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Web Stats: Alternatives to Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a very popular tool for tracking website visitors, but it’s not the only solution and certainly not the perfect solution for everyone.

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 best Google Analytics alternatives for your website.​

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What's Wrong With Google Analytics?


Problem with Google Analytics

From 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.

Another very common complaint is that Analytics is just too damn complicated. It’s brimming with features, but there’s quite a severe learning curve to it.

Having said that, it’s infinitely better to use GA and only its most basic features, than not analyzing your traffic at all.

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 track visitors and interactions in real time, so you can see what's happening on your site right now?
  • Does it correctly 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 tracking of conversion goals and funnels?

​Before going any further, we need to examine the three broad types into which the test candidates fall:

3 Flavors of Analytics​

Each of the products and services I looked at falls into one of three categories: website analytics, real-time stats and advanced customer analytics.

Website Analytics

​This type of service can be thought of as a “Google Analytics alternative” most directly. It provides an overview of where your visitors are coming from, what they’re doing on your site and gives you various ways to search and filter the data.

Real-Time Stats​

​This type of service is mostly concerned with what’s happening right now on your website, giving you a second-by-second view of traffic and visitor actions. Historical data, conversion tracking and similar features take a back seat or aren’t available at all.

​Real-time stats services usually come with very pretty dashboards and they can look impressive. However, the actual usefulness of them is limited. In my opinion, only a news website that gets huge amounts of traffic can really benefit from real-time stats like these. It gives them an opportunity to detect hot stories and act on trends in a fast paced environment. If your site doesn’t publish multiple stories per day and has any less than 100 visitors active at any given time, a real-time stats dashboard will not be a valuable addition to your business.

Advanced Customer Analytics

This type of service is most useful for websites that sell one or multiple products directly to the visitors. With advanced customer analytics, you can answer questions such as:

  • ​What steps do visitors take, before turning into customers?
  • What are commonalities between customers who cancel their subscription and how can we address them?
  • How does a recent change made to a sales page affect the customer lifetime value in our business?
  • Who exactly are our most valuable customers?

Examples of advanced customer analytics solutions are Kissmetrics, Mixpanel and Indicative. I've created a separate roundup review of these tools, here.

​In summary, website analytics are about visits, pageviews and historical data, real-time stats are about spotting trends as they happen and advanced customer analytics are about a deeper view of conversions and revenue.

Part 1: Website Analytics​

Let’s start by having a look at the tools that most closely resemble a direct alternative to Google Analytics (in alphabetical order):

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 its 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 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 lets 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.

One of my favorite things about Clicky is how easy it is to create campaigns and conversion goals, so you can measure your site’s effectiveness and even revenue generated. 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.​

Clicky Features & Highlights​

Real-Time Stats?

YES

Time on Site Tracking?

YES

Conversion Tracking?

YES

Funnel Analytics?

Not Visual

Special Features:

Twitter monitoring, easy
goals & campaigns

Multiple Sites/Account?

YES

Free Version?

YES
(up to 3,000 pageviews/day)

Price Range:

$9.99 - $20+ 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 go-to analytics solution and I gladly recommend it.

Link: Click here to get Clicky with it.

Heap



​Heap analytics has its sights set on user friendliness. The idea is that you can easily set up tracking for all the important events on your site, without needing any technical skills.

Beyond installing the tracking code on your website, everything in Heap is done with point-and-click interfaces instead of cryptic menus and settings. You can even define custom events by clicking directly on buttons and forms on your site and telling Heap what you want it to track in relation to them.

In addition, Heap automatically tracks events on your websites and shows you a list of the most commonly performed ones, for you to label and classify.

The result of all this is that Heap is incredibly easy to set up and use for anyone. In terms of user friendliness, Heap is the opposite of Google Analytics. In fact, Heap is an absolute joy to set up and use - as a business owner, you should sign up just to see how excellent their onboarding process is.​

Heap is set up in such a way that it actively encourages you to create the tracking and reports that are actually useful for you. It doesn't overwhelm you with endless stats and screens. Instead, it guides you through the process of building your own reports, based on your particular business needs.

Heap Features & Highlights

Real-Time Stats?

YES

Time on Site Tracking?

YES

Conversion Tracking?

YES

Funnel Analytics?

YES

Special Features:

Easy, non-technical setup,
retroactive reporting on new events.

Multiple Sites/Account?

YES

Free Version?

YES
(up to 5,000 visitors/month)

Price Range:

$59 - $399 per month

Conclusion: Heap sits somewhere in between an analytics solution and customer analytics. It wouldn't completely replace something like Google Analytics and it's not trying to, either. What it does is give you an easier way to examine the most important data on your site. And it does it impressively well.

Link:click here to marvel at Heap Analytics.

Mint​



Mint is a stylish “less is more” kind of analysis software. Where many others pile on feature after feature, Mint strives to give you an at-a-glance view of what's happening on your site.

The “less is more” principle is taken 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 & Highlights​

Real-Time Stats?

YES

Time on Site Tracking?

NO

Conversion Tracking?

NO

Funnel Analytics?

NO

Special Features:

Self-hosted, one-time price,
extensive plugin library

Multiple Sites/Account?

NO

Free Version?

NO

Price Range:

$30 per website

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

Link: Learn more about Mint here.​

Open Web Analytics​



Open Web Analytics (or OWA) is a free, open source web stats solution, like Piwik. It’s 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. If you were a fan of the GA interface about 3 or 4 revisions ago, you'll love this. And even if not, the OWA interface doesn't take too much getting used to.

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 & Highlights

Real-Time Stats?

YES

Time on Site Tracking?

NO

Conversion Tracking?

YES

Funnel Analytics?

YES

Special Features:

Funnel analytics, mouse-
tracking and heatmaps

Multiple Sites/Account?

YES

Free Version?

YES
(unlimited)

Price Range:

Always free.

Conclusion: OWA is a solid and feature-rich analytics solution. Unfortunately, it has the same bounce-rate and time on site weakness of most analytics tools. It also looks like it’s not being updated very frequently (not surprising, as the only income source seem to be donations).

Link: Check out Open Web Analytics here.

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. It’s available as a self-hosted script for free or as a hosted solution starting from €49 per month. I will be focusing on the free version for this review.

​I immediately too a liking to the Piwik dashboard. After just a few minutes, I felt right at home and configuring the different widgets and views is very intuitive. I also like how easy and straight-forward the setup and tracking of conversion goals is. 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 & Highlights​

Real-Time Stats?

YES

Time on Site Tracking?

NO

Conversion Tracking?

YES

Funnel Analytics?

NO

Special Features:

Open source, customizable
dashboard with plugins

Multiple Sites/Account?

YES

Free Version?

YES
(unlimited)

Price Range:

Premium plans from €49/month

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.

Note that a premium, hosted version of Piwik is available, but I've only tested the free version.​

Link: Get a taste of Piwik here.​

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 & Highlights​

Real-Time Stats?

YES

Time on Site Tracking?

NO

Conversion Tracking?

NO

Funnel Analytics?

NO

Special Features:

Generous free plan

Multiple Sites/Account?

YES

Free Version?

YES
(up to 250,000 pageloads/month)

Price Range:

$5 - $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.

W3Counter



​W3Counter is another free web tracking solution and in contrast to StatCounter, it delights with a well designed and user friendly dashboard.

In just a few clicks, you can see real-time stats, view a map representing the countries and locations your visitors are coming from, explore your top entry and exit pages and more. Overall, I found the dashboard very easy to navigate and the information well presented. A notable feature is a "click overlay" that shows you where you're getting most of your clicks, directly on a representation of your website.

Unfortunately, there are also some downsides: the free version of W3Counter only works if you add a visible badge to your site, it's supported by advertising and the historical log of your traffic is ​severely limited.

There are premium levels available that remove the ads and restrictions and add some additional features, although the premium level of W3Counter cannot keep up with the stronger premium analytics solutions in this roundup.​

W3Counter Features & Highlights

Real-Time Stats?

YES

Time on Site Tracking?

YES

Conversion Tracking?

NO

Funnel Analytics?

NO

Special Features:

User-friendly dashboard,
click overlay feature.

Multiple Sites/Account?

Premium Only

Free Version?

YES
(up to 5,000 pageviews/day)

Price Range:

$4.99 - $29.99 per month

Conclusion: my impression is that W3Counter is a solution aimed at beginners. If you are relatively new to this and unfamiliar with (or overwhelmed by) Google Analytics, W3Counter will give you the basic stats for your site in a free and easy package. You'll eventually want to graduate to a more performance-focused solution, though.

Link: take a look at W3Counter here.​

Reinvigorate​



When I was working on the first version of this roundup, Reinvigorate was a new analytics solution on the market. It looked promising, but things went wrong and at this point, Reinvigorate is no more.

I'm leaving this mention of it in the roundup, but I'm removing all the details etc. since the solution is no longer available.

Part 2: Real-Time Stats​

Next, let's look at the real-time solutions. As you've seen above, most analytics solutions track in real time (even Google Analytics does that now), but for the following solutions, real-time isn't just a feature - it's the main focus.​

Chartbeat



Chartbeat has evolved a lot since my last update of this post. Last time I tested it, it was little more than a live stats dashboard. By now, it has expanded with new features and functionality, built for specific purposes.

To begin with, Chartbeat gives you a live view of your visitors and their actions on your site, as well as information about platforms they're using, where they're coming from etc.

In addition, you'll find features specifically built for ad-supported websites, video-based content and more. Chartbeat can give you detailed insights into where your visitors are clicking, the scroll-depth on pages (and how that affects ad impressions), video-playback statistics and more.

​Another notable feature is what they call the "Heads-Up Display", which overlays information directly on a representation of your website.

Chartbeat can be a powerful tool for magazine and news sites that receive a high volume of traffic.​

Chartbeat Features & Highlights​

Real-Time Stats?

YES

Time on Site Tracking?

YES

Conversion Tracking?

YES

Funnel Analytics?

NO

Special Features:

Specialized features for news
sites, ad publishers and videos.

Multiple Sites/Account?

YES

Free Version?

NO
(free trial avaiable)

Price Range:

$50 per 1,000 concurrent visitors

Conclusion: if you operate a high-traffic (500K visitors/month and above) news or magazine site, Chartbeat is well worth a look.

Link: click here to see what Chartbeat is all about.​

Gauges​



Gauges aims to provide the most important website data without any additional clutter.

​In the Gauges dashboard, you can get an overview of one or several websites that you're tracking. You'll see a traffic trends overview for the past 12 hours and daily traffic for the past 2 weeks, plus the most visited content and top referrers.

​You can also activate the "Air Traffic Live" view, which shows a global map which updates with live geolocations of your visitors. It's screen-filling and nice to look at, but the practical usefulness of the feature is limited.

Further, Gauges provides insights into traffic referrers, browsers and screen sizes of your visitors. All the basic data is there, but Gauges didn't manage to surprise me with particularly good or useful features.​

Gauges Features & Highlights​

Real-Time Stats?

YES

Time on Site Tracking?

YES

Conversion Tracking?

NO

Funnel Analytics?

NO

Special Features:

"Air Traffic Live" view with global
map, easy multi-site management

Multiple Sites/Account?

YES

Free Version?

NO
(free trial available)

Price Range:

$6 - $48 per month

Conclusion: Gauges is nice to look at and provides all the basic features, but it needs to go one or two steps further to become a truly useful solution.

Link: find out more about Gagues here.​

GoSquared​



GoSquared presents a dashboard that is divided into three main categories: live stats, historical data and ecommerce data.

The live dashboard gives an at-a-glace view of the exact number of current visitors, top traffic sources, most popular content, geographic locations of visitors and a few other data points. The dashboard does a good job of providing​ an immediate overview of site activity.

There's also a "trends" dashboard where you can see daily, weekly and monthly comparisons of historical site data. This gives you a longer-term view of the most visited pages on your site, best traffic referrers and so on.

Finally, the ecommerce section reports trends in number of sales, sales revenue, average value per sale​ and the top traffic sources that your converting visitors came from.

GoSquared provides a lot of data and presents it in a way that's easy to understand. But you should keep in mind that, in contrast to something like Google Analytics, the emphasis in GoSquared is on identifying trends and getting a view of what's happening on your site right now.​

GoSquared Features & Highlights​

Real-Time Stats?

YES

Time on Site Tracking?

YES

Conversion Tracking?

YES

Funnel Analytics?

NO

Special Features:

Great live stats dashboard +
stats that go beyond live.

Multiple Sites/Account?

YES

Free Version?

NO

Price Range:

$18 - $790 per month

Conclusion: like all of the real-time solutions, GoSquared only makes sense for high traffic sites. It has a less specialized, broader appeal than Chartbeat, but whether it makes sense for you depends a lot on your business model.

Link: check out GoSquared here.​

Part 3: Advanced Customer Analytics​

Advanced customer analytics solutions are closely related to the kinds of services I've tested in this roundup. However, they are also a lot more complex and are built for a more specialized purpose and because of that, I will be covering them in a separate review.

Vanity 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.

Some solutions do a good job of encouraging​ an action-oriented use of analytics, while other provide little more than vanity metrics. Whatever you end up choosing for your website, make sure to look past fancy dashboards and ask yourself: what data will actually help my business?

Watch this short video to discover a simple and effective way to combat the vanity metrics issue.

My Personal Preferences​

For a long time, Clicky was my number one analytics solution. It has a good, hassle-free interface, all the basic features I needed and it's easy to get it set up and reporting on numbers that matter to an online business. Thanks to Clicky, I didn't log in to Google Analytics for months at a time.

I still highly recommend it as a solution for anyone who's looking for an affordable and less overwhelming alternative to GA.

I originally planned on using either Piwik or Open Web Analytics, mainly due to the attractive price tag of $0. However, I didn't like how resource-intensive they were. Be warned: ​if you have sites with a fair amount of traffic, the self-hosted analytics solutions can become real resource gluttons.

The most impressive new addition to the roundup is Heap Analytics. It doesn't replace Google Analytics, but it's a great solution for a business with a few different conversion aspects and paths to it (such as a site that generates leads and sells one or more products).

Conclusion

When I first did all this testing and wrote this post, my goal was to replace Google Analytics and never have to deal with it again. I have since come to a grudging truce with GA. For many businesses, it pays off to get acquainted with the intricacies of the tool and wrestle it into some semblance of usefulness. It is a time consuming and often frustrating task, but it can be worth it.

For many businesses and new websites, it makes a lot of sense to use a simpler alternative like Clicky, Heap or one of the other candidates here. Even if they technically don't do much that Google Analytics can't do, there is enormous value in having a tool that's easy to work with and gives you immediate data you can take action on.

Although I'd like to, I can't fully recommend any of the free solutions in the roundup. While some of them are quite good I also have to be honest and say that I no longer use any of them for my own sites.​

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!


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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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