10M Hits: What Happens When You Hit Google Analytics Limits (And What You Can Do About It)
When a business is relatively small you don’t need to take Google Analytics limits into consideration. It’s nice, it’s free and user-friendly. More than enough.
But if your website becomes bigger and bigger you will start noticing some limitations. Sampling kicks in here and there. Reports take more time to load.
No surprises: all software has its limits and so does Google Analytics.
The plus is that you can overcome all of them (either for free or with an additional budget but hey, it’s still a free solution).
Even if you still don’t hit any of these collection limits, it’s better to be aware of them for the future. But if you’ve already reached these limits, here are a bunch of quick fixes and long-term solutions I’ve prepared.
Let’s start with the biggest limitation:
#1 10 million hits per month per property
It may sound like a big thing: 10 million hits per month.. It might mean you have huge traffic and people are entering and browsing your website like crazy. If so – good job, your website rocks.
On the other hand, it’s not always related to having tons of traffic on your website. – The fact is that using advanced configurations – and tracking many different interactions – “consumes” your hits.
You may be wondering what a hit is. A hit is the most granular piece of data in Google Analytics.
In reality, a hit is a request for a small image file. This image request is how the data is transmitted from a website or app to the data collection server. All hit types are sent to Google Analytics via a tracking code (source).
Every pageview is a hit. A user visits a page – there goes a pageview hit. She goes to another one — there goes another one. She reloads it and off you go with another one.
Not only is a pageview a hit. Every transaction, social share, event and user timing are Google Analytic hits.
So in fact hitting a 10 million hit limit is not that tough.
If you get 2,5 million visits a month with an average of 3 pages per visit – plus 2 additional interactions that you’re tracking with events – you will get 10 million hits a month and encounter traffic limit. Simple math.
Many companies want to track user behavior to the fullest, which is totally fine if you do it smartly. Getting custom data means creating new events and virtual pageviews. Being too granular with Google Analytics tracking can backfire and result in exceeding the limit of 10 million hits. Keep that in mind when planning your next implementation.
If you’re wondering how far you are from crossing the limit, try to estimate the number of hits that you send to your analytics web property every month. It’s quite simple (remember to put monthly values):
pageviews + total events + transactions + social interactions + user timings
You can also check your hit-consumption level in Google Analytics Admin settings.
In „Property Setting” in Google Analytics admin console you can get the most accurate data about your hit volume. As of beginning of October 2015 this feature is being rolled out to all properties in Google Analytics.
Two things to remember:
1. The limit is set on the property level (not account). In every account (e.g. UA-XXXXX) you can have many properties (e.g. UA-XXXXX-1, UA-XXXXX-2) and in every property a number of views.
2. The limit is calculated using the number of hits that are sent to the web property (i.e. before filters are applied!)
What exactly happens when you hit the 10 million limit?
In Google Analytics Terms & Services you will find this frightening line:
If a property sends more hits per month to Google Analytics than allowed by the Google Analytics Terms of Service, there is no assurance that the excess hits will be processed.
But keep calm. There is another, more pleasant official statement:
If you go over this limit, the Google Analytics team might contact you and ask you to upgrade to Premium (which has recently been replaced by Analytics 360 as a part of Google Analytics 360 Suitesource).
How do I overcome the limit of 10 million hits in Google Analytics?
Now you’re aware of the consequences of hitting the limit, you have three ways to proceed:
1. Upgrade to Google Analytics Premium
This seems to be the simplest solution – presuming development and investment in web analytics is high on your list. It will solve your problem straight away: you can raise the limit up to 1 billion hits a month (or more).
Of course, it may seem a little wasteful to lay out money on an analytics tool just to send a few events more.
But assuming you have already hit the limit because of huge traffic – and highly developed and well-considered configurations – it might be time to bring your analytics to the next level with a more advanced tool. Google Analytics Premium offers a number of features that are not available to companies using the standard version, from unsampled reports to DoubleClick and Big Query integration.
2. Reduce the number of hits
This is a quick fix. While you definitely don’t want to reduce the number of visits to your website (of course, you love your booming traffic, don’t you?), you can cut your events or virtual pageview numbers and stay below 10 million hits.
Surprisingly you can cleverly turn the limitation to your advantage by reflecting on your data collection strategy.
Working with our clients, we have often come across huge, overblown configurations with highly expanded tracking. They collect tons of data with their Analytics account but …… nobody uses it for analysis.
Let’s say you own an ecommerce site, and have product videos on every single one of your product pages. Of course, you could track every “play”, “pause” and “finish” of the movies. But, honestly, is this data actionable for your business?
Make a list of the events you track. Are you really using this data? When was the last time you carried out an analysis based on it, and took any action? Once you realize that this information is useless for your analyses, get the rid of any “dead” events and virtual pageviews.
3. Implement sampling!
You can also limit the number of events by setting your own sampling. If you care more about trends than about accurate data sets (and you should) this is a good fix. I recommend you start by implementing sampled properties alongside the ones that are „fully-tracked” to measure the differences. Then get accustomed to it and trust the data fully.
Use the _setSampleRate method in the tracking code to set the percentage of users that are going to be tracked (this is really important! Sampling is calculated at user level – not session or hit!). You choose the rate of hits to be sent. For example, you can choose to track one user out of every 10, so your sampling rate is 10.
4. Create multiply properties for different parts or segments of your website
This is a fourth way, let’s say a stopgap: you need more hits in your Google Analytics, but you still don’t want to go to Premium.
As mentioned before, limits refer to each property only, not the whole account. Each Analytics account can have up to 50 properties – so you can split your website data into reasonable pieces and track the parts separately in other properties.
For example, you can track mobiles in one property and desktop computers in another one. Of course, this isn’t a perfect solution if you want to see the big picture of your website, but still, it’s a way of overcoming the limit.
Another setup is to have a single root domain as a property, for example “yourwebsite.com” and then other properties for several subdomains, for instance “www”, “blog” and “shop” etc. So you create a separate property for each subdomain. Then let’s say you also want to have a way to see all of the data rolled up, so you can make another “rollup” view (with sampling enabled).
#2 500 hits per session / 200,000 hits per user
Staying on the subject of hits, here comes another limit.
You can only send 500 hits per one analytics session. Luckily, this restriction doesn’t include e-commerce (items and transaction) hits.
The consequences are significant though. If you go over this limit, additional hits will not be processed for that session, which means you could lose some of your data.
We once had a client with an excessive number of hits per sessions — when we trimmed it a little the average time on the site went up nearly twofold.
Unfortunately there is no perfect remedy for this. Google Analytics Premium disappoints this time: it remains the same limit, 500 hits per session. Actually, this is a flaw in what is a pretty expensive analytics tool.
So, the only way to keep within the limit is to reduce the number of hits, as in the previous example before. When it comes to hits per session, you should get rid of unnecessary events – for example by avoiding scripting a video to send an event for every second played and other highly repetitive event triggers. You could also shuffle off excessive mouse movement tracking or eliminate time-lapse mechanisms that generate high event counts.
Another limitation related to hits is 200,000 hits per user per day (this limit applies to Premium as well). If you are generating that much data from one user only, you definitely need to rethink your analytics strategy. It is way too much information to analyze and it’s a good bet you don’t need such big data sets. The solution is to reduce the number of hits (again).
#3 data latency with more than 200,000 sessions a day
Did you know that if you have more than 200,000 sessions a day you can expect 24-48 hours of data latency? If you go over this amount, Google Analytics will refresh the reports only once a day. So this can delay your updates to reports and metrics for up to two days (source).
If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of your data, you can go Premium. Premium extends the limit to 20 billion hits per month (and data freshness is 4 hours (guaranteed) and 1 hour on average).
#4 feature limitations
If you use Google Analytics on a daily basis, you are probably aware of some other limitations relating to the features. Some of these are:
● 20 custom metrics and dimensions each (Google Analytics Premium: up to 200 each)
● 5 custom variables slots (Google Analytics Premium: up to 50 custom variables)
● 20 goals per view (if you need to track more, create additional views, or just edit an existing goal)
● 20 funnel steps per goal
● 4 advanced segments applied at the same time in custom reports
● 5 filters added at the same time for custom reports
● 10 metrics added to custom reports
● 20 dashboards per view
#5 sampling and report limitations
Sampling seems to be a real pain in the neck for most Google Analytics ‘not-so-small-anymore’ users.
Firstly, there is the limit of 50,000 rows per day in a report, and above this limit the data is aggregated as “other”. In Google Analytics Premium this goes up to 75,000 (and 3,000,000 in export). Hopefully, there are some ways to get around this limit.
As you can see here, the limit has been reached. Google Analytics automatically aggregates new rows as “other”. Check out this link and learn how to get around it.
Secondly, if you run an ad-hoc report the sampling kicks in when you operate on more than 500,000 sessions (or 25,000,000 if Premium). It’s not easy to get around this limit. You may try sampling or splitting your website into smaller properties. You may also try tools such as Analytics Canvas or unSampler.
Get more out of your Google Analytics
Now you’re aware of the main limitations of Google Analytics, you’re ready to overcome them: whether by upgrading your account to Analytics Premium, or doing some quick fixes in order to outmaneuver the limits.
In any case, you may use some help from experienced experts. We are a Google Analytics Certificated Partner and a Google Analytics Premium Reseller. No matter which way you choose to develop your business, we will provide you with the best solutions and help you drive outstanding results based on actionable data from your analytics tools. Contact us today and learn more about our unique approach and unmatched value proposition!
Author: Mariusz Michalczuk
I am a co-founder of Mavenec. For over 5 years I have been focused on creating business value by leveraging data from digital channels. With strong statistical background and certifications from top analytics vendors I change business leaders’ approach to digital marketing from gut- to data-driven.
Follow me on Twitter: @mariuszmich