Why Are So Many People Using Google Analytics?
The benefit of Google Analytics is that it automates web traffic data collection that is, for the most part, accurate, and, for the majority of website owners, free to use. With a short script of code, you can collect troves of accurate data: discover user demographics and behaviors; reveal how people found your website and the actions they took when there; build custom reports and dashboards to show specific data sets.
It is easy to create your own goal and conversion tracking and report on e-commerce behaviors. And because it is so widely used, it is very easy to access shared report templates on Google’s open source gallery, or troubleshoot any configuration issues you are experiencing. Even so, Google Analytics isn’t the only provider of web analytics services; there are many platforms that offer similar tools and compelling benefits over Google Analytics.
Why Use an Alternative to Google Analytics?
This year, Universal Analytics will be depreciated by Google. Whether you like it or not, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is going to become the new standard in Google Analytics. We love using Google Analytics; it’s free for most businesses (there is an enterprise tier for businesses with substantial traffic volume), comprehensive, easy to set up conversion tracking, and widely used across the internet — but that doesn’t mean it’s flawless. There are three main issues we see with Google: accuracy, privacy, and price.
Accuracy: Google sets data sampling thresholds, so depending on how many sessions your website has or the time period you select for your reports, data might be sampled and scaled up to be representative of actual numbers and not be 100% accurate.
Cost: When you get to 10 million hits per month, you’ve hit your limit on the data GA will pull. For enterprise businesses that exceed this amount of traffic, the $150,000 price tag for GA 360 can be dizzying after using the free version.
What To Look for in Alternative Analytics Platforms
While Google Analytics is installed on almost 30 million websites, Google doesn’t have a monopoly on web analytics services. There are alternatives for enterprise-level users and SMBs alike. Whether you’re looking for insightful user-based metrics or website insights that allow your users to retain their privacy, there’s a platform for you. If the big change coming to Google Analytics has you considering alternative platforms, this guide is for you.
Data Control and Ownership
Competitors to Google Analytics haven’t focused on competing with Google’s model of providing free web analytics in return for access to your data for user profile generation and retargeting, which Google can control and monetize. Most of the best competitors have offered solutions that directly go against this practice by developing software and systems that focus especially on privacy, including collecting data on your own servers so that you maintain ownership to all the raw data and can guarantee privacy on your terms.
And as mentioned above, an issue with using the free version of Google Analytics is that at a certain point in your growth, Google will start sampling data to give you a representative statistic of your data instead of the full scope. So if accuracy is important to you, rather than upgrade to Google Analytics 360, you can try some of these alternatives.
Data Presentation and Visualization
Alternatives to Google Analytics have developed more specific functionality, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to data collection. Whether that’s creating more simplistic dashboards that are easy to understand and make sense in the context of your own enterprise or creating richer data visualizations that show intricate user journeys.
The Best Alternatives to Google Analytics
The potential of data analytics for benefitting SMBs and enterprise-level companies alike is huge. 2020 saw the rapid adoption of new digital behaviors that benefited early adopters of online spaces. Online traffic trends excelled beyond predictions because both business and consumer behaviors were severely disrupted by the global pandemic.
There are a vast amount of ways to collect and present the collected information, and in this guide we’ve selected what we consider to be the best alternatives to Google Analytics depending on your website’s needs and your budget.
Best at: Data Security Analytics
Cost: Contact Sales
Choose if: Data security analytics are a primary concern
In recent years, the data security experts Cloudflare entered the analytics game with a privacy-first solution to the issues inherent in Facebook and Google analytics. Their cookie-free scripts provide user-specific protection and compliance with GPPR and CCPA. They are not beholden to advertisers, and they promise not to use any client-side state to retarget your visitors or create buyer profiles.
Not only is the product free, even for non-customers, but they have additional web analytics products that provide insights into data security and privacy analytics. Uncover key insights about the technical implementation of your website, CDN, and cache. And see metrics for firewall events, load balancing data for traffic distribution, and DNS traffic and records.
Unfortunately, you can’t set up conversion tracking, so if e-commerce and goal conversion metrics are important, you might want to find another service to employ in tandem with Cloudflare. But if all you need are accurate site numbers and site-health metrics, Cloudflare Analytics is a great alternative to Google Analytics.
Best at: Product Analytics
Cost: Free | Custom Growth and Enterprise plans
Choose if: You’re scaling up your marketing fast and love dashboards
Amplitude is an advanced way to track product analytics to help provide advanced analysis of your customer journeys. The paid plans offered by Amplitude are expensive, but they also have a free tier that can track up to 10 million actions per month.
Amplitude is an event-based analytics platform, so those that prefer Universal Analytics to GA4 might prefer Amplitude. It’s simple to install, there is onboarding support, and it’s scalable when you’re ready to upgrade to their paid products. They don’t solve the data privacy issues that make data gathering problematic, so they are more of a direct alternative to Google Analytics.
Some features we like, from a marketing perspective, are the revenue calculations and user lifetime value (LTV) metrics built into dashboards, which are valuable to e-commerce websites. They also have integrations that allow you to export behavioral cohorts to Facebook for advanced advertising targeting that might be worth the investment.
Best at: Product Analytics
Cost: Free | $25/month | Custom enterprise plans
Choose if: You are analyzing mobile apps
Mixpanel is an iOS- and Android-compatible mobile and web analytics software. It’s simple to use dashboards and visualizations are a user-friendly way to communicate KPIs across diverse teams that value the data without deep-diving into statistics. The free tier of their product allows up to 100K monthly tracked users. Their Growth tier starts at $25/month, and you pay according to the monthly tracked users that you need. If you have enterprise needs, you’ll need to talk to their sales team and develop a custom plan.
Mixpanel focuses on event tracking in the context of customer insights, showing not just the hits of an event but how a user actually interacts with key conversion points in the customer funnel. In many ways, GA4 is only just catching up with how Mixpanel has been working with analytics, being user-led instead of hit-level.
Mixpanel is great if your website is part of your product and not just an acquisition and sales tool. The ability to follow user journeys from source to purchase or churn is very valuable. Unlike Google, which has a data lag, all Mixpanel data is real-time. It’s incredibly useful to large enterprise websites, whether it’s for selecting the best titles for an article or flagging surges in website traffic that could overload servers.
If revenue tracking and knowing how users interact with your product over a long period of time are important to you, Mixpanel is a great option and worth the investment if it is going to be an integral tool in your marketing and analytics efforts. Their user-based tracking is much more dynamic, intuitive, and accurate than Universal Analytics, but GA4, which aims to provide a similar service, might be a threat to Mixpanel. However, Mixpanel was an early adopter of this practice, and their dashboards and visualizations might outcompete Google’s.
Best at: Personal Data Privacy
Cost: $14/month | $10 volume increments | Custom Enterprise
Choose if: You’re focused on consumer data protection
Fathom is a paid-for analytics platform built for data privacy. They use a GDDP and CPPD compliant cookie-free script that loads from their global CDN and are up-front about their data policies and practices, which you can read more about here.
Fathom is focused on simple web analytics, and instead of collecting all the data possible, they focus on important metrics. In their lean approach to data collection, you can see referral and visitor behavior data, and their dashboards are minimal and easy to understand.
If you’re a fast-scaling company, their software architecture is built to handle enterprise level demands in traffic without slowing down site speed. They are also accommodating of anomalies in surge traffic and don’t charge you extra if your site volume spikes.
You indefinitely own and can export your data, including content data, referral data, and goal metrics. Their plans start from $14/month for 100,000 page views and increase in $10 increments depending on your volume of page views, and they have a 17% discount on yearly pricing. All plans allow you to track an unlimited number of websites.
Best at: Data privacy and control
Cost: Free | $29/month | Custom Enterprise Pricing
Choose if: You want control over all the data you own
Matomo can be easily installed on your website as a WordPress plugin, and there’s even a free version. If you are making the transition from Google Analytics and don’t want to lose all your data, you can download historical data from GA and import it into Matomo. In Matomo, you can still track user-IDs.
There are two options for how you collect data with Matomo. Matomo Cloud will host your data for you, or you can self-host web analytics “on your terms” with Matomo On-Premise.
“By hosting web analytics on your own servers, there’s no third-parties taking ownership, no on-selling of data and no-one looking in.”
With Matomo, you own all your data, there are no limitations to the volume you collect, and the data isn’t sampled. You can also easily share this data with any data warehouses you have set up.
The benefits of Matomo include great dashboarding, and it has e-commerce features – supporting WooCommerce out of the box.
There are also paid products you can add to your plan, including heatmap and session recordings, search engine keyword performance, and A/B testing. Matomo includes SEO features, and they have their own Tag Manager to manage all of your event tagging needs without any need for Google.
Best at: Nuanced individual customer journeys
Cost: $2,699 annually | $4,199 annually | Custom Platinum Pricing
Choose if: Audience segmentation and remarketing
“At its core, Kissmetrics ties every action on your website to a person.”
If Google Analytics gives you data, Kissmetrics gives you context. With user segmentation and customer journeys that are indicative of actual use case scenarios, you can see what actions work and how and when they don’t. Kissmetrics also includes funnel reporting and optimization features, including audience segmentation to retarget users at specific areas in the funnel. You can highlight revenue reporting and customer churn, as well as run A/B testing.
With GA4 shifting towards user-based metrics and providing e-commerce metrics, it can be hard to see the appeal of paying for a new service. But if you do pay for a plan, you have technical support access from the Kissmetrics team — you don’t get that with a free Google Analytics account.
SAAS companies are offered price tiers based on their needs, with different features and support available with a customized plan. The Silver Plan, at $2,699 annually, includes dashboards, funnel reports, and user-specific information on populations and activity; it also includes email support.
To access more detailed revenue reports that include customer lifetime value and returning purchaser percentages, the Gold Plan costs $4,199, but you will also have access to email and chat support.
An issue with the Gold and Silver plan options, though, is that you can only retain data for 24 or 12 months (respectively). The Platinum plan option allows you to keep data indefinitely, and you also get access to an account manager for support; you can customize the number of seats you have, the domains you track, and how many monthly users you have the ability to track. As such, the pricing is tailored to your needs.
Best at: Monetizing Analytics SAAS
Cost: $79 Regular License | $549 Extended License
Choose if: You want to offer self-hosted analytics as a paid service for your clients
The immediate flaw with 66Analytics is that there is no e-commerce replacement, but it does have some cool features. Firstly, you host the data on your servers and you own the data that is collected. It also has the capability for session replays and heat maps.
The dashboards are simple, easy to understand, and provide accurate real-time data. 66Analytics also features a lightweight mode, a < 6kB tracking script that won’t slow down your website, has no cookies, and is GDPR and CCPA compliant.
A regular license is $79, a one-off fee that gives you access to everything and includes all future updates for free. An extended license costs $549, but it gives you the ability to offer 66Analytics to others as a SAAS paid service. For that price, you also get payment, billing, and invoicing systems.
How To Choose an Analytics Platform
Understand Your Analytics Needs
When deciding which analytics service to use, the first step is to know what data you are already collecting and to anticipate what kind of data you will need. This can depend on the scale of your enterprise, the type of marketing you participate in, the nature of your business, and how important your website is in your sales process.
Your website is a selling tool, and constantly finding ways to improve your website is key to moving forward as a business. The innovation process begins with quality data. Determine what information you want to be tracking, and consider the potential of quality data to help you meet your business goals.
If privacy is an important part of your business’s mission, or you don’t like keeping a cookie banner on your website, then choose one of the cookie-free alternatives to Google Analytics like Cloudflare — an industry leader in website security. If you are looking for user insight dashboards that show user flow and behavior, Mixpanel is the best alternative to Google Analytics.
Audit Your Existing Analytics Tools
List all the analytics services you use, including any additional data enrichment tools, such as Hotjar, which records heatmaps. Then compare what you have currently in place to the needs you determined in the previous step.
Then audit the individual platforms to make sure they are pulling data correctly, that goal and conversion tracking is set up correctly, and identify gaps in the way you are pulling data. You shouldn’t have any doubts about the accuracy of your data; it should be clean and deliver a clear picture of how users are interacting with your website.
Before deciding to move platforms, it is worth the time and effort to investigate how to remedy your current setup. Though some analytics platforms might allow you to download and transfer historical data between platforms, your current setup might be best-suited to your needs and just in need of fine-tuning.
Fix Your Existing Platforms
Maybe through this process you have discovered that the analytics software you currently use is the best one that matches your needs, and you just need to optimize your setup. Fresh eyes can reveal some lingering issues in the way your data tracking has been set up, and the audit process can be helpful in revealing the ways in which you need to re-configure your existing platform rather than abandon it.
Define the scope of your work, and consider working alongside an analytics team that comes into the situation without any internal biases that might be slowing down your analytics optimization process. They will also be able to point out opportunities for improvement you may have overlooked.
When To Change Analytics Platforms
Is a Switch Necessary?
It can be hard to know when you need to switch analytics platforms. The most important thing you can do is anticipate your needs as a business, including how your website will scale and how fast. Working with an analytics agency will help you understand your website analytics needs and the positive impact that quality data can have on your business.
If you are only running Universal Analytics, you will have to make a switch this year either by moving on to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) or by deciding to use an alternative.
But you can run more than one analytics software on your website. The data collected from separate tracking scripts can be combined in its own dashboard so you can still see all your data in one place. There are a whole host of data enrichment services that we might recommend depending on your business needs.
Google Analytics Is Still a Great Tool
Google has democratized web analytics and pushed products on the platform over the years that keep helping SMBs and, as such, we still recommend them to our clients. Many companies that run alternative analytics software on their websites still run Google Analytics because it has become the standard in data collection and can be easily adopted and used between companies, teams, and clients.
The launch of Google Analytics 4 is a good advancement for the Google Analytics product. It pushes user-based metrics that provide website owners with more information and insights about real users and not just event hits, which become noise if not attended to properly. GA4 also gives website owners better access to dashboards and visualizations than previously available.
GA4 is also a necessary response to a consumer desire, and regulatory imperative, for better consumer data protections. GA4 will create a higher standard for website analytics across the whole environment since Google Analytics is the standard across the internet.
If you are looking to switch to Google Analytics 4 before Universal Analytics is depreciated, or you would like to explore other options for collecting and visualizing data, reach out. We’re happy to have a conversation about your web analytics needs.
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