If you don't have any data, you can't make data-driven business decisions. But what’s the best way to collect it?
Google Analytics is the most popular web analytics platform, holding 31.55% of the global market share in 2021. Not only is this platform completely free to use, but it’s also extremely powerful. That’s why entrepreneurs, marketers, and data analysts love it.
However, no web analytics tool is perfect. It’s wise to ask yourself if Google Analytics is the best choice for your business. You might ultimately find that one of the other popular web analytics solutions suits your needs better.
Here’s a look at the drawbacks of Google Analytics and eleven alternatives you might want to consider.
Why Google Analytics isn’t perfect
While a powerful tool, Google Analytics shouldn’t be seen as the end-all-be-all. Let’s dig into a few reasons why it might not be suitable for every user.
Google Analytics is a sophisticated tool with a steep learning curve. But do you personally need all of its features and functionalities?
If all you’re looking for is a tool that will show you basic website traffic metrics (e.g., unique users, visits, monthly pageviews, referrers, etc.), a simpler analytics solution might make more sense.
With more user data scattered across the web than ever before, online privacy has increasingly become a major concern for the general public. According to a Pew Research Center study, 79% of American adults report being “very” or “somewhat” concerned about how companies are using their data.
Google has received so much criticism regarding user privacy that an entire Wikipedia page is solely dedicated to documenting those concerns. Google Analytics specifically has run into GDPR-compliance issues in recent years over how much user data it collects and transfers. So if you’re committed to protecting the privacy of your website visitors, then Google Analytics may give you cause for concern.
Moreover, if taking a stand for online privacy is part of your brand image, your target audience might perceive using Google Analytics on your website as hypocritical.
If you’re considering using Google Analytics, you might want to look into the reliability of its data.
For example, there’s a phenomenon known as “dark traffic,” which is organic traffic that Google Analytics misattributes as direct traffic. There’s also the issue of spam and bots, which can skew traffic data if not properly filtered out. Google also recently phased out third-party cookies, so if your organization wants to use them in your marketing campaigns, this is another major consideration to assess.
If you don’t research these issues and don’t come up with ways to counteract them, you might end up with misleading or unreliable data — data that can lead to bad business decisions.
11 Best Google Analytics alternatives to try out
While Google Analytics is the behemoth of the web analytics industry, there are a number of other viable options out there.
We put together a list of the eleven best Google Analytics alternatives that you might want to consider.
Matomo is an open-source web analytics solution used by 1.5+ million websites worldwide. Its main selling point is that it guarantees 100% data ownership — you can rest assured that your data won’t be used for marketing purposes by third parties. To put this in perspective, when you use Google Analytics, Google uses the data you collected to serve ads on its advertising platform.
Matomo was also designed with privacy in mind. It can be configured to comply with various privacy regulations, including GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, LGPD, and PECR. Its advanced privacy protections include letting users opt-out of web analytics tracking, anonymizing IP addresses, setting shorter expiration dates for tracking cookies, and more.
It’s also worth noting that this software doesn’t track users across websites unless that option is enabled (it’s disabled by default).
And since it’s an open-source app, Matomo’s code is out there for all to see. There’s no need to worry about whether there’s some sneaky tracking going — you can look under the hood and see exactly how this software works.
Plausible is a privacy-focused website analytics solution that allows you to monitor your website traffic without collecting personal data. The company is based in Europe, and its software was designed with the European GDPR laws in mind. As a result, Plausible is fully GDPR-compliant, so you won’t need to display the cookie-consent banner on your site. It’s also fully PECR-compliant and CCPA-compliant, which will be appreciated by companies operating in the United Kingdom and California.
Additionally, with Plausible, you can track goal conversions and custom events. They have a stats API, sites API and server side events-API as well as a way to avoid adblockers that they call a proxy.
Also, Plausible script is 45 times lighter than Google Analytics, meaning your website will likely load faster. And a faster website can help your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
Fathom is a privacy-focused website analytics solution used by thousands of customers worldwide. The founder of this startup is a web designer and entrepreneur Paul Jarvis, who got so frustrated by some Google Analytics features that he decided to create his own web analytics app.
Fathom is fully compliant with various regulations, including GDPR, CCPA, PECR, ePrivacy, and more. The company itself is based in Canada and has a GDPR-adequacy ruling, and the platform will automatically route your European traffic through its European-owned infrastructure.
Another notable feature is Fathom’s ability to bypass ad blockers in a way that doesn’t invade the user’s privacy. That means you can see all your traffic, as opposed to only seeing users that haven’t implemented ad-blockers.
Fathom, like Plausible, is also lightweight, an added benefit for both site speed and SEO, and only shows you basic website metrics, so it’s another option worth considering if you’re looking for a simple solution.
Clicky is a privacy-friendly and GDPR-compliant website analytics solution.
It provides a real-time analytics dashboard that displays basic website traffic metrics. But this app’s functionality also includes:
- Segmentation that allows you to see data for specific user segments
- Heatmaps that can help you better understand user behavior
- Backlink analytics that shows which websites are linking to your website
- A/B testing enables you to run split tests
- Referrer spam and bot filtering
- Uptime monitoring
- And more
Interestingly, Clicky also claims to be the superior solution for driving down bounce rates, and its tracking is highly customizable. If you’re not happy with the default settings, you can configure this platform to suit your needs.
Clicky is a solid option worth considering if you want a simple web analytics solution that’s a step up from Plausible or Fathom.
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Mixpanel is a product analytics tool with 6,000+ paying customers, including brands like Uber, GoDaddy, and BuzzFeed. It’s designed to help you better understand user behavior by collecting and analyzing relevant data.
Insights reports will show how people use your product, which features are the most popular, and how many power users you have. Funnel reports will help you build retroactive funnels and learn where and why users drop off. And retention reports will help you understand which types of users tend to stick around and for how long. There’s also limitless segmentation that can uncover hidden patterns beneath various trends.
Other notable features include team dashboards and group analytics. And although Mixpanel doesn’t emphasize privacy as the previously discussed options, it gives you the tools to manage compliance with GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA regulations.
6. Open Web Analytics
Open Web Analytics is an open-source web analytics framework that is entirely free. It allows you to track basic website traffic metrics, get heatmaps for your website, and optimize for search engines by tracking search terms that are sending traffic your way, among other features. Open Web Analytics also respects GDPR and other privacy regulations, so you can set it up to be compliant.
This web analytics framework is exceptionally customizable. It's an option worth considering if you enjoy tinkering with software. However, if you’re not the most technically savvy, this might not be the best solution for you because you’ll need to have web development expertise to set it up.
PostHog is an open-source product analytics suite used by 9,000+ companies. Its main selling point is that you can host it on your infrastructure, meaning you always have 100% control over your customer data. This self-hosted open-source version is free, but there’s also a SaaS version with pricing that starts at $0 (you can calculate the price on PostHog’s pricing page).
This software was designed for product-led teams to have all the features that such a team might need. It comes equipped with a product analytics dashboard, but there’s also funnel analysis, session recording, event pipelines, and more. All these features can help you better understand user journeys.
PostHog has a massive open source community of over 26,000 developers, including more than 270 contributors. It also has 7,100+ stars on GitHub.
Countly is a product analytics platform designed to help you understand and enhance customer journeys. You can use it to track both web apps and mobile apps.
This software can be installed on-premise in any geographical region or hosted in a secure private cloud setting. Either way, you retain 100% ownership of your customer data. This product analytics solution is also GDPR, HIPAA, and COPPA-compliant.
Its product analytics functionality includes user profiles, advanced segmentation, crashes and errors monitoring, event path tracking, retention path tracking, and even push notifications that allow you to reach out to your customers.
You can enhance Countly via various plugins and see everything in a single dashboard. There’s also the option to create more dashboards if you prefer.
9. Simple Analytics
Simple Analytics only shows you the basic website traffic metrics. It might be an option worth considering if that is all you need.
It’s comparable to the previously mentioned Plausible and Fathom in terms of simplicity and due to its emphasis on privacy.
Also, if you’re familiar with web development, you’ll appreciate that Pirsch offers a powerful API, SDKs, server-side integrations, and more.
Snowplow BDP is a behavioral data platform that can help you better understand how potential and existing customers interact with your products. It is used by over 10,000 organizations worldwide.
It offers tools for building a high-quality dataset by gathering data from across all platforms and channels and then analyzing it to extract actionable business insights.
The company provides a helpful comparison between its product and Google Analytics that explains the differences between the two apps. Also, there’s an open-source version available, so if you want to examine the engine behind Snowplow BPD, you can view the code on GitHub. And with the open-source version, you can set up a Snowplow pipeline in under an hour.
Track with respect
Online privacy will likely become an even greater concern as people become increasingly aware of the implications of having user data tracked and available online. That’s why it’s important to consider when choosing a website analytics solution for your business.
It’s also a good idea to think about user privacy implications from these three perspectives:
- Ethical: If you want to pick software that allows you to stay true to your values, properly vet all options thoroughly and prioritize solutions that meet your ethical standards
- Branding: Pick software that's aligned with your company's brand if you want it to be seen as pro-privacy
- Legal: Given the success of various privacy regulations, it’s probably safe to say that we can expect more crackdowns on questionable data collection practices in the future. Be careful not to base your marketing strategy on something that might not meet compliance standards in the near future.
The less user data you collect, the less you need to be concerned about privacy issues. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that the less analytics data you have, the more difficult it will be to understand customer behavior. That’s why you need to decide what trade-offs you’re willing to make when selecting a tool.