A Surge of Ethical Analytics Solutions Has Arrived — Time to Bin Google
Recently a myriad of alternatives to Google Analytics have appeared. If you are a small company, with limited needs for advanced analytics, it is time to make the switch
In creating a more humane Internet, one of the most obvious places to address initially should be web analytics. Briefly summarised, web analytics is the process of collecting data about users and their usage of a given digital product or experience.
This can be anything from demographic information (gender, age, location) to acquisition information (how people entered, where they came from) to behavioural (how long did they stay on a certain page, at what point did they leave, what did they click) and so on. To collect this kind of data, websites run small scripts in the background that log, process and pass on this information to servers on the back end.
The web analytics market is dominated by Google. Their analytics product, Google Analytics, has a staggering 84% market share. Like with search, they have a monopoly. As a developer, it is dead simple to set up, sophisticated and best of all, it is free.
Many people have heard the saying “if it’s free, you’re the product” and that is true in this context — Google is in the ads business and is interested in knowing everyone intimately so that the ads they target at us have a higher probability of being successful.
Now, in principle, each one of us are judging the upsides and downsides of continually using services offered for free, because we know we are being monetised by them. The point here is that this is an individual choice, an individual responsibility and for the most part individual consequences: It is your behaviour that is being attempted manipulated, your data that is being sold and bought, you and you only.
But when a business deliberately decides to apply free, liberal analytics scripts to their apps and websites, they are not making a choice that they both reap the benefit from and take the consequences thereof. It is not their data, but their visitors’ data that is being monetised.
In a sense, when applying the Google Analytics and Facebook Pixels of the world to your digital solution, one has deliberately or unknowingly reached the conclusion that: “your privacy matters less than my conversions”.
I don’t think that is fair to people.
The Surge of Simple and Privacy-friendly Analytics
Luckily, a myriad of less invasive alternatives are emerging that will allow small business owners to choose a different path and offer their customers privacy without compromising on the ability to learn more about the most basic patterns in demography, acquisition and behaviour.
What most of these novel services have in common is this…
- They are open-source, meaning that you could set it up yourself for free with the right knowledge and setup
- They have strong communities for development support and guidance
- Their interface is clean and simple. You immediately know what you can and cannot do, allowing you to spend less time on analytics overall
- They are GDPR, CCPA, PECR etc. compliant out of the box which means…
- … No need for cookie-banners! (unless you use something else!)
- … because no personally identifiably data is collected as a default
The last point might be one of the strongest arguments for going with an alternative. Calm web experiences can be a competitive advantage right now and the ability to provide a less messy user experience will be welcomed by most digital designers.
If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend checking out one of these favourite services of mine:
One of the first of the new paid simple web analytics solutions with fair pricing and a clean UI. I love their visual universe and playful approach in communication and branding, maybe made most evident in their launch of a spooky, Halloween-themes mini web service that scans an URL for creepy scripts that might be running in the background, collection information on you.
In this surge of new simple web analytics solutions, few stand out with truly differentiating features. Cabin is the exception. In addition to your traditional metrics like bounce rates, referrals and page views, Cabin provides a page by page breakdown of the estimated carbon emissions of those pages in grams of CO2.
Cabin is still in early access, but if you would like that kind of insight, then request access on their site.
Slick design, ease to use and implement and a solid, transparent business model based on monthly page views. Plausible is in many ways everything you could wish for in a paid, privacy-friendly, simple web analytics solution.
Additionally, they wrote a comprehensive list of arguments for why the time is now to quit Google Analytics. Obviously, they have an interest in writing that article, but the arguments are solid.
The OG of Google Analytics alternatives Matamo has existed since 2007 where it went under the name Piwik. It therefore a very complete, refined product that you get by switching to Matamo compared to some of the more recent newcomers.
They have a cloud-based (hosted) solution and a self-hosted one, options to import history from Google Analytics and even some advanced features that let’s you track user sessions and custom dimensions in a compliant manner.
Google Analytics is popular not only because it is free or the self-reinforcing power of being the industry standard. For large companies with sufficient resources for data analysis, A/B testing and funnel creation, it is a powerful tool that, with the right leadership, can be applied to not only improve business performance but the user experience and value creation for the people using the product. What I am saying is, there might be times where its usage can be justified.
But for most small business owners that do not practice growth hacking strategies and are expanding rapidly, using a 2nd generation analytics service that is privacy-friendly and simple will almost guaranteed be a net positive for the company.
Ethical analytics come at a slightly increased cost but the upsides of a better conscience, better user experience for your visitors, less worry about privacy law compliance and, if communicated properly, respect and loyalty from your customers easily outweigh that cost.