensions
- Waiting 24 hours to process data
- 72-hour limit on backfilling data
- API quota limits for Looker Studio
Remember that these are just some of the GA4 limitations and that most of the figures above are for the paid version of GA4 (limits on the free version are even worse)! Because of this, many high-volume websites/apps prefer to use products like Amplitude. Amplitude clients like Square, PayPal, and Doordash have data volumes that GA would never be able to handle. Amplitude’s data query system was purpose-built to deliver unsampled data in real-time.
GA advises that you perform more complex queries using BigQuery or Looker Studio to overcome these limitations. This means that everyday data consumers must learn how to use the GA predefined reports, but when they hit a limit there, learn how to use the Explore interface, and when they hit limits there, learn how to use BigQuery (which requires SQL) or Looker Studio (which requires BI expertise). While that may be ok for the dedicated digital analytics team, that seems like a lot to ask of casual data users, everyday marketers, and product teams. In some cases, former GA clients have told us their users unknowingly ran queries in BigQuery that resulted in expensive, unplanned bills!
Amplitude has one interface that handles reporting from fundamental to super-complex questions. While you always have the option of sending your data to BigQuery, Snowflake, Redshift, or any other data warehouse, Amplitude users can do almost anything they need right within the interface. And Amplitude doesn’t charge for queries or limit the number of reports that can be run. Amplitude removes many of the limitations mentioned above, and when it comes to scalability and cardinality, Amplitude can take on data sets of almost any size.
What About Privacy and GDPR?
When I speak to European organizations, GDPR comes up often. Google has come under fire for privacy regulation in several European countries, and some have even deemed GA “illegal” in its current form. I avoid discussing privacy legislation and prefer to defer these questions to our privacy officer and webpage. Still, I can say that Amplitude has a European data center (based in Germany), which helps keep EU data from being transmitted to the United States.
What Does Amplitude Do that GA Does Not?
While most of the questions I receive are people probing to see if they would lose anything if they migrated to Amplitude, I am occasionally asked what Amplitude offers they haven’t had with GA. Fortunately or unfortunately, that is a relatively long list. I plan to spend some time documenting this more in the future, but as a teaser, here are some of my favorites:
- Collaboration/Data Storytelling – Amplitude has greatly emphasized making digital analytics a team sport. We enable this by providing a place within the product to share videos, images, charts, graphs, rich text, and annotations – all in one easy-to-read interface called Notebooks. Notebooks are like Confluence pages within our product, where everything related to an analysis lives in one place. We have Spaces, a collection of all analysis artifacts for a project or a team. And all Amplitude reports/dashboards have inline discussion threads so team members can share their thoughts in line with the analysis. We also have native integrations with Slack, Jira, Notion, and Miro for teams that leverage those tools.
- Conversion Funnels – Amplitude’s conversion funnels are second to none! They bring so much power to conversion analysis. While GA has conversion funnels, there is so much more you can do with Amplitude conversion funnels (you can see a comparison here). Amplitude’s conversion funnels also apply machine learning to help guide you through the events causing funnel conversion or drop-off. Once you use Amplitude conversion funnels, it is hard to go back to what is available in GA!
- Retention Reporting – In GA, there are some fundamental retention reports. They allow you to view how many users returned after X number of days, weeks, or months. You can also apply segments to these reports. But in Amplitude, retention reporting is taken to a whole new level. Amplitude has a Lifecycle report that shows new, current, active, and dormant users. In addition, Amplitude offers advanced N-Day retention, unbounded retention, retention trends over time, and many more. There are 20+ permutations of retention reports that in GA would have to be manually recreated via SQL in BigQuery. Amplitude puts the power of advanced retention in an interface that data users of any level can use. You can view an independent comparison of GA4 and Amplitude retention reporting here.
- Data Governance – In Amplitude, we take data governance seriously! So much so that we acquired an entire data governance company and integrated it into our product. In Amplitude, it is easy to see your complete tracking plan, spot data quality issues, monitor data spikes and gaps, etc. Amplitude prevents users from creating duplicate segments and metrics so they don’t proliferate and clutter your analytics implementation. Amplitude’s data governance features make it easy to combine events and properties and fix any data errors without re-implementing them. Amplitude also provides much better debugging tools than GA (no more having to hunt and find yourself in Debug!). We also offer strict control over events and properties, and unplanned/rejected events don’t count against your consumption!
- Direct Customer Support – Google Analytics defers training and support to partners. In most cases, you cannot talk directly to Google if you have a product issue. At Amplitude, we offer direct support to paying customers and provide on-demand support to those using our free products. Paying customers are assigned a customer success manager who meets with clients regularly to ensure they are successful with our products. Amplitude also provides on-demand product training and offers live classes if needed. And our product team loves to talk to customers who have ideas about how we can improve our products!
I could go on, but these are some of my favorite product differentiators…
How Does Amplitude’s Cost Compare to Google Analytics?
While many Google Analytics customers use the free version, some of its limitations lead them to the paid version (GA4 360). Since the paid version of GA4 360 is typically purchased through a partner, there can be some variability in pricing, but generally it starts at $50,000 for about 25 million events (GA4 has moved to event-based pricing vs. fixed price for GA360).
Amplitude offers a similar event-based pricing model but a Monthly Tracked User (MTU) pricing plan with unlimited events is also available. We also offer a robust free plan and a special Scholarship plan for startups. So, in general, Amplitude pricing is very similar to that of GA4 360.
How Do Industry Analysts Rate Amplitude vs. Google Analytics?
Amplitude was recently rated higher than Google Analytics in Forrester’s 2022 Digital Intelligence Platform Wave Report. Forrester rated Amplitude as having a stronger overall offering and strategy vision.