Why We Dropped Google Analytics and Switched to Privacy-First Website Analytics for our Clients
It's not that we were overly frustrated with Google Analytics. Sure, it's interface is overly complex and it's difficult for our clients to get the data they need. Of course it's also slow to load—and it does impact your site speed. But the one thing that I firmly believe we all should be paying closer attention to is our privacy. So one of the most important services we offer to our clients is privacy-friendly website analytics. Meaning—NOT Google Analytics.
It's quite incredible how much the large organizations like Google, Facebook, Amazon (and so many others) know about us. I think our Internet browsing experience should be something that no other companies are privy to. It's frankly none of their business (although, ironically it's exactly what their business is based upon, so that kinda makes it their "business").
About a year and a half ago we started using an open-source website analytics system for our clients called Plausible. Unlike Google Analytics, it's not only much easier for clients to access useful data, it's completely private.
So what exactly is wrong with using Google Analytics in 2022?
Quite a lot, as matter of fact.
Google Analytics Can Be Illegal
On December 22, 2021, the Austrian Data Protection Authority determined that Google Analytics violates GDPR, making it illegal to use (details are here.) In early February, the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) agreed. Experts believe other authorities will follow.
GDPR (the "General Data Protection Regulation") was established by European governments and applies to all websites with any European traffic. Even North American clients that only have an occasional European visitor are in direct violation of the GDPR law and can be subject to fines up to €20 million if they use Google Analytics.
The reason is that Google Analytics takes personal and specific user data out of the EU to process it via servers in the US. Even "cookie consent banners" and IP anonymization don't solve this problem. These "workarounds" don't alter the fact that data still leaves the EU to be processed by Google's US-based servers.
If that isn't scary enough, using Google Analytics opens your business to the headache of GDPR complaints. At best, these require time and attention to address. At worst, they could require legal counsel and crippling legal fees.
Google became the de facto standard for web analytics because it is both comprehensive and FREE to use. But it’s not really free. The price we pay is our data. And that data is far more valuable to Google than any amount of our money.
Google Analytics misses almost 50% of traffic
Changing attitudes to online privacy has seen 43% of online users adding ad blockers. Ad blockers are not unique to European web visitors either: ad blockers hide North American visitors, too.
Google Analytics can't circumvent these extensions, so about 50% of website traffic is just lost. That's why we can never make the numbers add up in GA, and that's why GA analytics data is confusing. Without data on every visitor, optimizing websites and product offerings is based on incomplete, inaccurate data.
Easy to Access and Understand Analytics
Our website analytics platform of choice is Plausible. Plausible is lightweight and open source web analytics that requires no cookies and is fully compliant with GDPR.
With it we can create a super-simple (and therefore easy to get the data one might need) analytics dashboards for our customers. They are available as soon as our client logs into their own website.
OUR Clients own their website data
The best part though is that we can collect this information without collecting any personal data or personally identifiable information (PII), and without using cookies. All measurement is done absolutely anonymously. All data is in aggregate only.
The company that produces this system does not come from the adtech world. They do not share, sell or send website data to any advertising companies or any other third-parties. The website data is not monetized, mined and harvested for personal and behavioral trends. That's not their business model.
Our customers own and control 100% of their website traffic data. Your website data is not shared with advertising companies or any other companies in general. Their website data is not sent to any third-parties, it's not mined and harvested for personal and behavioral trends and it's not monetized.
Because of this, not only is the site faster to load (the script that does the tracking is 45X smaller in size!), it's tracking data is usually more accurate. The reason?
More Accurate Analytics
Many people have had enough banner advertising, retargeting and remarketing messages and behavioral profiling such that they now use an ad blocker (like AdBlocker or uBlock Origin) or use a privacy-focused browser (Vivaldi is great!). The Google Analytics script is blocked by many ad blockers (over 50% of people are not tracked regularly due to these browsers).
Included in Website-as-a-Service (along with everything else!)
We take seriously our responsibility to protect, advise, and guide our clients, and to be a good custodian of the websites we manage.
Unlike Google our privacy-friendly website analytics system is not free. However, we still bundle it into Website-as-a-Service (our all-inclusive website marketing plan).