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Finding an alternative to Google Analytics in Piwik

Posted by daniel at Aug 24, 2012 04:40 PM |
Piwik is a free (and open source) software alternative to Google Analytics, and it compares quite favourably too!

The recent "Cookie law" forced me to look more closely at the subject of web analytics.

To be honest I hadn't paid much attention to my web stats when it was on Google Analytics. Can I say that I found it difficult to work out what I was meant to do with some of the functionality, and I didn't have the time to work out how to make it do what I thought it should?!  So... I just left it unused!

Then, when the cookie law raised it's head,  I discovered that Google Analytics use of cookies was not exactly "whiter than white" in the eyes of the ICO (more info here), and also importantly it didn't have any way for website visitors to opt-out of using cookies. 

This being so, I decided to look alternatives, and I'm glad to say that I found a more than viable one in Piwik. :-)

Piwik Web Analytics

So, shall we keep it simple?...  How about a quick list of pros & cons?

Pros

  • Maybe my brain works the wrong way (no comments please), but I find that Piwik has a simpler interface that is easier to understand than Google Analytics. Setting goals is a breeze!
  • Instant webstats! - Or "Real-time visitor information" means that I can see who is on the site right now, not just yesterday.  Updates to stats happen every 10 seconds.  This is another thing that makes configuring Piwik easy for the SEO layman.
  • It works with the UK cookie law (from v1.8) - a bit of javascript work and the addition of the very helpful CookieCutter, we implemented webstats solution on our site that allowed users to opt out of cookies with us losing all record of their visit! (Kudos & thanks go to 2ndfloor for CookieCutter!)

Cons

  • Separate hosting maybe required - which is not free :-(  Piwik is a PHP solution that can be quite memory hungry, so it might not sit nicely next to your website in the some hosting package.
  • It is noticeable that in Piwik's listing of search keywords the phrase "Keyword not defined" shows up a lot.  Actually, this happens because of Google's "secure search" changes in early 2012 - a problem that affects all web analytics tools, even Google Analytics (though GA can be linked to Webmaster Tools to offset this somewhat)
  • Piwik is open source software created by volunteers, so it might not have all the functionality that you like in Google Analytics - but for me, I'm happy!

 

I should say, that Google Analytics was updated in July, just after my move to Piwik - but that was too late for me, and I'm still happy now with Piwik

If you need help setting up either of Piwik or Google Analytics for your website, please do get in touch!