I decided to ‘de-Google’ this website and look for a free alternative to Google Analytics back in 2020. Here are the reasons I shut GA down, and became a paying customer of Plausible Analytics.
Disclaimer: this is NOT a sponsored post. I’m just a happy customer.
Why abandon Google Analytics?
For my own needs, Google Analytics just has too much stuff. It’s as if Google is trying to dazzle us with hundreds of micro-things to monitor, and ultimately become some weird kind of data-junkies.
There might be a lot of people who ‘need’ to monitor hundreds of metrics, but I usually tend to monitor the same old dozen of things (users, pageviews, bounce rate, exit rate, referral traffic, average duration on page, custom events, and a few others). See Plausible’s metrics here.
Also, more and more browsers and ad-blockers are preventing GA from loading, rendering it almost useless (see this blog post by Xavier Decuyper, for example). This is likely because Google treats visitors as a product. It attempts to track and label visitors across multiple devices and in order to guess their interests, gender, age, etc., and then use this data for commercial purposes.
It’s as if Google thinks that if you don’t have anything to hide, it’s fine to invade your privacy. In exchange, they build great products that you can use for free… But while a Google Sheet only impacts me, Google Analytics affects my site’s visitors because they’re being used as a product.
Google also has a serious ethical problem (check the cases of Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, for example). It’s a pantagruelian data monster that almost everyone feeds and is fed to… And I tend to sympathize with underdogs who, unlike Google, actually do the right thing.
While searching for other privacy-friendly tools, or just alternatives to Google Analytics in general, I bumped into a few interesting solutions:
The main downside was either complexity or pricing (almost went for Clicky but I also wanted something to install on more websites), so I kept searching… Until I bumped into Plausible.
Enter Plausible Analytics
I just wanted something simple to track visitors without interfering too much, and I realized I’d have to pay in order to have something user-friendly and that would meet my needs.
So after looking at different solutions, I ended signing up for Plausible within a week, maybe less. It had most things I was looking for:
- Open-source analytics
- Lightweight (less than 1 Kb; Google Analytics is almost 50 Kb)
- Doesn’t share/sell your website’s data.
- Made in Europe (GDPR, CCPA and PECR compliant)
- You can self-host it (i.e. Plausible becomes free)
A bit more in detail, Plausible’s privacy-friendliness means that:
- No cookies are used
- No personal data is collected
- No connection to adtech
- No cross-site or cross-device tracking
- No persistent identifiers (i.e. you can’t see if the same user comes back to the website on a different day)
- It’s all open source: the site owners (me, you) are fully in control of the data collected
Cherry on top, it was the cheapest option I found, at $4/month (up to 10,000 across all my sites).
Also, I really liked that the Plausible team had a public, participative community, where users can check the roadmap and submit/comment feature requests.
It’s clear that the team works hard to improve their product, as well as respecting their customers’ feedback and feature requests.
Additional features include the option to make your dashboard public, and even embed it using an iframe.
Google vs Plausible: difference in numbers
Different tools may track users differently. I wanted to see how different the numbers would be between both platforms, so I left both scripts (Google and Plausible) active on my website for nearly a year.
During 2020, there were some significant differences between both, now apparently resolved. In any case, Plausible has been tracking an average 6% more traffic than Google for the past months.
That extra traffic could be for a variety of reasons. It can be referrer spam (on Plausible’s feature requests), browsers and/or extensions that block Google Analytics (for example, the Brave and Firefox browsers, as well as the uBlock Origin extension, block Google Analytics), etc.
It’s also worthy to highlight that respecting user privacy means not using persistent cookies. In other words, the only thing Plausible won’t help you with is retention metrics: measuring returning visitors means using persistent user identifiers, which goes against Plausible’s principles (check their data policy).
Anyway, check their own public demo at https://plausible.io/plausible.io and, if it suits you, consider giving it a go (their trial period is 30 days).
So long, Google Analytics
Summing up, I’m happy with the tool and the customer experience that the team behind Plausible is cultivating.
I’m still using Google Search Console to understand traffic coming from Google search. It does not require me to implement any script or install anything, though, and won’t track you on this website. So I’m not completely deGoogled yet, but this is an important step.
That’s it. I hope this article provided enough alternatives for you to make a good decision, in case you’re looking to stop using Google Analytics as well.
Useful Plausible links
- Public roadmap
- Feature requests
- More Plausible reviews
- How to de-Google your site to make it faster and visitor friendly by Marko Saric (co-founder of Plausible)