What’s the best alternative to Google Analytics?
It’s a commonly asked question with no one “universal” answer for all cases. There are literally hundreds of potential alternatives to GA, but at the same time there is no single alternative that matches exactly what GA can do. While we might think of GA as being the simple default of web analytics tools — it is anything but basic. It is certainly the ubiquitous default tool, yet it has also has a wide range of abilities and can be used for many different tasks. There is an implicit “for me” tacked on to the end of that question that makes giving one single answer not possible.
To answer this question for our own unique use case, we first need to figure out which tracking and reporting functions are actually requirements. Maybe all we need is something super simple that counts visitors and pageviews and where they came from. Or perhaps we’re looking for a full product analytics suite that can unify reporting across both mobile app and web platforms.
Next we’ll need to identify which products fit those requirements, and determine what the essential questions are to narrow down that list of options. This can be a challenging task, and has lead many people to stick with GA rather than doing the work to investigate other possibilities.
My book on Google Analytics alternatives is designed to help you create a decision framework and help you answer this question.
I’ve evaluated the following alternatives, split up into into three different general categories:
Traditional Web Analytics (most similar to Google Universal Analytics) including:
Matomo Cloud, Piwik Pro, Clicky
Simplified Web Analytics (pageview-based like traditional web analytics, but with less data collected by design) including:
Cloudflare Web Analytics, Statcounter, Chartbeat, Fathom, Plausible Analytics, Visitor Analytics.
I selected these 15 products by choosing the most widely deployed tools that could potentially be used to replace GA. I also required that the tools had a self-service version available so I could test all 15 with live website data, not just demos or test data. This excluded a couple widely used alternatives including Adobe Analytics.
All of these alternatives are widely deployed, with 1,000 or more installations among the top 1M websites (data provided by BuiltWith). Each of these 15 is potentially the best for someone depending upon what they need. I also consider the possibility that GA4 may be the best option going forward, or GA4 plus one of the other alternatives.
About the Book
Who is it for?
The book is aimed at professional analysts with experience in GA3. It’s not highly technical, but it does assume the reader has knowledge of things like: third-party vs. first-party cookies, conceptually how tag managers work, basic analytics instrumentation, etc. I believe it’s accessible to readers with a wide level of technical expertise, but it is ultimately a tech book and not a business book.
What’s in it?
The book is split into two parts. Part one is general background about web analytics, with a focus on establishing a decision making framework. For example, it defines what implicit vs. explicit event tracking is and when you might want one vs. the other. Part two is product evaluations of 15 different tools, including GA4.
These tools run the gamut from simple to complex. Cloudflare doesn’t even have events, versus Snowplow which is a robust data creation and pipelining platform. Both Cloudflare and Snowplow show up on lists of “Google Analytics Alternatives”, but they are incredibly different. It’s like comparing Windows Notepad to the LaTeX platform Overleaf. Both might be considered word processors in the broadest sense of the term, but they are used in very different circumstances. The former is trivial to use and can’t do very much, whereas only specialists have likely even heard of the latter – but it’s incredibly powerful and is the tech powering more content than you might expect. To extend this metaphor a bit more, GA3 is Microsoft Word in this situation: ubiquitous and used by both professional writers editing a 400 page book as well as your uncle to send you his chili recipe. Both Notepad and Overleaf might be alternatives to Word, but they aren’t competitors to each other.
To know what tool makes the most sense, we have to get a grip first on the scale and scope of what we’re trying to do. Then we have to understand what tool fits in with our use case. That’s what my book tries to do!