Why you should stop using Google Analytics

Why you should stop using Google Analytics

For years, Google has tracked and recorded every move you make. That’s the price you pay for using their free services: search engine, email, Google Docs, etc. And on pretty much any website you visit, they’re tracking you through Google Analytics.

As a 20-year veteran of search engine optimization (SEO), Google Analytics has been the go-to product for monitoring clients’ website traffic. I’ve installed it on every site I’ve ever built.

How much do you hate those privacy policy popups?

As of August 2016, the EU enacted strict privacy laws, called the GDPR, to protect its citizens from being tracked and to limit data collection. Some states like California have enacted similar laws; the CCPA protects residents by creating transparency around the personal information a business collects about them and how it is used and shared.

In a July 16, 2020 ruling, the EU has declared that any cloud service hosted in the United States cannot comply with the GDPR. And the only way to get around that is to have that annoying popup.

Despite the fact that it makes my job harder and muddies up some pretty nice-looking websites, I fully support these data-monitoring restrictions. It should bother more people that marketers and a massive corporation like Google are tracking their every move. Social engineering is serious business, and your rights to privacy should be protected.

The fight of the century: Apple v. Google

In June 2020, Apple announced a suite of privacy features in the latest version of its operating system. One of the most glaring: Safari blocking scripts like Google Analytics. That might mean that traffic from iPhone, iPad, and Mac desktops won’t make it through to Google Analytics. That’s a pretty big data hole. In the death-match between these two tech behemoths, Apple sees a vulnerability and pounces. And Tim Cook upholds his good-guy image by protecting his customers from the Big Bad Google Wolf.

As an aside: I recommend using the Brave browser, which blocks many tracking scripts and popups. With the exception of sites that require popups to function, Brave is a seamless transition from Chrome or Safari, and it protects you while you cruise around the internet.

Brave browser

How does this affect you as a website owner?

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As always with SEO, it’s important to be proactive, not reactive. (This is where having a pro to guide your team helps!) You can transition now to a local alternative.

What does that mean? Let’s keep it simple.

By installing a similar product that runs solely on your website’s server, you can continue to gather the data you need to make decisions to improve user experience and increase traffic but without violating privacy laws.

But Google Analytics is free…

Right. For free, they’re monitoring every single unsuspecting visitor to your website and recording their behavior—and making billions off what they’re gathering from that data. Are you getting paid by Google for that information? Or Facebook? Or Twitter? There is a reason these services are free. But that’s your data.

There are some paid SEO reporting options that are tested and fairly robust. A quick search of “Google Analytics alternatives” will yield you those results. But we opt for Matomo On-Premise. While they offer a paid cloud-based version, if you install their software on your server directly, it’s free. And if you have a WordPress site, there’s a plugin; you can even monitor your reports directly from your WordPress dashboard.

Google Analytics alternative

Features of the free version include:

  • 100% data ownership: No external sources can access your data.
  • Privacy ensured: By not processing PII, your site becomes fully GDPR compliant.
  • 100% accurate data: Most people don’t realize that the free Google Analytics tool only collects a certain amount of data; you have to upgrade to Premium (at $150,000 per year) for more advanced data tools. Matomo collects it all.
  • No data limits: Google will stop processing your data if you reach their data limits. Matomo gives you control over how much data you want to process and save.

Are we getting any kickback for this endorsement? Nope. We applaud website owners who prioritize SEO and actively respond to their website visitors’ behavior. If you need help transitioning from Google Analytics to another tool—or evaluating your SEO setup—we’d love to help.

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Sarah Williams

Founder & director of 816 New York and passionate about all things strategy and unity.

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