Lessons learned: upgrading visitor privacy with Matomo Analytics
Google Analytics is hard to beat: it’s super easy to implement, it’s the market standard for analytics, it provides valuable insights and on top of that, it’s free.
That being said, Google Analytics comes with a hidden cost. Google Analytics has become ubiquitous and with that, so has Google surveillance.
For a long time, it was hard to find a good alternative to Google Analytics. But now, Matomo Analytics (formerly Piwik) deserves your serious consideration if you value your visitor’s privacy (and your own).
Note: I’m not affiliated with- or paid by any of the companies discussed in this article (Matomo & Google).
Why it’s time to upgrade visitor privacy
Google’s market dominance
In June 2020, Google Analytics is (BuiltWith, 2020):
- 87,47% of the top 10.000 pages use Google Analytics
- 87,33% of the top 100.000 pages use Google Analytics
- 68,76% of the top 1.000.000 pages use Google Analytics
This means that all these pages let Google know you’re visiting it. And this not only applies websites. Google Analytics can also be found in mobile applications, emails, video games, desktop applications and Internet Of Things devices (source).
In the European Union, GDPR has been implemented to protect the personal data and free movement of such data. Whether you agree with the risk of market dominance in this scenario, European law now more responsibility with regards to personal data.
Being a good host means respecting user privacy
If you value your visitors, the least you can do is try to provide them with a safe space. If they are paying for your product, it’s your duty.
Define requirements: how much data do you really need?
Don’t just implement a tool, think about it for a minute:
- How much data does Google collect for you?
- How much of that do you use?
- How much data do you actually own?
Lessons learned from switching to Matomo
Basically the implementation of Matomo Analytics is very similar to Google Analytics. In both cases it’s done with a single line of code in your website or application. The only difference is that there’s two options for Matomo: 1) a self-hosted installation or 2) a Matomo Cloud installation. I would suggest to use the self-hosted option to have full control and ownership of the collected data.
Benefits of Matomo
- You control the system, you own the data
- Analytics can run on the same domain, making implementing a Content Security Policy much easier
- It offers a great user experience and mobile application
- Great control over data retention periods, what gets collected and how and to what degree data gets anonymized. It’s specifically geared towards GDPR compliance.
- No search engine spam!
Downsides of Matomo
- It’s not free (you either pay for a server + maintenance, or a cloud subscription).
- For self-hosted installations, some functionality comes at a premiums (e.g. keyword analysis, funnels, heatmaps, A/B testing, ..)
- If your marketeer does most of the coding, he’ll need to learn how to code. There’s not a lot of copy-paste biolerplate code available yet.
Verdict (updated August 2020)
Matomo is the best alternative to Google Analytics I’ve tried thus far and I would recommend it if you take privacy seriously. Although there are definitely differences with Google Analytics, Matomo Analytics works just as fine, or even better, to gain the insights needed from a marketing and business perspective. I’m sure the avid Google Analytics user will need some time to get used to Matomo, but the degree of customisation possible with Matomo is unparalleled.
In practice I’ve seen that having hard evidence that no data leaves your servers drastically reduces customer concerns about data processing (not only in the European Union). Even if it’s just on your marketing website, using Matomo will leave a great first impression!