Google Analytics is the standard go-to tool for tracking website traffic. I have been using it for many many years. But over the years it has got just too bulky and complicated. I have several sites – both mine and my clients, which use GA for traffic analytics, so it was a radical move for me to move to a new analytics tool .
The Story So Far
What triggered it was something that happened a couple of months back. I set up a new website for one of my own projects and I decided to put the GA tracking script in the site so that I could see how its doing in terms of visitors. I went to GA and added a new Property for the site and then for some reason I just could not find the page from where I could copy the script to paste into my website. I spent nearly an hour and then did some Google research to try and figure out where the embed script is supposed to be found.
This was quite a surprise for me, because normally it would take a less than a few minutes to setup a website, get the embed script and paste it into the website.
Finally it turns out that by default now, Google creates a UA property which stands for Universal Analytics and lets you track traffic across multiple devices and platforms. And for some reason this kind of Property does not use the standard embed script anymore. I decided to delete the property and create a new one again for just web analytics. But I couldnt find a way to delete the Property either.
After much frustration I came to the conclusion that Google Analytics has become a huge monster – its trying to do several hundred things and as a result the navigation is complex and most of the time, you are going round in circles to find what you are looking for. I am sure for power users who use this on a daily basis, it might not be an issue at all, but for someone like me, who just wants to do traffic tracking, this is just too much of a waste of time and effort.
I started looking around for GA alternatives and there were quite a few, but I wanted to use something which was free and not too much of a trouble to setup. I remembered Piwik from several years back which was a self-hosted traffic analytics script written in PHP. Turns out, that they are now called Matomo and they offer a paid service as well as a free self-hosted service.
Since I am comfortable with PHP and I can easily setup a PHP webapp in one my hosting enviroments, I decided to give this a try. Its pretty simple to set it up. The instructions to download and setup it up are here: https://matomo.org/docs/installation/
If you have a basic knowledge of PHP and MySql , then its easy to set it up. The entire source code is hosted in your server so you can do any changes or enhancements that you like. And one installation can let you do traffic tracking for many websites.
Here are some screenshots. It has more or less all the things you need in a traffic analytics software except for very advanced marketing testing and stuff like that.
ADVANTAGES OF USING MATOMO
I have made a small table which lays out the comparison between GA and Matomo based on parameters which are of importance to any website owner.
|Ease of Use||-Very complex. |
-Has too many bells and whistles
|-Simple and to the point.|
-Sticks to only web traffic analysis.
|Data Privacy||-Google uses your data for its own marketing purposes and tracking|
-By default , Google Analytics is not GDPR compliant.
|-Nothing is shared with anybody. All data stays on your servers.|
-Application is open-source and open to examination.
-Matomo allows GDPR compliance and complete data anonymization.
|Pricing||-Free||-Free if self-hosted.|
-Paid version if you want to host it on Matomo servers.
|-Nothing can be customized.||-Everything is open to change and enhancements since the source code is hosted with you.|