Google sunset Google Analytics 3: Now what?
For the last 23 years many of us have been using Google Analytics, a free tool to track and understand how our visitors engage on our websites, stores and digital tools. Now Google is retiring this tool and replacing it with a new take on analytics: GA4 is a different perspective on the data, instead of tracking sessions, everything is an event; and users are tracked over time individually. In short, we see this as a focus on e-commerce and revenue generation, and the newest version of Google analytics is not friendly to the everyday user: Setup and customization costs several thousand dollars, requires somebody to code in regular expressions, and is philosophically a complete departure from the analytics we use today.
In addition, Google Analytics 4 is still in Beta, is not GDPR compliant, and training options (similar to the free GA3 courses that many of us took) do not exist unless you are willing to pay (again) thousands of dollars.
Many of our clients do not need this level of tracking: They run organizations that do not sell online; they are interested in what is happening on their site, but not to the degree that they would need extensive training and a budget for setup/implementation.
So what are our options?
The good news is that there are a wide range of different options available, based on your needs. At Ignition72 our clients range from small charities to large government agencies, so we wanted to be sure that we had appropriate options for different use-cases.
Light usage option:
If your organization does not get into deep analytics, but you want to keep an eye on the topline, track some campaigns and key events, but with limited complexity, consider Fathom Analytics.
- Single dashboard interface, super clean and easy to setup and use. Training takes 15 minutes.
- Track visitor volume, time on site, bounce rate, pageviews and event completions.
- See what pages were visited, where your traffic came from, device type, country and more.
- Create custom events
- Create UTM links and track campaigns
- Apparently they are working on a Google Analytics importer, so that you can bring some of your old data into their system to get started.
- You own your data, it is shared with nobody ever.
- GDPR compliant, no cookie banners required
- Automated email reporting
- Not blocked by most ad blockers
Fathom is billed based on the volume of traffic you have, with up to 100K monthly pageviews costing $14 per month, and up to 500K pageviews costing $44/month.
While the price is right and the single page interface makes for a simple engagement, the overarching system is a little too simple for our range of needs. We reviewed the training resources and found that they mentioned features that we could not find in our test account (Turning numbers into percentages, for example). That having been said, for many of our clients this could be the perfect solution, and the free 30 day trial is a great way to get started!
Medium Weight Usage Option
One of the side effects of using a piece of software for over 20 years is that you really get into the granular capabilities, and Google Analytics had tons of them. That having been said, our agency continued to also use secondary tools, like Hotjar, Google Optimize (which is now also being sunset this year), to give us insights that Google Analytics could not.
So finding a solution that met our needs was a challenge, and we were surprised at how well Matomo Analytics fits perfectly with our needs.
Matomo is a French company that used to be called Piwik, and they have been making analytics software since 2007. They have over 1 million active clients/sites, and they are fully GDPR compliant. Matomo has some spectacular features, as well as an interesting pricing structure.
- If you know GA3, Matomo will make sense right out of the box, they follow the same philosophy and approach.
- The killer feature, from our perspective, is Matomo can import your existing GA3 data, creating a seamless transition and allowing you to capture and save your past data. We have used the import feature (it requires setting up a little Google app and connecting some variables – Matomo provides detailed instructions) and it worked as designed, which we thought was amazing.
- As we mentioned, data in Matomo is segmented into a Dashboard, Visitors data, Behavior, Acquisition and Goals. But that is only the start.
- The system has a marketplace where you can enhance and customize your analytics options, adding things like A/B testing (an alternative to Google Optimize or Unbounce), Heatmaps and Session Recording (an alternative to Hotjar) and a range of other options allowing you to consolidate multiple systems into one. Matomo even has their own version of tag manager, as well.
- Fully GDPR compliant, you can own, control and even store your data locally.
- Custom goals and events, visitor funnels, custom reports and more. Detailing every feature and capability is a challenge because there is so much!
- Matomo has two options for how to use their system: On-Premise and Cloud. With On-Premise you dedicate a server to Matomo, their system is installed automatically, and then use of their base analytics product (with no custom enhancements or extensions) is completely free. Or they can host it for you, costing from $23 to $200.
- Note: Their pricing is based on “Hits” which is a datapoint we thought was dead. This means that “events” count as a hit, as do pageviews etc. They do provide guidance on how to estimate your monthly hits, as well as a way to create a custom hit report in Matomo as well.
- If you self-host you have unlimited amounts of websites, users, segments, goals and up to 100 dimensions.
- If you pay for hosting this is more controlled, but can include up to 30 sites, 30 users, and limits on total segments and goals (but still more than Google offered).
As we mentioned above, if you self-host this system can be free: it will not have all of the bells and whistles, but it is very close to what you got from GA3 for free. If it is hosted, that removes a lot of the complications, but there are more limitations.
The potential of the marketplace, however, is immense, although to be clear these costs are for self-hosted. We did a quick comparison of the costs to add specific enhancements to Matomo and found them to be very competitive, for example:
- Matomo Heat Maps & Session Recording: $229 per year
- Hotjar cost: $99 per month or $960 per year
While the website can be a little confusing, with options for On-premises and cloud storage (and even a WordPress only version) , once you have identified the best approach for you setup is pretty simple but would benefit from a technical person/developer being involved. Importing data from Google analytics is very doable, but you do need to access the Google API and create a tiny app to push the data to Matomo. Finally, as this is a French company the hosted solution would have your data stored in France, which may not be ideal, but the self-hosted solution is so affordable we believe that any organization could justify the cost of a server to store your data.
Feel free to reach out, we would be happy to provide guidance or a quote to help you get your new analytic setup and running.
- Secure a server and install/setup Matomo
- Assist you with customizing Matomo or Fathom, to reflect the KPI’s you care about
- If you decide to stick with Google Analytics 4, but want somebody else to implement it for you, we can prepare a quote for that as well.