Google Analytics Alternatives
Is there anything better than Google Analytics? Are there any Google Analytics alternatives you might wanna move to?
Recently Google announced that the time to move from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is now. For most businesses, that means it is the time to re-evaluate their approach to data gathering practice.
There is no doubt that Google Analytics (GA) is a powerhouse tool, especially with the ease of connection and the use of the data it gathers with and from other tools in the big G Suit (like Google Ads or Search Console). That and a strong brand name skyrocketed the use and popularity of GA. And by the looks of it, Google Analytics 4 might become as popular.
Still, what if you are tired of the big Gs' worldwide dominance, have data privacy concerns, or need something more out of analytics, what then? Who do you turn to, and will it hurt your business?
Of course, there are pros and cons on both sides, i.e., GA and alternatives. Let's dig a bit deeper.
What Happened to Server-side Analytics?
In the mythical days of the old web, server-side analytics were all and all. The problem was (and still is, especially today) that the number of requests from crawlers/bots/etc. outnumbers the number of requests from real visitors. On top of poor UX for those reading the server logs.
These problems led to the appearance of client-side analytic solutions. They are easy to set up. Usually, a simple JS code snippet you need to add to the pages, and you are good to go. The fact they are JS code means it will not be read by most bots and crawlers. And gathered data is presented on (more or less) intuitive dashboards.
Depends who you ask.
Running server-side analytics means no impact on your website performance, no adblocking, and JS disabling screwing your data, a raw server log files. But it also means raw server log files, basic analytics data (no events tracking, no visitors flow, etc.), and some even sample data (do not display the right numbers but assumptions based on % of data).
The Good and the Bad of Google Analytics
GA arose at the top of client-side solutions. The most significant advantage of using GA (besides being free) is the ability to play well with other products from the Google family. For example, you can have data from both Search Console and Google Ads on your GA dashboard, and by setting up events and goals, you can also track and measure the success of your SEO efforts or ads.
As for bad of GA, a couple of things always come up:
- GA has a steep learning curve.
- GA was not built with privacy in mind. It collects way too much data and uses it to personalize its ad serving.
- GA is not GDPR compliant.
- GA samples data to reduce the processing needed to handle all free accounts.
- GA has no real customer support.
It all boils down to how GA collects data and what it does with it. More and more businesses are raising their concerns about it, making privacy concerns a top reason for seeking GA alternatives. But things might change for GA.
Google Analytics 4 is just around the corner, and I personally expect a lot from it. I hope that just as we have a chance to re-think our approach to measuring stuff for our business, Google has an opportunity to re-think its approach to data collection.
Seeing the world through pink glasses? Yeah, well, I am an optimist at heart.
Top 6 Google Analytics Alternatives
There are a whole bunch of available alternatives and explaining all is out of the scope of this post. Here we’ll look at six we're playing with (in one way or another) and are considering using for our website (and side hustles):
- Simple Analytics
Splitbee markets itself as a super-simple and friendly all-in-one analytics and conversion tool. It comes with a simple dashboard (realtime analytics included) and the basics every business needs. It is a lightweight alternative to GA with less than 4kB in size i.e. a low footprint on your overall website performance.
Implementation? A single line of code:
<script async src="https://cdn.splitbee.io/sb.js"></script>
They offer a simple event tracking API and built-in A/B testing. You can also automate a lot of stuff if you want to. Like, receive notifications for every sale you make or newsletter signup, or video play on your email or Slack.
There is a free account (up to 2.5k events) but having a paid one really pays off (starts at 14$ per month for 25k events).
I’ve used Plausible a couple of times and there is a lot to like when it comes to Plausible. As a marketer, I love the fact that they are bootstrapped and rely on organic traffic i.e. they are all about sharing value with in-depth blog posts on analytics topics. As a user, the fact that it is a privacy-focused open-source solution with a lightweight script (<1KB), and a simple and intuitive dashboard with essential data … What is there not to like?
Implementation? Register, add website details, and make sure a simple JS code snippet is in the <head> section:
<script defer data-domain="yourdomain.com" src="https://plausible.io/js/script.js"></script>
Plausible has three APIs:
- Stats API - is a read-only interface to present historical and real-time stats only.
- Events API - is for setting up goals and custom events.
- Site API - allows you to manage your sites through the API.
There is a 30-day unlimited trial when you sign up for them and paid plans start as low as $9 per month for 10k page views.
The Fathom Analytics script is 1.6 KB. Add a single line of code to the head section of your website:
<script src="https://cdn.usefathom.com/script.js" data-site="SITE_ID" defer></script>
Start with a 7-day free trial then opt out for one of the available paid plans starting with $14 per month for up to 100k monthly page views.
Founded in 2007 Matomo has been a go-to open-source web analytics solution for a long time. Some even say it's been around so long that it started to look and feel like GA (complex dashboard, heavy script (<22kb), using cookies, collecting personal data by default, etc.). But, you can easily adjust it to your needs.
If you ask me it is a great solution for businesses that are so used to GA dashboard, tracking, and data options but wanna be sure they are GDPR compliant. Best of all, for those businesses, Matomo has a simple historical Google Analytics data import solution and their own Tag Manager.
Two main APIs in Matomo:
- Analytics Web API - use it to manage (add, update, delete) websites, users, permissions, email reports, etc.
- Tracking Web API - use it to record data in Matomo.
You can use it hosted on your servers in which case it is free to use or in the cloud for which paid plans start at $19 per month for 50k hits.
Traffic analytics can’t be more straightforward than Simple Analytics. It tracks the essentials, like page views, referrers, top pages, screen sizes, browsers, and countries of origin. But it comes with a couple of cool add-ons like email reports and Tweet viewer (i.e. shows you the actual tweet, not t.co URL).
Implementation? Two lines at the end of your HTML <body> :
<script async defer src="https://scripts.simpleanalyticscdn.com/latest.js"></script><noscript><img src="https://queue.simpleanalyticscdn.com/noscript.gif" alt="" referrerpolicy="no-referrer-when-downgrade" /></noscript>
As far as the API access goes:
- Stats API for aggregated data.
- Export API for raw level data.
- Admin API for changing users, websites, and other settings.
Paid plans start with 19 euros per month for <100k page views.
Clicky is a privacy-friendly, GDPR-compliant website analytics service that tracks all the usual data and offers heatmap tracking, backlink analysis, uptime monitoring, split testing, goals tracing, Twitter keyword monitoring, etc + (interestingly) white-label service.
TBH there is a lot to unpack with Clicky and I haven’t done anything with it yet but the idea of having heatmaps alongside analytics is really appealing.
The free account comes with 3k daily page views while paid plans start at 9.99$ per month with 30k daily page views.
The Other Kind of Analytics
Whatever web tracking or analytics platform you choose, you should supplement it with user behavior-tracking. Such as Mouseflow or Hotjar. When the user is finally on your page you also want them to come back and continue using your site. With these tools, you can capture where the users click or how far they scroll on a page. This way designers and developers can get insight into not only where the users are struggling or giving up but also what they are trying to do.
Hotjar is GDPR- and CCPA-ready as they list on their site. With two plans, both with four different tiers. The Observe and Ask plans both offer a free tier where you can test with 35 daily sessions for Observe and 20 monthly responses for Ask. Observe is their plan for generating heatmaps, highlights, gathering events, and even filtering rage clicks and u-turns (when a user clicks back within a 7-second period of loading a new page). Ask is the all too familiar survey plan, with widgets and with a paid plan to get an analysis of the survey performance.
Mouseflow is also a GDPR and CCPA compliant user behavior tracking technology, with data centers both in the US and EU. Though the free tier Mouseflow might have a bit fewer records per month compared to Hotjar, Mouseflow has a wider selection of features within this free tier. Such as unlimited events, mobile support, the option to download or export data, customize your dashboard, over 20 plug-and-play integrations and it includes recording rage-clicks (which is only available on paid plans of Hotjar). And when you are ready to record more sessions, Mouseflow has plans ranging from €24/month to €299/month, and an enterprise plan if these don’t suffice.
Server-side analytic solutions are limited, though, personally, I think it is good to have them… alongside something else.
As for client-side analytics (Google Analytics and alternatives), it depends on what you are looking for. Find it hard to leave GA but want a change? Upgrade to GA4 or go with Matomo. Don’t care much about complex tracking but wanna take a peek every now and then? Go with Simple Analytics. Every other solution is for anything in between these two use cases.
But It’s Not That Easy
I wish it is as easy as I stated above. The importance of measuring and tracking traffic sources and actions that your visitors take on your website has never been so important as it is today. The thing is you have to take your business practices and goals into the equation as well before opting out to any analytics mentioned.
Start by asking yourself how dependent on Google solutions are you? Running simple Google Ads or relying on different remarketing ad approaches? Search Console data help you track goals? Do you have a GTM with all the pixel trackers? Or are you fed up with big G and wanna contribute to a change?
Start there first before you consider any of the Google Analytics alternatives.
Want to dig a bit deeper into the subject? Start with one of these:
Is Google Analytics ILLEGAL in your country? - https://isgoogleanalyticsillegal.com/
8 Google Analytics privacy focussed alternatives - https://daily-dev-tips.com/posts/8-google-analytics-privacy-focussed-alternatives/
Clicky vs other guys as a great overview of features and solutions - https://clicky.com/compare/