Google Analytics is powerful, relatively easy to use, and free. The close integration between GA and other Google services, like Google Webmaster Tools, an essential for search engine optimization, makes GA even more compelling. And, of course, Google is the best in the world where data analytics is concerned. All of which makes GA the obvious choice for the majority of site owners. If Google Analytics has a limitation, it’s that highly sensitive data is being shared with Google. Some are fine with that, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with sharing data in return for a service, but many would prefer to own and control their analytics data.
In fact, data ownership is a founding principle of the IndieWeb movement, which aims to encourage people to take control of their web presence and avoid a complete reliance on third-party services. It’s not a Stallmanesque exercise in online asceticism, recognizing that external services like Google, Facebook, and so on are an essential part of most people’s online life, but it does advocate for a self-hosted location as a hub of online communication. That hub requires analytics, and it would be contrary to choose GA or a similar hosted SaaS service.
Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives to Google Analytics that can be self-hosted on virtual private servers or dedicated servers. OWA (Open Web Analytics) is an excellent choice, but in this article, I’d like to take a quick look at Piwik, a mature open source analytics tool that can, for the most part, replace Google Analytics.
While Piwik is not 100 percent feature compatible with GA, it does include many of the most important analytics tools that webmasters rely on, and it provides an elegant and intuitive dashboard.
Some of Piwik’s headline features are:
- A customizable dashboard with real-time data updates.
- Specialized eCommerce analytics.
- Event tracking, goal conversion tracking, custom variables, and row evolution.
- Integration with WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal.
- Unlimited users and websites.
- Most common analytics data types, including keywords, user geolocation, browser type, device type, engagement, and bounce rates.
All-in-all Piwik is a highly capable analytics platform. It’s also fairly straightforward to install on any web standard web server that runs PHP. If you want to take a look at Piwik in action, check out the demo.