Why I am Dropping Google Analytics in 2013 – Piwik, Here I Come!

So, for 2013, I have officially dropped Google Analytics off of The Google Cache. There are a couple of reasons behind the decision, so I wanted to go ahead and drop them here…

1. It is not my data to give away. It took me a while to come to this conclusion. I always looked at Google Analytics as a trade off. I will let Google know about my site in exchange for a better way to visualize the usage on my site. But something kept nagging – and that was the reality that Google is not in the Analytics game for your site’s data. They are in the game for your users’ data. Chances are, your users have no idea that Google is collecting their usage data as they move through your site, and they definitely don’t understand the consequences of it. I think I deserve to know what my users are doing on my site, but do I deserve to be able to sell their data to a third party (in exchange for software)? That seems like a stretch.

2. It might help your competitor’s ad campaigns. If Google knows a user has been on your site, what is to keep them from retargeting advertisements for your competitors in the future based on that data point? I haven’t looked into this possibility at all, but I have a nagging suspicion it is one of the reasons why Google offers such a powerful tool set openly and freely.

3. Google Analytics doesn’t expose the raw data I hate having to go back to raw logs to try and understand exactly what is going on in a campaign.

4. Google Analytics is a closed environment If I want to tie rankings or links data into my analytics, I have to export the analytics data into either 3rd party software or a spreadsheet. I’d prefer to be able to improve the analytics program directly.

5. Information Parity As petty as this sounds, if Google isn’t going to give me the keywords from their site, why should I give them my entire site’s usage data? Why should I trust Google with my data when they won’t trust me with such a small amount of theirs? Why does Google think their users need to be protected from me, but for some reason I think my users don’t need to be protected from Google?

So, what is the replacement? Piwik

Piwik is a fairly robust open source analytics software. It is highly extensible which means I and my team can mod it to our hearts desire. Hopefully by this time next year we will have a unique, Piwik-powered SEO/Analytics hybrid which we can use on clients’ sites.

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  1. Tre
    Dec 26, 2012

    I agree completely, and I think it’s a fight worth having. I’d really like to get GA off our sites (we run it in parallel to Omniture now as a backup data source).

    Good luck getting clients to adopt a proprietary analytics solutions—that’s a tough sell.

  2. admin
    Dec 26, 2012

    That is why I think Piwik is a strong opportunity. It is free and open source. They can host their data however they like, wherever they like, how long as they like, etc. Cost of hosting is the only thing to worry about.

  3. Spencer Padway
    Dec 26, 2012

    I hadn’t really thought about that, but it’s true. Google is hiding more and more information from us, but it still uses 100% of the information from our site.
    It would be a difficult movement, but the only way to get them to open up (not provided) again would be to get a mass movement away from their products and towards others.
    I am interested to hear you experience with Piwik and what other alternatives there are.

  4. Alan Bleiweiss
    Dec 26, 2012

    Can Piwick effortlessly show date-range based breakdowns of organic visits, or effortlessly show me what Google sees for page speeds, or effortlessly show me organic conversion goal data? Or do you need a professional developer to even begin to get the code in place to show that data? Because if there’s one thing I despise about Omniture and most every other analytics “solution” is how painful it is to get the most important data snapshots I need to do my audit work. For all the downsides to Google Analytics, its’ the ONLY solution that I’ve found to be brilliant at providing me that specific data…

  5. admin
    Dec 26, 2012

    Not sure yet, figuring it all out. If it doesn’t, ill write a plug in and release it.

  6. Kevin
    Dec 27, 2012

    If you’ve got a site with any more than 10,000 uniques per day, you’ll be in for a nice treat with Piwik.

    It’s nice and all, but not worth the headache. Trust me.

  7. admin
    Dec 27, 2012

    That is what I plan on fixing.

  8. pascal
    Dec 28, 2012

    There are users tracking 1M page views per day on Piwik so it can work if you have a good dedicated server. See: http://piwik.org/docs/optimize/

    Good luck using Piwik!

  9. admin
    Dec 28, 2012

    The biggest concern is that making it happen tends to rely on heavy usage of archiving features. If we want to work with the data readily, we may require some changes.

  10. Troy
    Dec 28, 2012

    I was tangentally involved in the building of a custom click-tracker for an enterprise that received around a million clicks a day. It was suffering the same problems Piwik does: namely relying on MySQL’s slow inserts. We used MongoDB for the archiving and then set up a script to insert the MongoDB data into MySQL at the maximum speed MySQL could handle. The important thing was it was never too fast, so MySQL never fell into that data K-hole that it can so often find itself in. It took an afternoon for me and the sysadmin to build it. Data was about 6 hours behind, which isn’t bad given the size of the system. I wonder if the same would be possible as a plugin for piwik.

  11. admin
    Dec 31, 2012

    im interested in making a solution that could work for everyone though with as little out of the box mod as necessary. really digging the idea of using memSQL. Free up to 32GB databases and would require no changes to core piwik code. Servers will need a lot if RAM to make truly fast but there will always be a cost associated there.

  12. Panks
    Jan 2, 2013

    I completely agree the points you have made out their in the post . And i want to use “Piwik ” on my all the sites , but i build my all 6 websites with wordpress , and have vary little knowledge of My Sql and other , n more over didn’t find any information on “Piwik” for the wordpress or the other CMS.

  13. Adrian
    Jan 2, 2013

    Congratulations first of all, you wrestled with an idea, came to a conclusion and then did it. Kudos for that.

    I too have similar conflicting opinions. I totally agree with your sentiments on giving data and getting (relatively) not that much in return.

    With so much to do, anything that is easy is the path with least resistance and that is why we stay with Google products. When they join up WMT and GA and other services, the little data given joined with other bits of data ALMOST tell a full story.

    Will check out your chosen provider too. However, any more setups, hostings, databases, configurations will be put in the do later pile (unfortunately).

    Easy and Free isnt really Free is it and finding an alternative has a different cost.

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. Dev Basu
    Jan 2, 2013

    Like the others, I’m mostly concerned about running Piwik on a site that has a ton of data related (page views and events in the millions). This doesn’t make me trust Google at all though, but moving to Omniture is even more painful that living with GA.

  15. Greg
    Jan 2, 2013

    Is there a open source link analysis tool, thanks plenty for the info on the piwik will give it a go

  16. admin
    Jan 2, 2013

    Absolutely. The only way piwik is going to get better thou is with adoption and support. It is open source. There is no such thing as free lunch, we are just paying with our users right now instead of our money, dev hours, and technical support.

  17. admin
    Jan 2, 2013

    Not open source, no, but nearly all providers of link data have some free version, all be it scaled back drastically.

  18. Privacy
    Jan 2, 2013

    Btw if you wish to really protect your sites from google, you should also remove these google +1 buttons since they also can be mined by google! 😉


  19. admin
    Jan 2, 2013

    Yep, was thinking about that too. Doing now.

  20. mike campolattano
    Jan 3, 2013

    We are developing Piwik now for our clients as well and will be using it exclusively within the next 30 days. From my perspective since we are changing the way we report to clients and moving to more core business metrics to show ROI, so should the way we see perceive data. Piwik gives us an open platform to develop and create an analytics platform that we can be proud of.

  21. mike campolattano
    Jan 3, 2013

    @PANKS You just put the Piwik code into you sites header in the WordPress admin and that’s it.. Piwik works just like GA in that respect.

  22. Kit
    Jan 3, 2013

    So you’re impressed with Piwik enough to switch over, but aren’t nice enough to send them a link? C’mon…

  23. admin
    Jan 3, 2013

    Thanks for calling me out! Fixed!

  24. Daniele
    Jan 4, 2013

    As a long time piwik user, I’ve seen it grow to a really satisfying level. Now they are asking to support development through crowdfunding. I think it’d be nice if you could make a donation or give some visibility to their initiative. See http://crowdfunding.piwik.org/
    disclaimer: I am not affiliated with piwik in any way, I am just a satisfied user

    Will Do
  25. Ras
    Jan 4, 2013

    I would recommend taking a peek at Clicky.com
    Use it on quite a few sites and love their UI. Cheap too..

  26. admin
    Jan 7, 2013

    I like clicky, and actually wrote about using it in viral campaigns here to do real time campaign optimization. However, it still requires that a third party gain access to my visitor’s data. While I think clicky is far less likely to use that data in a nefarious way than Google, I still would rather my users know that their data is safe with me.

  27. Sameer
    Jan 11, 2013

    I believe most of your limitations point to the free version of GA. The premium version offers most of what you are suggesting. Here is an infographic for your reference

    and here is a link to Google Analytics premium feature set.


    Author Response: First, clearly, GA Premium is not free at over $10,000/month. Second, more importantly, you are still giving your users over to Google.
  28. searchengineman
    Jan 24, 2013

    You have tres cojjonnes…, I can’t imagine cutting the leash..(Ask me when Not Provided is at 80%) mayber.. But does Piwik have the ability to filter and process UNIQUE visitors..?? And they discussed the problem of URL tagging not being picked up as well, in the reviews..


  29. Graciella
    May 29, 2013

    I just dumped GA from all my sites as well as ditched Google Webmaster Tools. At the end of the month, I’m also getting rid of Google AdSense. Sick and tired of the Big G who, I think, do a lot more evil than they’re letting on.

    So…..I’m breaking away completely. I’ve started on the affiliate path instead and let’s just say, with just a few weeks of experience, I’m making eight to ten times the money I was making with Google AdSense. As for Google Analytics, I never liked it anyway so it’s not something I’m going to miss 🙂

    Frankly, I don’t trust Google one single iota, so the less information they have about my sites the better.

  30. Casper
    Jun 12, 2013

    Yes do see your point.

    For quite a while i have been thinking about the data sharing with google in analytics.

    I do think its a wonderfull service and there is many of my clients that use it – but what is that data used for ?

    Could it be used to determine that i have too many bounces, and therefor get bumped down in the listings ?
    Or perhaps it will show that my users are bit less active than my competitor and there for i will get bumped down ?
    ( that might work the other way allso )

    But I don’t like the idea and would love to see if anyone know anything about such data sharing problems.

    That why i havent used analytics for more than a year now.

  31. Namie
    Jul 14, 2013

    I agree with you on so many points, for a marketing guy Analytics may work, but for tech admins it does, you need to look and analyze the raw data coming from your web server, for example Apache logs. Its the only way to know exactly what is happening in your server, in particular if errors are up or things are working like they should.

    You made a HUGE point, Google hides the keywords their users type to get to your website, so why are we supposed to trust Google if they don´t trust us?

    Analytics was Urchin, a commercial software, you could host it and use on your server and for some reason Google killed it and only prefers hosting it for you. Why? I let that for conspiracy theorists, but there is a reason why Google gives if for free and wants 100% control on your data.

    I dropped Analytics for a long time now for Piwik as well.

  32. Danny
    Aug 4, 2013

    My own experience with Google Analytics is that the visits, page views and a whole host of related data are way off!

    I have times when I have plenty of traffic active on the site ‘reading and commenting” and Google Analytics looks like a Ghost town!

    A while back I ranked for a pile of “large volume – exact match keyword terms( near top and middle of page one) and every other Analysis tool I tried had picked up a spike of traffic coming through, except for Google Analytics.

    Google Webmaster tools was going into Meltdown, but Still Google Analytics did not come to the party, and showed almost zilch site activity change.

    So, I think I’ll be joining you over on Piwik, as at this point I believe they should be a worthy substitute for Google Analytics.


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