Editor’s note: This post was published in 2020 and contains outdated information. Visit this page to see a more up-to-date comparison of Amplitude vs. Google Analytics.
You might be wondering: how does Amplitude compare to a tool like Google Analytics?
In this video, I’ll break down the main differences between Amplitude and Google Analytics so your team can make an informed choice about the tools you use.
[Learn more about the differences between Google Analytics and Amplitude.]
But first, let me introduce myself. I’m Lex Roman. I’ve been helping teams choose analytics tools and instrument their products for many years. Making analytics accessible and actionable is a passion of mine.
Over and over again, I’ve seen teams capture a lot of unusable data. In order to act on your data, you and your team have to be able to easily understand it.
That brings me to the core difference between Amplitude and GA.
My guiding principle is that when choosing tools for a team, it should always be about accessibility. Can your team easily understand and use this tool?
If your team can’t use the tool, they can’t use or act on the data.
To drill into this, let’s look at four comparisons between Amplitude and Google Analytics.
- Amplitude lets you decide which information is important. Google decides for you.
- Amplitude was built for product teams. Google Analytics was built for websites.
- Amplitude offers built-in guidance so everyone can understand how to view data. Google Analytics requires separate documentation.
- Amplitude prioritizes collaboration. Google Analytics makes sharing views with teammates challenging.
Related Reading: A Tale of Two Product Teams
First, you want to use a tool that lets you decide which information matters to your team.
Google Analytics has decided that the default view for everyone should be sessions and bounce rate followed by traffic and info like time of day when someone visited the site.
Do those seem like the top-of-mind metrics for your team? Unless you’re running a simple content website, it’s unlikely that those answer your questions about how people are really using your product.
Let’s drill into some of the main menu categories.
Every view in Google Analytics is set up based on how Google thinks you want to view your data.
Sessions, pageviews, and channels show up by default. If you’d like to see more than which pages people visit and where they come from, you have to use complex filtering or add custom events. Neither of these processes is particularly intuitive, and your team will likely spend a lot of time reading the documentation on how to do it correctly.
Amplitude was built with the idea that product teams should decide what matters to them.
Your team will define what you want to know, you’ll implement tracking using a simple “track” call and you’ll send only the information you care about into Amplitude.
Then, you decide what views matter. All charts within Amplitude have a standardized format so you start with the behavior you want to look at and then you can refine your audience.
In Amplitude, you choose the data you send. You choose the views that matter.
Choosing the tool that lets you decide what’s important ensures your team doesn’t deal with unnecessary noise and confusion.
Related Reading: 5 Ways to Make Smarter Product Bets with Product Intelligence
Second, if you’re working on a digital product, you want a tool that was designed with that use case in mind. Amplitude was built for product makers whereas Google Analytics was created for website makers.
The reason Google Analytics focuses on sessions, pageviews, and traffic is because it was created for content websites.
GA will track unique visits to each page URL. But what if your app doesn’t have URLs? What if what you want to track is button clicks, transactions, form inputs or literally anything other than pageviews?
Well, that becomes a lot more complicated.
If you want to track how many people clicked a button in your app, you have to set up a goal. Except, setting up a goal in GA isn’t straightforward because the tool wasn’t designed to help you understand user behaviors and track how people are using your app.
In fact, if you’d like to use GA to track mobile interactions, you may be out of luck in more ways than one. In late 2019, Google Analytics began sunsetting mobile-apps reporting.
Back to the joyful land of Amplitude.
In Amplitude, the tool assumes that you want to look at way more than just page views. Instead, it shows you events by default. It knows we want to see how people use our app.
A few important ways Amplitude supports product teams:
- Amplitude allows you to drill deeper into a chart so you can slice information in multiple ways. Maybe you want to know which users didn’t convert or where they went next instead of taking the action you wanted them to take. You can do this easily by just clicking into your chart.
- Amplitude allows you to look at an individual user’s journey. You can look at event streams and ensure that you understand the actual underlying behavior happening within your app.
- Amplitude allows you to set up release dashboards that reflect your team’s success metrics. You define what you want to pay attention to when you release a new feature and Amplitude will show you how it did.
My third comparison is around guidance. Understanding what data means is not always easy or intuitive. This is a big pain point for a lot of organizations working to get more teams using data.
Amplitude has several built-in guidance mechanisms that make it easier for your team to stay on the same page.
Google Analytics requires that you host separate documentation to keep your team aligned.
Not only does Amplitude allow you to send only the data you care about, but they also let you add definitions right in their tool.
Your teammates can see what every event means anywhere it appears throughout Amplitude. No more confusion about what “Click Hero Button” means. The definition is right there.
Amplitude also lets you rename elements of charts so your team can understand them. If a label looks confusing, just click to rename before sending a chart or analysis off to a teammate.
Amplitude also makes it easy to add more context to your analysis, which can come in handy when sharing your findings with teammates. For example, you can add clear descriptions of what your analysis is showing, as well as use dashboards and notebooks to add even more background on what your team should take away from the data.
In my experience, it’s much more difficult to create custom views and share findings with your team in Google Analytics.
Choosing the tool designed around making data accessible with built-in guidance empowers your team. It takes data from a small secret society to an organization-wide superpower.
Last, when considering analytics tools, you want something that will allow you and your team to communicate and collaborate around data.
Your team can’t act on data they can’t access. Amplitude makes this dead simple. Once again, Google Analytics makes it ridiculously complicated.
If you make a custom dashboard within Google Analytics, you won’t be able to share this with your teammate—even if they have permissions on the project. Instead, you’ll probably have to resort to a screenshot of a date-specific view, which is far from ideal.
In Amplitude, we can just literally copy any chart link from the browser and share it with a teammate.
A particularly cool thing about sharing links with teammates in Amplitude is that they can change the chart and it will just auto-generate a new link, which they can share or save. That way, it won’t write over your original.
Amplitude is set up for sharing charts with teams in other ways, too. For example, we can add our findings to a team space or control who can search for them in the organization.
Amplitude knows you want to work with your team to read and act on data. So, they’ve built their tool with that in mind. Our dreams of collaborating around data in real time are happening!
Choosing the tool that puts collaboration at the core makes it easy for your team to work together around data.
Let’s recap. Amplitude is for product makers who want to decide what information they want to see and work together to act on it.
Google Analytics makes all of that way more challenging. I’ve seen it break hearts and crush souls. If you want your team to be excited about using data to make decisions, I’d strongly recommend you look the other way.
A side note for all our friends trying to bridge the gap between marketing and product insights.
You can absolutely use both Google Analytics and Amplitude. Some marketing teams find GA really helpful when it comes to tracking ads and channels. This is possible even with the free tier of Google Analytics. If this is the case for your team, keep the free tier of GA and head on over to Amplitude for everything past your marketing site.
And remember: If your team can’t use the tool, they can’t use or act on the data.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed by Lex Roman in this video and post are hers and not, necessarily, of Amplitude.
Learn more about the differences between Google Analytics and Amplitude >>