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Web Stats: Alternatives to Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a very popular tool for tracking website visitors, but it’s simply not the right solution for everyone.

A closer look under the hood reveals that there are a few things GA does not do well at all. Depending on your business model and your needs, an alternative analytics solution might serve you far better and be a lot more useful to your business. Whether you’re looking for something supplemental or something to completely replace GA, this post has got you covered.

Read on to discover the drawbacks of using Google’s own system and learn about the best Google Analytics alternatives.

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What’s Wrong With Google Analytics?

Problem with Google AnalyticsFrom a technical standpoint, there is at least one glaring mistake in the way Google Analytics tracks pageviews and visitor actions. We’ve written about it extensively in the post about bounce rates, where you’ll also find something of a hack, to help improve the situation.

In short, GA cannot truly measure how long a visitor stays on your site, unless they perform another action like a new page load. Many visitors will show up as having stayed on your site for zero seconds, even though they might have spent minutes or more, reading a page or watching a video. This leads to skewed bounce-rate and time-on-site data. This is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it’s something you should be aware of.

By all means, use GA, it’s infinitely better than not analyzing your traffic at all.

Apart from that, there are many alternative analytics solutions that provide features that Google Analytics doesn’t or give you new and improved ways of working with an interpreting your visitor data.

How to Spy on Your Website Visitors

Here are some of the criteria I looked for, in the different analytics services:

  • Does it do real-time tracking, so that you can see what’s going on on your site right now?
  • Does it properly measure time on site, even if only one page is viewed?
  • Does it make a distinction between a “bad bounce” (short, one-page visit) and a “good bounce” (long, one-page visit)?
  • Does it allow useful sorting and filtering of the stats, so you can make intelligent decisions based on your analytics?
  • Does it allow easy goal/conversion tracking?

The list below does not contain every analytics service available on the market, but I have done my best to include all the major players (listed in alphabetical order). I have personally tested all of the services listed, at least as a short trial.

Chartbeat

ChartBeat Analytics

Chartbeat reminds me of the hollywood-stereotype of a beauty pageant winner, which is to say that it’s extremely pretty, but also mostly useless.

Chartbeat has a very strong focus on what’s happening right now, as opposed to the emphasis on historical data analysis that most tools have. On a second-by-second basis, it shows you how many visitors are on your site, how many of them are reading or writing (e.g. comments), the geographic location of the visitors, an action stream and much more. Like Clicky, it also comes with twitter monitoring, so you can see who’s talking about your site or brand, at any given moment.

One very interesting and potentially useful user engagement metric is that Chartbeat shows you a graph of the average scroll-depth for your visitors (i.e. how far down a page they are scrolling). Apart from that, I find it difficult to envision the actual use of all these metrics. Chartbeat shows me what’s buzzing on my site at any given moment, but unless I can match up factors like conversion rates, traffic sources etc. none of this really helps me make intelligent decisions about my site.

Chartbeat Features and Highlights

Real-Time Stats? YES
Time on Site Tracking? YES
Real Bounce Rates? NO
Special Features: Very sexy interface.
Free Version? NO
Price range: $10 – $150 per month

Conclusion: Chartbeat is very pretty and maybe there are some uses to it. To me, it seems more like a super-attractive distraction than a useful tool.

Link: Marvel at Chartbeat here.

Clicky

Clicky

I’ve been using Clicky for quite a long time now. In the beginning, I had mixed feelings about the user interface, but once I got used to it, I recognized it’s merits. The standard dashboard gives a very comprehensive overview over all of the core data: visitors (today vs. yesterday or any other date-range you set), visitor actions and bounce rate, top content, top search terms and traffic sources.

One thing Clicky does reall well is allow you to dig down and segment/filter your data in many ways. It doesn’t just show you some fancy graphs, it let’s you get right down to the stuff that matters the most: you can find where your best converting traffic is coming from, you can see which pages are grabbing your visitors’ attention and which aren’t and much more.

Clicky also offers a simple way to set up campaigns and track earnings. An interesting feature is that it allows you to set up custom twitter searches, so that you can monitor mentions of your site or brand on twitter, from within the Clicky dashboard. The service also integrate with a service called SheerSEO as well as Visual Website Optimizer for rank tracking and split testing respectively. Plus, it comes with a very well-made WordPress plugin.

Clicky calculate bouce rate differently from most analytics solutions and they’re proud of it. Clicky considers every visitor who spends more than 30 seconds looking at a page as an “engaged” visitor and doesn’t count them as a bounce, even if they don’t view a second page on your site. This makes a lot of sense, since you can’t really say that someone who visits your site, reads a whole post and then leaves was “bouncing”. They just found what they were looking for. With this, Clicky has more relevant bounce stats, especially for blog-style sites where the goal is not necessarily to get every visitor deeper into a sales-funnel.

Clicky Features and Highlights

Real-Time Stats? YES
Time on Site Tracking? YES
Real Bounce Rates? YES
Special Features: twitter monitoring, easy
goals and campaigns, iPhone app
Free Version? YES
(up to 3,000 pageviews/day)
Price range: $2.50 to $49.99 per month

Conclusion: Intuitive and clean user-interface, reasonable pricing and some innovative features make Clicky a Google Analytics alternative worth taking a closer look at. Clicky has become my favorite analytics solution and I gladly recommend it.

Link: Click here to get Clicky with it.

GoSquared

GoSquared

GoSquared is all about live analytics, much like Chartbeat. And while I do feel a little bad about saying mean things about nice apps, I can’t help it: the “pretty but useless” syndrome is present here, as well.

Like Chartbeat, GoSquared shows you a second-by-second view of what’s happening on your website. This includes traffic sources, top visited content, referral sources and social media monitoring.

Historical data is almost completely absent from the GoSquared dashboard. As I said, it’s all about live analytics. That means you’ll only get useful data on high-traffic sites to begin with. It also begs the question of how one is supposed to make use of all the data presented.

Maybe I’m just biased, because in my businesses, useful actions usually follow from digging through some historical data and then setting up tests based on the findings.

GoSquared Features and Highlights

Real-Time Stats? YES
Time on Site Tracking? YES
Real Bounce Rates? YES
Special Features: twitter monitoring
Free Version? YES
(up to 10,000 pageviews/month)
Price range: $9 to $99 per month

Conclusion: GoSquared is beautiful to look at, but only if you have at least a few dozen people on your site at any given moment. There’s a live demo on the site, which I recommend you take a look at. As for actually using the service? I can’t recommend it.

Link: try the GoSquared demo here.

Mint

Mint

Mint is a very stylish “less is more” kind of analysis software. Where many others pile on feature after feature, Mint strives to show you the most relevant data about your website in a simple “at a glance” kind of way.

The “less is more” principle is take a tad too far, sadly. The standard view shows you the visitor count (total and unique), the top referring websites, your most popular pages and the most popular search terms people are using to find your site. You can edit each view for a certain date-range or to show you recent terms/referrers rather than popular ones. Interestingly, there’s also a separate view for traffic coming through image searches, which could be a very interesting feature for certain types of websites like portfolio sites, sites about design or any other image-heavy sites.

Data digging is almost non-existent with Mint. It also doesn’t show bounce rates, time on site or any other useful user engagement metrics. My impression is that Mint shows you mainly “vanity stats”, but fails to give you the tools necessary to sort your data in such a way that it can lead to intelligent changes on your website, that improve your business.

The basic functionality of Mint can be expanded with so-called “Peppers”. These are plugins for Mint, which are provided by the developers themselves as well as third-party providers. Possibly, some of the features I was missing in the standard version can be added through these extensions (I did not spend a lot of time searching through them).

Mint is a self-hosted script and it costs a flat rate of $30 per website, making it very affordable.

Mint Features and Highlights

Real-Time Stats? YES
Time on Site Tracking? NO
Real Bounce Rates? NO
Special Features: Self-hosted, one-time price,
extensive plugin library
Free Version? NO
Price: $30 per Website

Conclusion: Mint is stylish and light-weight, but is it also useful? Unless there’s a very specific feature found in one of the many “pepper” extensions, that you’ve been looking for, I can’t see a reason to use Mint.

Link: Learn more about Mint here.

Open Web Analytics

OWA

Open Web Analytics (or OWA) is another free, open source web stats solution, like Piwik. It’s also self-hosted and it’s available as a WordPress plugin, which creates one instance of OWA to track the specific WP site it’s installed on. Installed separately and independently from WordPress, you can use OWA to track multiple websites.

The user interface is reminiscent of one of the older Google Analytics interfaces in the choice of colors as well as the general navigation. It’s not a carbon copy of GA by any means, but it offers the same general navigation options and if you’ve used GA for a while, it won’t take long until you feel right at home with this new interface.

Open Web Analytics is very feature-rich, especially considering that it’s free to use. It can track goals along several steps of a conversion funnel, it offers separate stats filtered by pretty much any factor you can think of and it even offers heatmaps and mouse-tracking. However, be warned: with those last two options active, OWA will gobble up server resources like nobody’s business. A shared hosting account will not find this agreeable.

Open Web Analytics Features and Highlights

Real-Time Stats? YES
Time on Site Tracking? NO
Real Bounce Rates? NO
Special Features: Funnel-conversion tracking, mouse-
tracking and heatmaps.
Free Version? YES
(completely unlimited)
Price range: Always free

Conclusion: OWA is amazing, for a free product. It offers very deep analytics with an intuitive interface. Unfortunately, it also has the same bounce-rate and time on site weakness of most analytics tools. In short, it’s not perfect, but possibly the best free solution available.

Link: Grab your copy of Open Web Analytics here.

Piwik

Piwik

Piwik is advertised as an open-source alternative to Google Analytics and this seems an accurate description. It’s completely free to use and fairly easy to install. Currently only available as a self-hosted script (which has it’s advantages), there’s also the possibility of a hosted version of the service in discussion.

While the Piwik dashboard is nowhere near as fancy looking as some of the competitors’, I immediately took a liking to it. It’s a bit reminiscent of the WordPress admin interface and it just seems to have all the data and all the buttons in the right places. I found it very easy to navigate the data and set up some basic goals for performance tracking. It’s also a breeze to add as many websites as you like to one and the same Piwik installation. Much like with Mint, the Piwik dashboard is very customizable and additional plugins are available to add to the system.

One of the best features is that you can very easily set up and track goals. Beyond the basic stats, I would have liked options for deeper and more detailed segmentation, which is often lacking.

Piwik Features and Highlights

Real-Time Stats? YES
Time on Site Tracking? NO
Real Bounce Rates? NO
Special Features: Free and open source, customizable
dashboard with plugins
Free Version? YES
(completely unlimited)
Price range: Always free

Conclusion: For a free analytics tool, Piwik is quite impressive. I would have liked a few more features, but the only big drawback is that Piwik has the same, inaccurate way of tracking bounce rates and visit lengths that Google Analytics has.

Link: Get a taste of Piwik here.

reinvigorate

reinvigorate

Reinvigorate looked very promising, back when I was using the beta version. It still looks exactly the same, now. And that’s a bad thing.

Reinvigorate still feels like a beta product, even thought it’s been on the market for a while now. It has a very attractive looking user interface and it comes with a built-in heatmapping feature which can be very useful.

Unfortunately, in terms of actual traffic analysis, reinvigorate is mostly frustrating. It offers a great overview of the basic stats such as number of visitors, visit lengths and so on, but it doesn’t let you go any deeper than that. I found myself constantly clicking on elements of the UI, expecting to get a more detailed view for a specific page or specific search term. But nothing happens when you click, because more detailed reports are not available.

To make things worse, it seems that this service has been abandoned: at the time of writing their blog has been offline for more than a week (but a link to it from the sales-page remains) and their customer support is unresponsive.

reinvigorate Features and Highlights

Real-Time Stats? YES
Time on Site Tracking? YES
Real Bounce Rates? NO
Special Features: Visitor tagging, CDN based tracking,
heatmaps
Free Version? YES
(limited features, 100K pageviews/month)
Price range: $10/month, $20/month and custom

Conclusion: in its current form, reinvigorate is a basic heat-mapping tool with some analytics added on. This could be quite useful, but especially since it seems to be abandoned, I’d recommend using a dedicated heatmapping service and a better analytics solution instead. Reinvigorate is not recommended.

Link: Take a look at what reinvigorate could have been, right here.

StatCounter

StatCounter

StatCounter is one of the better-known free Google Analytics alternatives and it’s been around for a while.

There’s no way to be nice about this, so I’ll just say it: Compared to the other solutions listed here, StatCounter is ugly. But, just because you don’t get the “oooh, shiny!” effect when you log into StatCounter, doesn’t mean it’s a bad product. The basic data is all there and you can get insights into visits, visitor paths, popular pages, entrance- and exit-pages, incoming keywords etc.

In terms of segmentation, goals, campaign/funnel tracking and fancy stuff like that, StatCounter lags behind the competition. As with Mint, I found that StatCounter fails to deliver the kinds of insights that will actually help you make meaningful changes to your site.

StatCounter Features and Highlights

Real-Time Stats? YES
Time on Site Tracking? NO
Real Bounce Rates? NO
Special Features: free to use (almost unlimited)
Free Version? YES
(only limited in backlog size)
Price range: $5 to $119 per month

Conclusion: StatCounter has one saving grace: it’s free to use. Given that, it’s no surprise that it doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles of premium solutions. Unfortunately, some of those bells and whistles are really important, which is why I can’t recommend this product.

Link: Learn more about StatCounter here.

Woopra

Woopra

Woopra has been around for a long time and has undergone several transformations since the early days.

In the latest version, Woopra is moving away from “standard” analytics solutions and into the stomping grounds of Kissmetrics and Mixpanel (see below). Woopra’s defining feature is an integration of on-site analytics and customer relation management: the goal is to track individual visitors as they use your site and services, even across multiple devices.

Woopra is extremely attractive and highly customizable. You can either use it online or download a desktop client or mobile app to track what’s going on on your site.

The customization options are this service’s strongest point: to any set of data you’re looking at, you can add any kind of filters you can think of. Do you want to look specifically at the conversion rates from people who discovered your site through twitter and viewed at least two pages? No problem. Do you want to attach a specific label to anyone who leaves a comment on your site and also pass their name and email address to Woopra? With a bit of custom coding, it can be done.

To top it off, Woopra also comes with a live chat feature, which lets you display a “chat with us” widget on your site, or lets you automatically invite visitors to chat when a certain set of criteria are met. For example, you could set the chat window to pop up when a visitor is spending a certain amount of time on the checkout page, to help them with any last questions or objections they might have. As I’m sure you can see, Woopra is powerful, if it’s used right. But therein also lies a big problem with the service…

The biggest disadvantage to Woopra is the per-site pricing model. If you want to monitor several websites, you need to purchase a separate subscription plan for each one.

Woopra Features and Highlights

Real-Time Stats? YES
Time on Site Tracking? YES
Real Bounce Rates? Can be manually set up.
Special Features: Visitor tagging, deep segmentation,
desktop client, live chat feature.
Free Version? YES
(30,000 actions/month)
Price range: $80 to $500/month per site

Conclusion: Woopra can be an interesting solution, if the CRM features and integrations are a match for your business. With the pricing, it’s clear that it’s not for everyone, though.

Link: Check out Woopra here.

Honorable Mentions: Mixpanel and Kissmetrics

KISSmetrics and Mixpanel

Mixpanel and Kissmetrics are two analytics services that were specifically made for businesses selling services or products. Both of these tools are especially useful if you are selling a subscription service, as they can not only track conversions, but also track customer retention, churn rate, customer lifetime value and much more. With that, they can give you insights into where your highest-converting visitors are coming from and what steps they usually take before signing up. In addition, they can help you analyze what makes customers stay with your service for a long time and what makes them leave in a hurry.

Mixpanel and Kissmetrics are very interesting services for a specific type of business. Because they are closely analytics-related, I wanted to mention them here. However, they aren’t necessarily meant to replace your “regular” website analytics and because of how highly specialized they are, they don’t quite fit in with the other services here. Perhaps I will review them separately, sometime.

Go here to check out Mixpanel and Kissmetrics.

Vanity Metrics

What both of the above solutions have in common is that they are a type of more advanced analytics service. They have a clear focus on individual users and on producing actionable metrics.

The danger with any analytics program is that we get lost in vanity metrics. Everybody likes to see that there’s more traffic this week than last week or that the bounce rate is lower this month than last month. But on its own, this kind of data is useless. In fact, any kind of data is useless, until you make a change, based on it. No matter which solution you choose, don’t abuse web stats as an emotional roller-coaster ride, with no further purpose.

Watch this short video, for more on the topic.

My Personal Preferences

Leading up to this review I was using a huge range of different analytics apps for my various websites and I had fun experimenting with all the different features and options. However, at some point I wanted to consolidate my data and not have to log into a dozen different panels to see the traffic stats for all my sites. Currently, I use Clicky as my main analytics tool. There are many other tools that can be highly useful and that I enjoyed testing, but Clicky is the one I kept coming back to.

I originally wanted to use either Piwik or Open Web Analytics, but I didn’t like how resource-intensive they were, sitting on my hosting account. So just be warned: if you have sites with a fair amount of traffic, the self-hosted analytics solutions can become quite the resource gluttons.

Conclusion

As you can see, for anyone wanting to keep Google’s googly-eyes away from their visitor data, there’s no shortage of excellent Google Analytics alternatives. Most of these services come with either a free version or a free trial, so there’s nothing stopping you from giving them a test-drive. If you don’t want to spend anything extra for your analytics, then you should give either Piwik or Open Web Analytics a try.

What do you use for analysing your website visitors? And how do you make use of the data you get? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,

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Shane
 

I'm Shane Melaugh and I'm the guy writing most of the posts on this blog. My goal is to provide you with useful, straight-forward insights on how to grow your business by creating compelling offers, driving traffic and increasing conversions.

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