For a few years now there's been a question that’s circling around marketing teams: do you choose HubSpot as your core reporting platform, or should you use Google Analytics?
You might think ‘why can’t I use both?’ and the answer, of course, is that you can. But in my experience, it’s much better to have one analytics tool you can really rely on and work from consistently to track the effectiveness of your inbound marketing strategy.
Nobody enjoys having to move between different platforms all day every day. And besides, even if you do use both, it’ll pay to know their capabilities and when to use one over the other.
To help you decide, let’s look at how both analytics titans pair up against one another in terms of features, how well they can be customised, cost, and overall usage.
While website traffic often gets overlooked for KPIs like the number of leads generated or sales closed, it remains an important metric for many, providing a starting point for brands launching new websites (are you actually getting visitors and where are they coming from?) and an overall health check for more established marketers who just want to see that site visitors are growing.
When you look at the traffic source, you can also identify where the highest-converting traffic is coming from, or whichever traffic is most valuable to you, building up your picture of how people are finding and engaging with your site — and where to focus your efforts next.
Sometimes, HubSpot and GA pull different-looking data for the same searches. But don’t worry — here’s why.
Both HubSpot and Google Analytics offer traffic reporting analytics
In both cases, you’re able to change and compare the date range for custom dates, so whichever platform you’re using, you can monitor a certain period of time, for example, if you wanted to assess how a campaign performed this quarter versus the last.
“In terms of traffic analytics, HubSpot’s dashboard is more intuitive to use and simpler to understand, while Google Analytics offers more advanced reporting capabilities.”
For example, with Google Analytics you can see which devices your visitors are using when they find you. If you see a certain trend in a device, such as mobile, you could set up emails, campaigns, or web pages that are optimised for that layout.
Both tools also allow you to view traffic by source and medium
For example, organic traffic, social, email marketing, and referrals. The source is the place users were before seeing your content, (e.g. a search engine or a specific social media platform), and the medium is how users arrived at your site (e.g. referral or organic).
Both offer the same functionality (albeit labelled differently), giving you the ability to click into these and see in more detail where your traffic is coming from (a certain keyword or specific URL, for example). In HubSpot, you’re also able to see the number of conversions from each channel — more about conversation rates below!
Traffic is one thing, but which pages is it actually visiting? It’s likely that some of your pages are much better magnets for attracting traffic to your site than others, so it can really pay to know which pages they are and how your traffic is engaging with them.
"You’ll want this data to uncover why those pages are performing so well — and how to make more of them!"
If you’re just looking to get an idea of which pages are most popular and how site visitors are engaging with them, either platform will deliver. They both offer page views for blog posts, landing pages, and website pages, with customisable date ranges, so you can report on specific periods of time again.
Both platforms share a range of additional metrics related to page views, including bounce rate and average time on page, as well as a few metrics unique to each. HubSpot’s ‘CTA views’ is handy if you want to see how many eyes are hitting your CTAs (“so that’s why it’s not converting!” — more on this in a moment), while Google Analytics enables event tracking, which you can use to build custom tracking for certain events or actions across the site. (A little more manual work than HubSpot, but useful under the right circumstances.)
In HubSpot, you can pick, choose, and save your favourite or most-used metrics in customised reports, so if you find yourself leaning towards bounce rate and average time on page each time you don your reporting cap, you can set it to have visibility over these straight away.
Unique page views
Google Analytics also offers a metric called ‘unique page views’. This metric discounts multiple views of a page within a single session, giving you a different take on how many times your pages are being viewed. That person who’s clicked back and forth between (or refreshed) the same pages 10 times? That’s 10 page views but only one unique page view.
It can be argued that this view is a little more ‘honest’ than basic page views, because that one session likely represents one potential customer, while the inflated ‘basic’ page view data could give the impression that many more people are visiting a page than actually are.
Conversion rate data
Traffic and views are only one small part of the bigger picture that is your website’s performance. Many marketing departments are directly tasked with generating leads.
If this sounds familiar, you’re going to want to see exactly how your website is converting — so you can report on leads generated to the wider business, but also so you can learn from what’s working and what isn’t to continually optimise your site conversion rate in the future!
HubSpot’s conversion rate reporting is built directly into its analytics reports, so you can see — at a glance — not only how much traffic your website is attracting, where it’s coming from, and which pages are attracting it, but which of those sources is converting best.
Is the conversion rate for organic higher than social? Why could that be, and what could you do to increase the volume of high-converting organic traffic or improve social media’s conversion rate?
“So long as the pages you want to track are built in HubSpot, you’ll have an instant overview of how your site is converting.”
Insights like this can help you to see which CTAs are performing best — do your visitors seem to prefer image or text CTA? How does this vary between pages? Where is the positioning of the CTAs on the pages? Analyse this data to uncover insights that will help you optimise future pages and improve conversation rates.
With Google Analytics, not only can you track your visitor’s exact interaction but you can track their conversion paths and conversion numbers for pages too, within a single session (including video clicks). While HubSpot helps you to connect activity with a specific contact, these ‘user journeys’ are missing, providing the Google Analytics user with visibility over oft-trodden routes through their website and where visitors drop off.
It’s one thing to know you’ve generated a lead, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to view detailed contact records for all those leads. Just imagine all the valuable customer insights you could get from an up-to-date CRM auto-populated in real-time as visitors convert on your site! This is the stuff we marketers dream of.
The benefits of this are two-fold — not only can you get valuable customer insights that will help you refine your marketing efforts, but you can keep an eye on the quality of the leads you’re generating. You’re no longer dependent on sales updating you. You can come to the next meeting equipped with information on all the high-quality contacts you’ve generated and what converted them.
Here’s where HubSpot comes into its own. All of Google Analytics’ contacts are anonymous, so it’s hard to track how individual users become leads. Because the HubSpot platform is fully integrated, your leads instantly populate (or update, in the case of existing contacts reconverting) the CRM, so you have contact records of specific users. CRM records include timelines so you can see exactly what a lead converted on and which pages of the website they’ve visited — gold-dust when it comes to remarketing to or nurturing that lead, or trying to attract similar leads. And HubSpot CRM is free!
SEO is another bag many of us carry as part of our day-to-day, so it makes sense that you’ll want to be able to report on it when the time comes.
Google Analytics doesn’t have a huge amount to offer in this particular department. You can determine the search term visitors used when they found your site, which is helpful for informing (or evidencing the success of) your keyword strategy.
However, GA can be integrated into multiple Google platforms including Search Console, allowing for full visibility of your Google Suite and providing a holistic overview of SEO, UX, keywords, queries, and more.
Because it’s designed to be used as much more than just a reporting tool, HubSpot’s SEO capabilities are more comprehensive. Using the Content Strategy tool, you can plan your SEO strategy, optimise your content for search, and make sure you’re ranking high for SERPs.
Crucially, you can monitor search traffic and measure real-time SEO investment and ROI (ideal for seeing which topic cluster performs best), build search authority using the topic suggestions based on relevance, competition, and popularity, and even check if your meta description is long and strong enough — time to flex those SEO arms!
Gathering marketing reports also plays into HubSpot’s late surge for superiority and one of its key advantages — thanks to its CRM abilities — is to create reports that help you analyse your contacts.
The customisable reports can be built upon virtually every metric, including new contacts, returning contacts, and the average number of new contacts created in a specific date range. HubSpot even allows you to take data from any integrated apps you may be using via the HubSpot App Marketplace. This is particularly useful if you’re creating smart content that is tailored to a specific user, for example, smart CTAs can alter depending on the lead’s buyer journey, or smart forms can be set up for leads whose information hasn’t been collected yet.
"HubSpot also offers a lot more of a granular understanding of the “why” behind the “what” in your reports."
You’re able to deep dive into the elements without needing to open a new window, so from traffic and email analytics to form analytics, you’re building a connection between the metrics and “why” it happened. Ultimately, this enables you to connect real people with activity and trends, seeing the end-to-end view and optimising your output based on the demographics (sector, job title, etc.).
With GA, this granularity of reporting would need a separate tool meaning results may not add up or feel consistent. And because this overall level of reporting (at contact level) is simply unavailable with GA, users are missing out on the connection with the Flywheel — putting the customer (or contact at a prospect stage) at the centre and viewing them as a person, rather than just a marketing KPI number.
We’ve jumped straight into the big one early. Google Analytics is free, so it’s no wonder it has over four million users. However, with free things comes minor restrictions, and you can purchase add ons using Google 360 for a hefty price tag of $150,000 a year.
HubSpot’s platforms start at no cost, with the ability to scale up in line with your reporting requirements. Like most things, the more you pay the more features you’ll be able to use. At the very least, the free version offers dashboards that count visits, leads, and customers.
Comparing ease of use
At first, Google Analytics is complex to get to grips with, so gaining a full understanding of how it works can be a challenge. The dashboard can be a little overwhelming, with its tables, charts, graphs, and figures enough to scare even the most hardcore statisticians. And because GA offers so much data, it’s harder to monitor specific reporting results, for example seeing how your website performance impacts your pipeline and revenue. Although, once you do get the hang of the tool, it’s a goldmine of analytics that will make the time and effort to learn it, worth it.
On the other hand, HubSpot houses everything within one portal, making it easy to navigate wherever you’re working from.
Got a last-minute manager’s meeting and you need results fast?
HubSpot’s dashboard is intuitive and flexible to use, providing you with the ability to customise reports so you have what you need, ready and waiting when called upon.
HubSpot vs Google Analytics: the verdict
HubSpot is a lot simpler to understand and navigate. With its user-friendly interface and its tailored dashboards and reports (ideal for any marketer and even board members), HubSpot gives you more scope for wider business reporting as an ‘all in one’ tool.
Meanwhile, Google Analytics is complex, takes time to get your head around, and only really focuses around one key area - your website. However, once you’ve mastered the dashboards and filters, it offers a more in-depth analysis of results — not to mention it’s free of charge — and acts as a good ‘deep-dive’ functionality for anything that you’ve flagged in HubSpot and want to investigate further.
If you’re looking for a reporting tool that makes the most out of your data management (and stops you getting sucked into a browsing blackhole!), HubSpot and Google Analytics are certainly decent options. Both have their benefits and limitations when it comes to reporting web analytics, so it could come down to the amount of time and efficiency available to your users.