Avinaush Kashik, digital marketing and analytics guru says that traditional data analytics is dead. “You know you live in the world of Web Insights when you realize that every piece of data you look at drives action and not just action but action that adds to whatever bottom line Outcomes that our companies are trying to achieve for our company customers.” (Kausik, 2006)

In small business, including entrepreneurs, the main tool in the digital world these days is a website. Hopefully, if you’re serious about doing business, you have a website. A secondary presence in the digital world is social media, followed by blogging, which is actually a form of social media. Both of these are often used not only to build a following of loyal fans and customers, but to drive traffic to your website. If you own a retail business, you might have an online store on your website. If you are a nonprofit, you may have educational content and a donation form on your site. Whatever your business goals and objectives are, your website can support that.

Ok, so now you have a website. You’re engaged on social media. How do people find your site? How do you know who is visiting your site and what they are doing once they get there?

The most effective way to manage both time and financial resources when it comes to doing business online is to measure, measure, measure. Data analytics are powerful sources of information that can help steer your business direction to help you achieve your goals.

There are numerous online data analytics tools on the market these days. Large corporate businesses use sophisticated data analytics tools but for small businesses, tools specific to reviewing and analyzing website traffic can be most helpful. There are even many free tools available.

When selecting an analytics tool, many people first turn to Google Analytics because, for one, its free, and another reason is the Google brand. Google Analytics is quite powerful actually and provides a number of useful reports including web traffic details such as location of visitor, time on site, device and operating system they used, and source of how they arrived at the site, including social media traffic.

The real power of Google Analytics comes from setting up goals.  There are four different types of goals that can be set:

• Destination: the user reaches a specified web page or app screen.
• Duration: the user spends a specified minimum amount of time on your site or app.
• Pages/Screens per session: the user views a specified minimum number of pages or screens.
• Event: the user conducts a specified action.

Using the defined goals along with marketing campaigns, Google Analytics can provide detailed information to help to determine whether or not one’s marketing efforts are successful or not.

So what’s NOT so great about Google Analytics?

Well, there are limits to the analytics capabilities, there is a learning curve in setting up and learning how to use the tools, and the dashboard isn’t quite as user friendly as others.  Google states their data limits as, “To protect the system from receiving more data than it can handle, and to ensure an equitable distribution of system resources, certain limits have been put in place. Our policies are as follows and are subject to change.” (Google)

The software is continually being updated by Google and that is a good thing but can add to the frustration for a new user when things change.

One other drawback that many people might not have an issue with but for me, in a world of constantly being tracked and marketed to, it is important to know that the “FREE” part of Google Analytics is that by putting the tracking code into your website to discover the analytics, you are also sharing all of your data with Google.

Alternatives to Google Analytics:

There are many other analytics tools on the market that compete with GA, some free, or for a small fee.  Some are available for download to host on your own server and some are cloud based.

After hours of research on the many different options, I considered, Open Web Analytics, Bitly (yes, its more than a url shortener which actually works with GA,) and Clicky, one of the more popular tools and selected Piwik as my go to analytics program.

The main reasons I selected Piwik is the user friendly and customizable dashboard, the real time analytics and the fact that my data is not shared with anyone.

The software is part of the free open source concept and Piwik does not charge for its use. To learn more about open source software, visit the Free Software Federation site. 

I have read both pro and con reviews with each preferring one over the other. One reviewer compared both programs and found extreme differences in page view statistics, only to discover that GA was including spam views into the data numbers. “According to Piwik, my blog has drawn at most 11 page views each day of the two and a half weeks under observation. Google Analytics, on the other hand, reports three days with almost 50 page views! “ (Marder, 2016) He recommends Piwik.

Another reviewer who has been a long time Piwik user recommended Google Analytics after making a number of areas of comparison including real time visitors, custom reporting, date filters and pdf exports.

“Points of consideration
• Ease of use – Google Analytics
• Features – Google Analytics
• Data manipulation – Google Analytics
• Easy to setup – Google Analytics
• Custom segmentation – Google Analytics
• Third party integrations – Google Analytics
• Additional goodies – Google Analytics
• Data ownership – Piwik” (Ajay, 2016)

Since I am new to analytics and have not yet invested the time in either of the  programs, I am basing my opinion solely on research, not experience.

I spent some time on the Piwik website learning about the features which include not only the real time updates and customizable dashboard but custom revenue conversion tracking in goals, and detailed ecommerce tracking and reports. I found the instructions for setting up ecommerce tracking for both GA and Piwik and the presentation of the instructions, like the Piwik dashboard, to me, seems much clearer and user friendly. Click here to GA ecommerce set up, and this for Piwik instructions.

Click here to learn more about Piwik.

Resources

Images from Piwik.

Google. (n.d.) Google Analytics Collection Limits and Quotas. Retrieved from https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/analyticsjs/limits-quotas

Marder, A. (2016). Piwik vs. Google Analytics. Retrieved from https://amarder.github.io/analytics/

Ajay, M. (2016, August 15). Piwik vs Google Analytics. A detailed review. Zen Incognito.Retrieved from https://zenincognito.com/piwik-vs-google-analytics-a-detailed-review/

Kaushik, A. (2006, May 15). Traditional Web Analytics is Dead. Occam’s Razor.
Retrieved from http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/traditional-web-analytics-is-dead/