Web analytics platforms reviewed
With so many web analytics platforms out there, we've reviewed some of the most popular options and ones that have caught our eye:
- Piwik PRO
- Simple Analytics
- Visitor Analytics
- Ruler Analytics
Our review is no substitute for getting first-hand experience yourself, however it always helps to be pointed in the right direction. If you've only ever known Google Analytics then a world without it can seem like a scary place, but rest assured there are some pretty impressive and suitable alternative options out there.
Google Analytics 4 is definitely one option to consider, but configuring a new account and getting to grips with the user interface (UI) plus throw in BigQuery for analysis beyond 14 months, we believe simply transitioning across might not be the most sensible option for some website owners and marketers.
Here's a little summary and introduction into a selection of the alternative analytics platforms on the market to start you on your journey to a better analytics solution for your business. And if in doubt, we'd be happy to work with you on this discovery so please get in touch or join us at our next webinar.
When evaluating platforms pay close attention to data retention periods, user licence limits and pricing models. And think about how privacy centric you want to be.
Web analytics platforms and solutions
Google Analytics 4 is replacing Universal Analytics. If you want to keep using a Google analytics product then you'll need to get to grips with this new platform. Unfortunately you cannot import your existing GA data into GA4 because the data processing configuration is different. Visitor data relies on event tracking rather than hit tracking and sessions, and bounce rate has been replaced with engagement rates.
The reporting interface is limited to 14 months data storing, and should be used for quick look analysis, whilst longer data ranges and more in-depth interrogation will require BigQuery. However, if you get your configuration right, GA4 will offer far more powerful audience insights and intelligence than GA3 ever could, all with a promise of being more privacy-compliant. You'll still need a cookie notification bar though.
Matomo is the most like Google Analytics in terms of features, charts, metrics and reports available. It has its own UTM tracking builder and can accept data imports from Google Analytics so that you don’t lose historic trend data.
There is a cloud-based or on-premise option, so pricing will be dependent on usage. Starts from £17 p/mth.
No data sampling takes place, IPs can be anonymised and you can configure the platform to not process any PII. Matomo can be used without needing consent from web visitors (i.e. no cookie notification banners).
Piwik PRO offers four modular products, 3 of which are standard and one optional. Analytics, Tag Manager, Consent Manager and a Customer Data platform.
If you have less than 500,000 actions per month you can get access to Piwik PRO for free, but the data will only be retained for 14 months. If you exceed the action limit you’ll have to upgrade to an Enterprise plan for a fee or reduce the number of actions taking place.
They pride themselves on privacy and data security, and pitch themselves as the perfect alternative to Google Analytics.
PostHog is a product analytics solution meaning that it can be used to analyse many digital experiences. Whether its a website, app or CRM, this solution is a suitable choice for those wanting to improve their product as well as understand their acquisition channels.
It's quite a technical platform, so worth engaging with web developers and product managers when evaluating its suitability.
PostHog's pricing starts from $0/month for under 1 million events (per month) for its cloud-hosted solution.
Fathom Analytics prides itself on being a simple website analytics solution. It’s so simple they only offer a single page of important metrics and no customisation of reports.
Fathom has 2 main goals - to focus on privacy (cookie-free & doesn’t track PII), and to be very simple to use (a single page dashboard).
Pricing wise, the lowest fee is $14/m for up to 100,000 page views which then increases by $10-$20 p/mth depending on volume. They also offer a 7-day free trial to get you started.
Heap is a digital insights platform that combines quantitative and qualitative analytics for a 360-degree view of your customer journey.
To get the best out of Heap you need an enquiring mind, taking time to be curious about your website performance and customers, and posing questions to the data to shine light on trends, and customer insights.
Pricing is offered in four tiers. Starting from a free version for any site with less than 10,000 monthly sessions (but only 12 months data retention), moving up to Growth from $3,600 and then Pro and Premier where you have to get in touch for a bespoke quote.
With Plausible, there are no layers of menus, there is no need for you to build custom reports, custom dashboards or PowerPoint documents. If you're looking for a really simple web analytics solutions then this might be worth exploring.
Pricing starts from £9 p/mth up to 10,000 pageviews with unlimited data retention, 100% data ownership and the ability to add custom events.
To stay true to its name the platform promotes a single page dashboard, although you can interact with filters, graphs and navigate around for different snapshots of performance including dates, UTM sources, events and conversions.
There is a 14 day free-trial period, and then pricing starts from £9/month. The pricing tiers are based on data points, but it’s not clear from their website what constitutes a contributing data point, so you'll need a trial or demo to understand your usage.
If you're serious about privacy this definitely seems to be one of the analytics platforms to entertain the idea of using.
Snowplow is a very advanced analytics solution, so only consider if you have a good wealth of data and an appetite to go further than traffic acquisition analysis. Snowplow is a behavioural data platform, offering BI insights, AI predictions and 360 customer views.
Get used to features like customer lifetime value analysis, attribution modelling, content engagement scoring and market basket analysis. Every marketers dream to understand this level of insight, however it'll come at a cost.
Sadly they're not forthcoming on any pricing, so you'll either need to schedule a demo, request to try the platform, ask for a quote or schedule a chat with their team.
Visitor Analytics focus a lot on real-time analytics and being GDPR compliant. Whether that is statistical to behavioural, the benefit of their platform is gaining these insights in real-time.
They offer a stand-alone UI or boast that they can integrate with many other applications to bring results directly into your CMS or website interfaces.
Collect and analyse standard website performance including traffic analytics, page performance and visitor types (browsers, OS, devices etc), as well as events, session recordings and heatmaps. They also offer the option to integrate polls and collect survey responses from within a website.
All features are accessible in their free plan, but there is a maximum of 400 visits p/mth for this option. Pricing then starts from $10.39 p/mth for up to 10,000 visits/month through to $55.99 for 75,000 visits/month.
Countly is an analytics platforms focused on understanding and enhancing the customer journey. It’s UI looks a little like GA4 and has reports for traffic analytics, engagement, events and attribution, but it also digs into single customer views and tracks users on an individual level.
They offer a Community Edition which is free forever but you have to self-host and there are plenty of restrictions and limitations, and an Enterprise Edition (cloud-based) which can be tailored to your needs and is all encompassing in its features.
The Countly platform is packed with powerful plugins so you might find you can do various tasks (push notifications and crash analytics) from within one platform rather than licence a few different ones. Countly has more than 15 open source SDKs for mobile analytics and marketing, web, desktop, smart TV, smart watch, IoT and set-top box application analytics.
Ruler Analytics is an entry level marketing attribution platform, good for B2B businesses wanting to understand lead attribution across web and calls at a single customer view level.
Close the loop with online leads through to offline conversions by integrating your website, your CRM and your marketing apps.
Prices start from £199 p/mth for up to 50k monthly visits, and can scale up to £999 p/mth for Enterprise businesses achieving over 100k visits p/mth.
Factors offers AI-powered analytics and attribution insights, paying quite a bit of attention to assessing marketing pipeline performance. Integrate third party platform data like impressions, clicks, cost and impression shares metrics to see all your data in one place and evaluate ROI.
Report options include KPI-based, funnel-based, single customer view and a novel conversion explorer to unearth new insights into what is and isn't working from a conversion point of view on your website.
Ringside Data is an analytics solution, not an 'off the shelf' product. It's a different way to think about analytics - created by analysts and marketers, for analysts and marketers. Data can be offered up in real-time, aggregated and from machine-learned insights, catering for brands and agencies alike
This is another option if you're serious about powerful data analytics, customer journey attribution and AI intelligence.
Reports are unlikely to be out of the box, and will require BigQuery experience and understanding, but the Ringside team (and Adido) could be on-hand to support you.
Factors to consider when evaluating a web analytics platform
Know your current usage
Many of these platforms will charge for access or usage, so its important to have a rough idea of monthly visits, page views, interactions/events and hits. You'll likely be using Google Analytics data to get these figures so be mindful that your data may be sampled and not show the true picture of usage. But that's why trials are good (as long as they allow you free rein to capture all activity).
Are you clear on why you're using an analytics solution?
When Google Analytics was the default platform for most website owners and marketers, we thought less about why we were using the platform and just became familiar with the data it collected and the reports it provided. So we've become used to these metrics and dimensions. But now we're in a phase of reflection and proactive consideration, it would be worthwhile considering what you'd like to track and why. Some of the platforms feature very basic KPIs but for some websites that's all that is needed to make decisions, whilst others open up opportunities to discover new intelligence for smarter decision making.
How easy is it to get acquainted with the platform's features and UI?
Does the platform offer a free trial period (if so, how long for), and/or a demo (either live link or bespoke appointment) in order for you to mess about with the interface and see if its features are what you need?
If they have usage restrictions is this going to pose problems calculating your likely usage level (as per point above) and thus skew your fee expectation?
How privacy-centric is the analytics platform?
Do they conform to GDPR, PECR, CCPA and others, according to the countries in which you're operating?
In this period of change it is definitely worth thinking about an analytics platform for the long term. Familarising yourself with any of these systems is going to take some time, so you'll want to be confident that it's an investment worth making.
Will data sampling occur?
Studies have revealed that Google Analytics data may only be partially representative of true visitor numbers. They have pre-set data thresholds for the date range you're analysing (typically 500k sessions at the property level for the date range you are using). It also relies on consent so data losses will occur. Ad-blockers are also used by 43% of global internet users to block third-party scripts like spy pixels and targeted advertising. Many of the platforms we've looked into promote 100% unsampled data.
How long will data be available?
Unlimited data retention is now the exception not the rule due to privacy concerns, so make sure you're comfortable with the length of data retention on offer within the platform. Many solutions offer longer periods of retention (even unlimited) if the manner in which the data has been collected does not contravene any privacy rules. Likewise, you might gain access to longer timeframes if you're using on-premise storage.
How long does data processing take?
We've all got used to Universal Analytics (GA3) processing data within 4 hours. GA4 processing can take up to 72 hours!! So be aware you'll need to wait days before pulling monthly reports.
API integrations with platforms may also have time delays. For example the Google Ads API has a 24 hours delay - this will affect GA4 as well as any other analytics platform that you integrate it with.
What data processing model does the platform use?
Universal analytics (UA) was based on a hit-based model (page hits, event hits, ecommerce hits and social interaction hits), GA4 is based on events with the principle that any interaction can be captured as an event.
In UA a session could comprise of multiple pageviews, events, social interactions and ecommerce transactions. Sessions are defined as having ended once there had been a 30 minute period of inactivity, or something else reset the timer. In GA4, session start metrics are derived from the session_start event of an automatically collected event, and its duration is dependent on the time span between the first and last event in the session. 30 minutes is the default session timeout, however this can be changed. For more information visit this Google Analytics Help article.
Discovering how your intended web platform processes data will ensure that you're not disappointed when you're comparing to legacy UA stats, or you get wrongly bowled over by the sudden increase (especially if your stats were previously sampled or blocked).
Does the platform offer a cloud-based and/or on-premise (server-side) solution?
Quite a few platforms offer two options - either the familiar cloud-based solution where you'll need to pay for access via a monthly licence fee but the platform will store your data, or an on-premise / server-side option where you're likely to get access to the data for free but if you require any support / assistance / add-ons you'll need to pay.
The idea is that you start to be responsible for data ownership - it's you who owns your data, no one else and you are accountable for where its stored and how it's processed.
How easy is implementation?
Many of the platforms will also integrate with third party platforms like Google Ads, LinkedIn and Hubspot via API connectors making sharing data across platforms even easier and more insightful.
How much will it cost per month / per year?
Nearly all of these platforms charge a fee. But think about how you can offset that cost with the savings you'll make from quicker implementation and/or the insights you'll discover to reduce costs or more profit elsewhere. GA4 (and all previous Google Analytics platforms) is attractive because its free up-front, but we're starting to realise there are a lot of hidden costs so it's unlikely to be completely free anymore.
What reports come out of the box, and what export options or API integrations are available?
You're bound to face new user interfaces, and it'll take time to be as comfortable as you are with Google Analytics, however be open minded and simply explore what the default reports are like, and what customisation is available.
Think back to why you're measuring performance and be willing to consider that less is more. Sometimes data paralysis sets in when we have too much information at our fingertips, but at the same time if you can't interrogate via tables or with segmentation / filters then you might find it's not fit for purpose.
Are there any handy comparison tables?
Many of the major players have already started to review their offering against the competition. Whilst their assessment may be biased, some of them are hugely informative and give you a good starting point from which to explore further.
Here are a few good ones:
- Google Analytics Alternatives - Free & Paid (by Piwik PRO)
- 4 best Google Analytics alternatives (by Simple Analytics)