I don’t know of a digital marketing agency or even anyone who is using an analytics program for their website who is not using Google Analytics. It is free, the interface is relatively easy to understand, and the majority of searches in the US are performed via Google so why not trust the source?
Recently a client came to us looking to track visits from a very specific location and it wasn’t possible to do that in Google Analytics. Research revealed that there were other possibilities, but the one we liked the most was Piwik. It is an open source analytics program and the basic service is free. It’s possible to run both programs simultaneously so we thought we’d give it a shot.
Google Analytics and Piwik have many common elements including extensive reporting, customizable date ranges, automatic report generation and a supported mobile app. There are some significant differences, however, which I have mapped out below.
|hosting||remote – google owns the data||on your server or their cloud – you own data|
|privacy||data collected is transferred to third party (Google)||data remains on your server or cloud|
|data lag time||1-2 hours for small site
up to 24 hours for large site
|up to the minute|
|white label option||no||yes|
|multiple sites||can only view one site per report||can view multiple sites in reports|
|adwords integration||automatic||must set up tracking|
|date range comparison||can compare data from different date ranges||cannot compare date ranges|
|geographic identification||only to city level||integrates with geographic identification software (which must be installed separately) to identify down to zip code level|
Piwik can be hosted on your web server at no charge, or on Piwik’s cloud for a fee. You own and control the data. Google Analytics is hosted by Google and they have total access to your data.
We found in our test run that the addition of Piwik put enough strain on our web server that it noticeably increased load times. Beefing up our server’s CPU and RAM solved the issue, but this extra expense should be factored into the overall cost of this “free” service.
Because Piwik is open source, you have access to the code and can write plug-ins or even modify it. That is not possible with Google Analytics, although plug-ins are available.
Recent EU data privacy laws require your site to have a notice and an opt-out provision if the data collected is transferred to a 3rd party, which is the case with Google Analytics. No notice is necessary with Piwik.
Although generally less, Google states that it can take 24 hours for all data to appear in reports. Data is available almost instantly in Piwik.
Piwik can generate white-labeled reports, including those automatically generated. Google Analytics does not have this feature.
Managing Multiple Sites
For companies with multiple sites, such as a separate e-commerce site, Piwik allows you to view data from all sites at once. Google Analytics does not.
Because they are both Google properties, AdWords data is automatically integrated into Analytics. Piwik requires you to set up tracking for AdWords as well as other PPC campaigns.
Both programs allow you to set varied date ranges, from a single day to a range. In Google Analytics you can compare your range to the previous period, year or custom date range. This makes comparing trends much easier than in Piwik.
With the installation of software such as GeoIP, Piwik can identify location down to the zip code and these users can be filtered for analysis and comparison. Google Analytics does not integrate with this type of software.
After running both programs for a few weeks, I find that I prefer Piwik. The data is easy to understand and reports are easy to generate. The inability to compare date ranges is a major issue, however, so I will not be removing Google Analytics code from our sites any time soon.
Digital marketing, SEO, and analytics can be so confusing it can be overwhelming. Ridge Marketing is a full service advertising agency with extensive web design and marketing experience. Get in touch and we can help.