Google Analytics vs Adobe Analytics

Table of contents for Google Analytics vs Adobe Analytics 

  1. Why compare Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics?
  2. Comparison points
  3. Attribution modeling
  4. Pathing analysis
  5. Ecommerce tracking
  6. Reporting functionality 
  7. User interface
  8. Implementation
  9. Acquiring custom data
  10. Server call limits (data limits)
  11. Integration capabilities
  12. Costing
  13. FAQ

In this article, I am going to talk about Google Analytics vs Adobe Analytics. We will go through the core web analytics features and how these tools handle them.

Note-1: When it comes to Google Analytics, I am referring to Google Analytics 360 A.K.A GA360 which is the premium (paid) version, just to keep the comparison fair. I will try to call out the major difference between standard Google Analytics and Google Analytics 360 wherever possible.

Note-2: The intention of this blog post is not to showcase biased opinions about any tool. I will try to maintain vendor parity by just highlighting how Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics handle the different aspects of web analytics.

Why compare Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics?

When it comes to selecting a good web analytics tool, you will typically think of Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics. 

Both Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics have their pros and cons and it can be difficult to decide which tool is best for your organization.  

In my opinion, the tool selection should depend upon the following factors:

  1. What level of insights you are looking for and how these insights will enable you to make the right business decision. 
  2. The other aspect to look into is how much effort is required to set up the analytics tools and how they can integrate with other marketing tools you use in your organization.
  3. An important factor in tool selection can be your analytics team and their efficiency in implementation, data generation, validation, and reporting.
  4. What features and functionality are provided in the analytics tool and how useful they are for your organization.
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Comparison points

Now we will look into the core features offered in both tools, and how they handle the different aspects of web analytics.

Attribution modelling

Google Analytics

Google Analytics 360 has a proprietary way of recognizing direct, organic, and referral traffic sources. 

Its attribution models are the most accurate compared to other tools. It supports multi-channel funnels as well. You can combine online and offline behavior and attribute it to individual users which will provide you with a holistic view of the user journey across all devices and platforms. 

Google Analytics attribution project offers different attribution models based on the marketing channel dimensions and you can create your attribution model with a lookback window for 30, 60, and 90 days. 

The standard version of Google Analytics also offers you the capability to compare the conversions using different attribution models against the marketing channels. You also can select the primary and secondary dimensions.

Google Analytics vs Adobe Analytics

Adobe Analytics

Adobe Analytics somehow has only two attribution models in reports which are First Touch and Last Touch (in the context of marketing channels). Although you get the option to select the metrics, you cannot apply any secondary dimension.

attribution Adobe

If you want to look into a deeper analysis, you can use the Attribution IQ feature available in the Workspace (built-in reporting and visualization tool in Adobe Analytics) where you get an option to select multiple attribution models like U Shaped, J Curve, Participation, etc.

You can also select metrics and dimensions and a lookback window to select the period. 

attribution Adobe 2
A sample attribution chart

attribution Adobe 1
A sample attribution comparison along with marketing channels

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Which one to choose?

Google Analytics has an extra advantage here as it provides more customization and flexibility to understand the different marketing channels along with more customizable attribution models. 

You can use Multi-Channel Funnel Data-Driven Attribution Model Explorer and Multi-Channel Funnel Data-Driven Attribution ROI Analysis up to its full potential and take key business decisions.

Pathing analysis

Google Analytics

Pathing in Google Analytics is not completely up to the mark. Even though Google Analytics offers ‘Previous Page Path’ and ‘Next Page Path’, they won’t provide you with complete information. Also, you cannot apply any custom dimensions in path reports. 

The other option to see the user path is by creating the custom funnel where you can see the drop-offs but again it’s limited as you cannot see the free flow for users. 

The pathing reports in Google Analytics are outdated and the visualization is also very clunky to differentiate among the different paths taken by the users on the website.

GA Path

Adobe Analytics

Adobe Analytics pathing reports are impeccable and completely out of the box. The visualization is so simple and easy to understand that you will get the most insight out of it. You just need to select a page or event and the report will show you what users have done before and after. You can just click on any of the paths touchpoint and it will again provide you with more details in very great depth.

adobe path 1

Additionally, if you want to get information about a particular path, you can use the Adobe PathFinder tool in the Report Builder (Report Builder is a special Microsoft Excel plugin used for reporting purposes). 

What you need to do is just specify the page path that begins with a certain page or action, ends with a certain page or action, contains a certain page or action.

path finder

Which one to choose?

Adobe Analytics is more advanced and beneficial in terms of pathing analysis. You can create your custom path very easily and see the data.

On the other hand, if you want a similar pathing analysis technique in Google Analytics, you can create a hit level custom dimension that will capture the timestamp of every hit (pageviews and events). You can then use BigQuery (of course which costs extra money) to analyze the actions taken by the users.

Ecommerce tracking

Google Analytics

Google Analytics has its own unique and complete setup of ecommerce tracking. Features like Enhanced Ecommerce cover all the aspects of the user journey. 

Predefined reports such as Ecommerce Overview, Shopping Behavior, Checkout Behavior, Performance Sales, and Product List Performance cover all that you need for deep analysis. 

The implementation can be a bit complex here, but when done properly it yields lots of business-worthy reports to enable you to make important decisions. 

If you would like to know more about ecommerce set up in Google Analytics you can check the following guides:

ecommerce ga

Adobe Analytics

When it comes to Adobe Analytics, it does not provide you with any preconfigured ecommerce reports. However, it can be achievable with more complex implementation tactics compared to Google Analytics. 

However, you can create your Fallout report in Adobe Workspace but that is also limited as it does not show you in depth details like Google Analytics.

ecommerce report adobe

Which one to choose?

Here Google Analytics wins by a fair margin, thanks to its structured approach and predefined ecommerce reporting functionality with great details. 

Reporting functionality 

Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides some great pre-configured out-of-the-box reports to work with for measuring site performance and acquisition patterns. 

You don’t have to build any report or add metrics and dimensions to look at the overall website performance, however you get an additional benefit by adding a secondary dimension to break down your report for further analysis. 

If you need complete website performance and user behavior details at one glance, Google also provides a dedicated reporting and visualization tool known as Google Data Studio.

Google Data Studio is a tool used to visualize data. It is a cloud-based tool which means you can access it from any device/browser as long as you have access to a stable internet connection. Data Studio is a completely free visualization tool that allows you to build great dashboards and reports.

If you want to know more about Google Data Studio’s capabilities, you can check the following articles:

Adobe Analytics

Adobe uses predictive algorithms, built-in statistics, and the machine learning of Adobe Sensei (artificial intelligence tool by Adobe) to make data science features accessible to analysts and marketers alike. 

Adobe offers its own set of tools for advanced reporting and visualization such as Adobe Workspace, Report Builder (Microsoft plugin), and Ad Hoc Analysis that directly connects with Adobe Analytics and allows you to build your customized report. 

Even though these tools are very handy to use, with a drag and drop facility for adding metrics, dimensions, and segments, you still need a complete knowledge and skillset to get the most out of it. 

Adobe analytics lack predefined reports which are essential for an organization to look and generate flexible insights regularly.

Which one to choose?

In this case, Google Analytics has an added advantage because of its predefined reports and easy customization capabilities over the much more complex and difficult to customize reports of Adobe Analytics.

User interface

Google Analytics

Google Analytics’s user interface is very simple and easy to understand. By just navigating through the menu options you can understand the level of data you will get. 

Each available menu is again subdivided into smaller reports in a more granular fashion which makes it completely hassle-free to look into a particular report type and get the desired insights. 

Google Analytics’s user interface completely solves the purpose of web analytics tools rather than just being a data house with lots of tables. 

Even with all this functionality, if you still need more insights, you have the option to customize your report as per your business needs using the available ‘Customization’ option.

ga reprting interface

Adobe Analytics

The user interface in Adobe Analytics is highly complex and this is because Adobe Analytics is completely customizable from business to business. 

Getting the required insights and data from Adobe Analytics requires great knowledge and skills on how the data is being captured (implemented in the first place) and reported (like custom variables). For new users, working with Adobe Analytics can be a nightmare without the proper training and guidance.

adobe reporting interface

Which one to choose?

Google Analytics has more advantages here because of its self-explanatory and easy-to-use interface. 

Implementation

Google Analytics

Google Analytics has a standard set of instructions for implementation across all business verticals. 

It offers multiple ways to implement analytics on a website. You can use the custom JavaScript library which is analytics.js (Google Analytics tag) which is the older version or gtag.js (Global site tag) which is the new JavaScript library from Google. 

You also have the option to use an automated implementation approach using Google Tag Manager. Google has also provided detailed documentation on how to implement ecommerce tracking, cross-domain tracking, events tracking, etc through the Google Analytics Help Center.

Adobe Analytics

Adobe Analytics recommends using Adobe Launch (Adobe’s latest tag management system) for implementation but it is a very complicated and much more technical job compared to Google Analytics. 

However, you can use enterprise-level tag management tools such as Tealium and Ensighten, but again it’s really difficult and more technical to implement Adobe Analytics. 

Unlike the Google Analytics pageview tag which captures all the basic metrics and dimensions, in Adobe Analytics you need to pass all of the website performance KPIs using custom variables. 

Now imagine a scenario where you need to capture basic web analytics metrics and dimensions, and how difficult it would be to set up more than 20+ custom variables. 

Also, there is very little documentation provided when it comes to custom implementation needs. 

Which one to choose?

Google Analytics is more beneficial here as it is very easy and hassle-free to implement.

Acquiring custom data 

Google Analytics

Custom dimensions and metrics are a powerful way to send custom data to Google Analytics. These custom dimensions have a scope of either hit, product, session, or user and the custom metrics in Google Analytics have values like currency, time, and numeric values. There is a maximum of 200 custom dimensions and 200 custom metrics in the Analytics 360 account for each website.

The standard free version of Google Analytics has 20 custom dimensions and 20 custom metrics.

Adobe Analytics

Adobe Analytics has two versions namely Adobe Analytics Standard and Adobe Analytics Premium and both are paid. 

It has two custom variables like ‘Traffic Variable’ (props) which are similar to the hit level dimension in Google Analytics and the ‘Conversion Variable’ (eVars) which can have a scope of either hit, product, session, or user.

The total number of a variables depends upon which version you are using, for example, Adobe Analytics Standard has 100 eVars, 75 props, 1000 events, and Adobe Analytics Premium has 250 eVars, 75 props, 1000 events.

Which one to choose?

In this case, it is a tie and depends upon how many business KPIs you want to track.

Server call limits (data limits) 

Google Analytics

Google Analytics 360 offers 20 billion hits per month. If it increases more you can take a customized plan.

Adobe Analytics

There is a limitation depending on the contract you have. But it is not for report suites, but overall. If you exceed the contract limit you have to pay extra.

Which one to choose?

In this case, it is a tie and will depend on your business requirements.

Integration capabilities 

Google Analytics

Google Analytics has great and robust integration along with Google stack products like Google Ads, Search Ads 360, DV360, Google Optimize, BigQuery, etc. 

These products are very widely used and play an important role in marketing and capturing user attributes. 

Google Analytics also easily integrates with other marketing tools such as Salesforce and third-party CRM tools.

Adobe Analytics

There is a limitation with Adobe Analytics to integrate directly with major advertising platforms like Google Ads and other Google Platforms which sometimes are very time-consuming in getting the right insights. 

Manual data upload is possible using FTP protocols but again defining the calculated metrics and getting the ROI of the campaign is very time-consuming. 

However, Adobe Analytics integrates very easily with other performance monitoring tools in the Adobe stack such as Adobe Target, Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), Adobe, Advertising Cloud. 

Adobe also offers different data connectors which allow you to import tracking data from third-party applications into analytics, so you can gather and use data from one central location

Which one to choose?

In this case, the choice depends on which tools you want to integrate. 

If these tools are mostly advertising tools then Google Analytics has a higher advantage. 

If you want to integrate with more performance-based tools like A/B testing, heat map tools, then Adobe Analytics stands at the higher position.

Costing

Google Analytics

Google Analytics standard is free but it has a limit of 10 million hits per month. Whereas Google Analytics 360 is a paid service that usually starts at $150,000 per year and which comes with a service level agreement and guarantees that covers data collection, data freshness, data reporting, higher data processing limit, and access to dedicated support specialists.

Adobe Analytics

Adobe Analytics does not offer any free version of the tool and the costing may start at $100,000 based on the total number of hits you have in a given year. The costing figure may increase as well depending upon the other Adobe stack product usage. 

Which one to choose?

Generally, only large organizations will use Google Analytics 360 and Adobe Analytics so it depends on the usage pattern and individual organizations needs to decide which one to select.

Frequently asked questions about Google Analytics vs Adobe Analytics

Which are the best web analytics tools?

For small and medium business organizations, Google Analytics standard is the best analytics tool that covers all the digital marketing aspects like website performance, user performance, campaign tracking, etc.

But if you are a large organization, that highly depends on a data-driven approach in more detail, you can choose Google Analytics Premium (GA360) or Adobe Analytics which provides an advanced level of analytics.

What is the difference between standard Google Analytics and Google Analytics 360?

Both standard Google Analytics and Google Analytics 360 are web analytics tools. 
The free version of Google Analytics is called standard Google Analytics. This version of Google Analytics has 20 custom dimensions and 20 custom metrics and can easily integrate with standard versions of Google products like Google Ads, Search Console, etc. 

Google Analytics 360 is the paid version of Google Analytics which is meant for big companies that can afford to spend $150,000 per year. It has 200 custom dimensions and 200 custom metrics. GA 260 has great and robust integration along with Google Stack products like Google Ads, Search Ads 360, DV360, Google Optimize, BigQuery.

For more information visit: Google Analytics 360 vs Google Analytics – Difference between ga & ga360

How to choose the best web analytics tool

The tool selection should depend upon the following factors:

1. What level of insights you are looking for and how these insights will enable you to make the right business decision. 
2. The other aspect to look into is how much effort is required to set up analytics tools and how they can integrate with another marketing tool you use in your organization.
3. An important factor in tool selection can be your analytics team and their efficiency in implementation, data generation, validation, and reporting.
4. What features and functionality are provided in the analytics tool, and how much use they are for your organization.

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About the Author

Himanshu Sharma

  • Founder, OptimizeSmart.com
  • Over 15 years of experience in digital analytics and marketing
  • Author of four best-selling books on digital analytics and conversion optimization
  • Nominated for Digital Analytics Association Awards for Excellence
  • Runs one of the most popular blogs in the world on digital analytics
  • Consultant to countless small and big businesses over the decade
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