Google Analytics has long been the most popular analytics tool. Unfortunately, its use in the EU has started to raise a lot of concern as the restrictions regarding the use of personal data have become stricter. Data protection authorities have issued their statement against Google Analytics and the use of the basic Google Analytics version has already been declared illegal in France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, and Italy.
Due to the ongoing privacy scandals and tightening laws on personal data, many have started to consider alternatives to Google Analytics. There are several analytics tools, but Matomo and Piwik PRO have gained particular popularity in recent years. In this blog post, we will guide you into the world of these tools and look at how they compare to Google Analytics.
Matomo: an open-source analytics tool that guarantees data protection
Matomo is an open-source alternative to Google Analytics. It is currently used on approximately one million sites in 190 different countries.
Matomo’s biggest promises are complete data protection and ownership. While Google Analytics uses your data to improve Google Ads, Matomo guarantees that your data is not used for marketing purposes. Even if you choose Matomo Cloud, whose servers are located in Germany, your data is fully your own. Matomo’s promise is that your data will never be handed over to third parties.
Cloud vs. on-premise
In practice, Matomo offers two different solutions: a cloud service solution where Matomo takes care of running your service on its own servers, as well as an on-premise solution where the client manages the hosting themselves.
On-premise is the solution for those who want full control over their data. Installing it is not exactly simple and requires some technical know-how. There are, however, several reasons to choose on-premise: the solution is free and the user can decide on which server the data is collected. The service is customizable and scalable, as the amount of data is limited only by the server’s capacity.
If you choose the Cloud solution, your service is maintained on Matomo’s servers, in which case the monthly price is determined according to your site’s traffic. Matomo has a handy calculator where you can see what the monthly price would be for your website. The advantage of Cloud is that Matomo takes care of practically everything for you: updates are automatic and Matomo’s support team helps you when needed. Installing Cloud on the website is easy and very similar to installing Google Analytics.
Matomo Cloud is suitable for almost anyone (depending on the budget, of course). On-premise is the choice for a more technical person who wants to run the service on their own servers and use a tool as flexible and customizable as possible. Matomo has a good comparison chart for the different options.
Matomo promises versatile tools for digital marketing
Matomo also offers search engine optimization monitoring, A/B testing, and a heatmap tool that can be used to view site usage in detail. Although a heatmap is missing from Google’s selection, our opinion is that Google wins here over other tools. With Google, A/B testing, for example, is easily done with Google Optimize – which is easy to connect to analytics as well. However, Google recently announced that Optimize will be discontinued after September 2023.
Piwik PRO: More expensive than Matomo, but slightly more advanced
Matomo and Piwik PRO have a long history in common: the current Matomo was formerly called Piwik. Piwik PRO split into its own product and company in 2016.
Piwik PRO is designed for enterprise use and is therefore slightly more expensive than Matomo, but at the same time, it is more advanced and of higher quality. Piwik PRO offers more than Matomo, e.g. sites, custom dimensions, and segments. Unlike Matomo, Piwik Pro also offers calculated metrics – the ability to create your own metrics that best reflect your site’s traffic. The download speed of reports is also slightly better in comparison to Matomo. Piwik PRO also offers its user a ready-to-use cookie banner. This can be a nice addition since a separate plugin for cookies is no longer needed. However, due to their shared history, we don’t see significant differences between Matomo and Piwik PRO – the biggest differences clearly arise between these two and Google Analytics.
Matomo and Piwik PRO vs. Google Analytics 4
If you have read our previous blogs, you may know that we no longer recommend using the basic version of Google Analytics due to stricter personal data laws. That is why we have created a solution that makes it possible to collect data in Google Analytics completely anonymously, without the requirement for users to accept cookies. You can read more about anonymous server-side tracking here.
Google Analytics, Matomo and Piwik PRO all offer the possibility for cookieless tracking. Matomo and Piwik have their own means for this, while in Google Analytics, it is done by transferring the tracking to servers. Remember, however, that you still need cookies if you want access to all marketing data. The biggest difference between Matomo, Piwik PRO and Google is where the data is collected: when you want your user data to stay strictly within the EU – perhaps exclusively in your own organization – you should choose Matomo or Piwik PRO. Google’s servers are located in the United States, which is the cause of the whole data protection issue.
Google Analytics is free, but the real challenge is GDPR. If you want to track users for free and ethically at the same time, choose the free version of Piwik PRO (with a limit of 500t hits/month). If you have a little more budget, the Cloud version of Matomo can be a great solution.
All three tools offer you very comprehensive dashboards, but it is often said that Google is a little better at data visualization than the other platforms. One difference also arises from the accuracy of the numbers: Google Analytics 4 currently relies a lot on machine learning and modeling and does not always report completely accurate numbers, unlike Matomo and Piwik PRO. The exact figures can of course be accessed via BigQuery, but this requires some effort.
How important is ethical analytics to your organization?
With Google Analytics dominating the market as the most popular analytics tool, people have gotten used to the fact that analytics is free. However, if you collect data without paying, there will be some ethical concerns. If you want to start doing analytics more responsibly and avoid worrying about violating data protection laws, you have to start investing in analytics.
The culture is slowly starting to change to more responsible in terms of analytics, and a larger number of organizations now want to invest in better data protection. We believe that Matomo, Piwik PRO and various server-based solutions will increase greatly in popularity in the near future. Responsibility does not have to only be an expense, it can also be a marketing asset: when you take data protection seriously, users will probably trust your service more.
Choose a tool based on your strategy
Choosing the right tool is difficult if your analytics strategy or entire digital marketing strategy is unclear. This may sound obvious, but we’ve seen organizations choose tools without fully knowing their own needs. It’s also worth asking how much time and ambition your employees – those who aren’t analysts too – have for data analysis. If there is little desire to take a deep dive into analytics, getting the most expensive and complex tool is pointless. A good tool is one that scales with your company’s needs. Changing your analytics tool too often is not a sustainable solution, and using two tools side by side is not reasonable either, because numbers reported by different platforms are not directly comparable.
We think that there is no good reason to choose Google over Matomo or Piwik just because it is the most popular of the platforms. In the end, the features of Google Analytics, Matomo and Piwik PRO are not significantly different. In today’s world, everything can be measured, and that’s why we believe that every organization can find a suitable analytics solution. The most important thing is to measure data over a long period of time, as the profit of data comes from comparability. No matter the tool or whether tracking is done with or without cookies, it is most important that you know how to get the most out of your data and that the data you collect leads to concrete changes.
Wondering which analytics tool is best for your needs? Contact us and our analytics team will be happy to help you!