Mixpanel vs. Google Analytics

Table of contents for Mixpanel vs. Google Analytics 

  1. Why compare Mixpanel vs. Google Analytics?
  2. Comparison points
  3. Attribution modeling
  4. Pathing analysis
  5. Real-time reporting
  6. Event tracking 
  7. User tracking
  8. Implementation
  9. Server call limits (data limits)
  10. Integration capabilities
  11. Costing
  12. FAQ

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

Note: 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 Mixpanel handle different aspects of web analytics.

Why compare Google Analytics and Mixpanel?

When it comes to selecting a good web analytics tool, you will typically think of Google Analytics or Mixpanel. Both Google Analytics and Mixpanel have their pros and cons and it can be difficult to decide which tool is best for your organization.  

Google Analytics is a standard tool used by the majority of organizations. It helps you track user behavior and website performance using events and goals. However, when it comes to tracking individual users, it masks their identities. It is very simple to implement on the website and mobile application

Google provides multiple ways to implement it, like using Google Tag Manager or global site tag (gtag.js). The reporting interface is very easy to use and third-party integrations are also possible. 

Mixpanel has a different way of tracking; its robust features focus more on user-centric tracking which you can easily integrate with your third-party CRM tools. Mixpanel also allows you to interact with users via targeted messages for a group of users with similar behavior. 

Mixpanel is completely based on event-based tracking as compared to Google’s pageview tracking. Its reporting interface is also easy to use. 

Mixpanel provides a few extra metrics like account health and lifetime value of a business asset that provides more insights, for example, what users are doing, how useful your marketing efforts are, and what you should do in the future.

 
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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 modeling

Google Analytics

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 of 30, 60, or 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.

Mixpanel

Mixpanel lacks the ability for advanced web traffic source attribution capabilities. It cannot provide you details on how the user arrived on your website. It is solely made for tracking user activities on the website or mobile application once the user arrives on the website. 

However with some coding effort you can build a last-touch attribution model in Mixpanel. 

By default, it does some source tracking but it provides the domain of the source, like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If you want to know overall social attribution then this is not currently available in Mixpanel.

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.

Mixpanel

Mixpanel pathing reports are way better and easily customizable. 

Mixpanel allows you to create your custom pathing report and interpret insights based on different actions taken by the users. It allows you to deep dive at a more granular level and understands all the paths taken by the user in between the starting point and the endpoint. 

You also can apply filters and break down the pathing report by country, browser, and user types like high lifetime users vs new signup users, etc. 

Some of the best customizable features in pathing analysis and creating custom funnels are:

  • Breakdown and compare by cohorts
  • Show/hide events in paths
  • Analyzing user flows for custom start point and endpoint
  • Unlimited steps control: You can add as many as steps you want to get a complete and holistic user journey.
  • Advance beta capability
    • Time convert window: shows the most events triggered by the user after signing up in the first few minutes
    • Step exclusion: What events are triggered by the users between add to cart and checkout, but only if the user does not abandon the cart in between.
    • Session specification: Event details only for the first three sessions after sign up OR event details for the last three sessions after purchase.
Mixpanel vs. Google Analytics

Image Source: (https://help.mixpanel.com/hc/en-us/articles/360037452511-Interpret-a-Flows-Report )

Real-time reporting

Real-time reporting has a huge impact on business performance. If you get data in real-time you can generate more valuable insights and act accordingly. 

Google Analytics

Google Analytics real time reporting is very basic. It provides you details such as overview, locations, traffic source, content/screen information, events, and conversions. If you want to add any other metrics or dimension to real-time reports in Google Analytics then it is not possible as of now. 

Google Analytics reporting shows the data for only the past 30 min. For actual data to reflect in your reporting interface it may take 24 to 48 hours (If you are using the premium version of Google analytics aka GA360 then the reporting freshness is provided at 4 hours). 

Mixpanel

Mixpanel real time reporting is very fast and provides you all the related metrics and dimensions within seconds. 

By being able to analyze data in real-time using Mixpanel, you can leverage the potential of data to add a lot more value to your organization. Mixpanel can show you what users are doing right now on the website or mobile application. 

The data is directly accessible and you do not need to wait for processing and then export or integrate with CRM tools. Mix panel also provides unsampled and accurate data in real-time for analysis.

Event tracking

Google Analytics

Google Analytics has its proprietary method of tracking which focuses more on page views. You can set your custom events and goals in Google Analytics but it will need an extra effort through manual coding or using Google Tag Manager. 

One thing which Google Analytics does well in event tracking is that you can pass custom dimensions and metrics along with the event hit. You can break down your reports based on these custom dimensions and better analysis. 

Google has also a new version of analytics which is more event-centric and called Google Analytics 4 but it is still in beta version and not yet completely developed.

Mixpanel

Mixpanel is a completely event-centric tool that allows you to track any user action taken. Mixpanel is recommended if you want to have event-based user tracking with user details and performance. 

User tracking

Google Analytics

Google Analytics uses cookies and assigns a unique GA ID when the user arrives first time on the website. However, this unique GA ID does not work across devices, so you need to assign each user your custom user ID (client ID) to track across devices. 

Since GA uses cookies for user identification, it depends on the cookie values how much time it will last. Sometimes a user may clear cookies on the browser and when he visits your website again he will be considered a new user. You cannot use any PII data (phone number, email address) to identify users, but you can assign your client ID to get more out of user tracking. 

One of the benefits of user tracking via cookies is that you can track the user across different domains via cross-domain tracking and subdomain tracking which is not possible in Mixpanel.

Mixpanel

Mixpanel allows you to track users by tying the anonymous data with users once they are signed in. This way, you can track all the user activities from the first pre-login interaction to post-login activities. The same methodology is also used to track the users across devices and platforms. 

In Mixpanel you need to create a user ID to track and identify the users for cross-device tracking. Since Mixpanel has its way of identifying the users it does not rely on cookie values and lasts much longer compared to Google Analytics.

 One drawback of Mixpanel is that it won’t be able to identify the user across the different domains you have, and hence lacks cross-domain tracking and subdomain tracking.

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 also provides detailed documentation on how to implement ecommerce tracking, cross-domain tracking, events tracking, etc through the Google Analytics help center.

Mixpanel

Mixpanel implementation can be difficult if you do not have coding knowledge. It has multiple SDK integration options available, such as JavaScript, Android, IOS, Python, PHP, Node.js, etc. If you do not have any SDK available then there is also the option to use data collection APIs. 

Overall you need strong development knowledge to implement Mixpanel.

Server call limits and data limits

Google Analytics

Google Analytics 360 (premium version) offers 20 billion hits per month. If it increases more you can take a customized plan. 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 offers up to 10 million hits** per month and has 20 custom dimensions and 20 custom metrics.

Mixpanel

Since Mixpanel is based on an event-centric model, it has its own set of user properties. However, Mixpanel user profiles can contain up to 2,000 custom properties each. 

Mixpanel has a different plan and its server call and data limits vary as per the plan. Details are as below

Free version / growth version:

  • Monthly tracked users: Up to 100,000
  • Event limit: Equivalent to a total of up to 100m monthly events.

Custom enterprise version: 

  • Monthly tracked users: Customized but more than 100,000 monthly Users
  • Event limit: Customized but more than 100m monthly events.

Integration capabilities

Google Analytics

Google Analytics has great and robust integration along with Google stack products, such as 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. 

Mixpanel

There is a limitation with Mixpanel to integrate directly with major advertising platforms like Google Ads and other Google Platforms which can sometimes make it very time-consuming to get the right insights. 

However, If you want to integrate Mixpanel with other CRM tools it is possible if you have the knowledge and know how the internal flow and events are set up. 

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.

Mixpanel

Mixpanlel has a different plan and different costings, as below:

  1. Free version
  2. Growth plan: Starting at $25 per month
  3. Custom plan: Price is based on your custom needs

Frequently asked questions about Google Analytics vs Adobe Analytics

What is Mixpanel?

Mixpanel is a tool that allows you to track user interaction on your website or mobile application (interconnected products). 

Mixpanel is a more event-centric analytics tool that tracks all the events triggered by users. You can generate lots of insight from very fast real-time analytics. You can easily integrate Mixpanel with your third-party CRM tools. 

Mixpanel also allows you to interact with users via targeted messages for a group of users with similar behavior. Mixpanel provides a few extra metrics like account health and lifetime value of a business asset that provides more insights like what users are doing, how useful your marketing efforts are, and what you should do in the future.

How much does Mixpanel cost?

Mixpanel has a different plan and different costing as below:
– Free version
– Growth plan: Starting at $25 per month
– Custom plan: Price is based on your custom needs

Are there alternatives to Mixpanel?

The following tools can be considered as alternatives to Mixpanel.

Google Analytics: It is a completely free-to-use analytics tool and very easy to implement. It helps you track user behavior and website performance using events and goals.

Hotjar: Hotjar is a great alternative for Mixpanel. This tool is very feature-heavy and provides great analytical ability. It also has a heatmap tool that provides a visual view of user activity on the website or mobile app.

Woopra: Woopra is a real-time customer analytics service that provides end-to-end customer journey analysis and tracks every step taken by users.

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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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