Recently, I was immersed in Google Analytics training, like the rest of my cohort. It was rather daunting at first; and when our friends Justin and Krista started talking about coding, I got really nervous. I toughed it out and persevered, and ultimately was able to grasp the content and get my certification (after one failed attempt, I’ll admit, just like when I took my driving test).
Throughout those hours we spent “together,” drilling deeper and deeper into the capabilities of the tool, I still felt like I was barely scratching the surface. The number of different training sessions available is really impressive. And, while working through the demos, you notice so many things that are in beta, so it’s clear that Google is constantly fine tuning and adding more capabilities to the incredible features that it already delivers. It integrates well with other systems. There is an incredible community of smart people who provide all manner of expertise. And, it is FREE.
I love free stuff when it comes to tchotchkes and swag, and free food and wine at work events (pre-covid, of course). But I’m a little more wary of free stuff that has the kind of power that this tool does. It’s no secret that Google is using all of the data that Google Analytics users are slicing and dicing, and we consumers have all become pretty accustomed to the idea that we are getting tracked all over the place. I started to dig into this question further, and came across this statement a few times:
If you aren’t paying for a product, you are the product.”
And YES, I used Google to search more about this issue. A few terms seemed to rise to the surface: “privacy-focused web analytics” and “privacy-first web analytics.” I was intrigued.
In 2018, Paul Jarvis, a developer and writer, launched a product called Fathom, after deciding that he did not want the sites he created to track as much data as Google Analytics did.  But, unsurprisingly, there’s been development in this space as far back as 2007, when an open-sourced, decentralized platform called Matomo (originally called Piwik) was launched as an alternative to Google Analytics. In recent years, several more “privacy-first” solutions have become available.
There are a number of reasons for considering any of these alternatives, here are just a few:
Is data privacy a big concern for your site and your customers? You’ll always need to be concerned with privacy and possible data breaches, and properly disclose how you are using the data that is generated by customers interacting with your site. Consider whether there are any higher risks when using Google Analytics.
Does Google Analytics do more than you need it to? It has incredible capabilities, but if it’s way more than you need, are you slowing your pages down or annoying customers?
Google has incredible power: a global market share in search engines of 85.86%.  That much power has legislators concerned.  It’s possible that privacy legislation that may change the landscape, and require different levels of compliance? This is its own discussion…but another factor in this consideration.
Having more control over your customer data may appeal to those customers – something you can make them aware of, possibly differentiate your site. It’s good to know that there are plenty of options.
Here is a list of alternatives to check out if you’d like to learn more.