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Cover image for How to de-Google-ify your website

How to de-Google-ify your website

markosaric profile image Marko Saric ・9 min read

In my previous post I introduced you to the Google Analytics alternative I'm working on called Plausible Analytics.

The benefits of using it include a faster loading site, easier to understand dashboard and the fact that you don't need to worry about getting consent for cookies and GDPR as Plausible is not using cookies nor collecting any personal data.

In this post, I wanted to explore the topic of de-Google-ing a website a bit more in depth. Google has created some great and useful products that millions of website owners use and get value from. 7 of the 10 most used third-party scripts and resources on websites are owned by Google.

7 of the 10 most used third-party resources on websites are owned by Google

This post and the alternative solutions presented are for those who'd like to make their websites more independent of the search giant and its reach.

An example is Cloudflare as they recently removed Google's reCAPTCHA and replaced it with an independent service to "address a privacy concern inherent to relying on a Google service". Let's get started.

Google Fonts

Third-party fonts stand for 72% of all fonts loaded on the web. Domains fonts.gstatic.com and fonts.googleapis.com combined stand for almost 4% of all network requests.

Alternatives to Google Fonts

Use web safe fonts (fonts that are usually pre-installed on most devices) or download and self-host whatever font you want to use. Here’s a hassle-free way to self-host Google fonts.

Google Maps

Domain maps.googleapis.com stands for 0.75% of all the network requests across the web. It’s used on 10% of the top one million websites.

Alternatives to Google Maps

OpenStreetMap is a great alternative if you’re simply embedding a map or directions on your site. It’s open-source and community-driven.

Some of the alternatives for developers are Leaflet and Mapbox that both use OpenStreetMap as one of their data sources.

YouTube

YouTube stands for 0.99% of all the network requests across the web. YouTube video embeds are used on 15% of the top one million websites.

Alternatives to YouTube

Vimeo is one of the most popular alternatives to YouTube when you want to embed a video on your site.

PeerTube is another interesting alternative. It’s a free, open-source, federated and decentralized video platform that uses peer-to-peer technology.

A federated platform allows you to join one of the existing instances or create your own which then syncs with the rest of the network. Here’s a video intro on how PeerTube works.

If you really must use YouTube…

If you really must embed a YouTube video, there’s the no-cookie option. It’s something Google created as a response to the GDPR. According to Google:

“Privacy Enhanced Mode allows you to embed YouTube videos without using cookies that track viewing behavior. This means no activity is collected to personalize the viewing experience. Instead, video recommendations are contextual and related to the current video. Videos playing in Privacy Enhanced Mode won’t influence the viewer’s browsing experience on YouTube.”

In “Embed options” of a YouTube video, tick the “enable privacy-enhanced mode”. Or simply change the domain in the embed code from youtube.com to youtube-nocookie.com.

Google Adsense

Google Adsense allows publishers and other site owners to monetize their sites using targeted advertising based on the profiling of their visitors.

Adsense scripts, DoubleClick scripts (also Google-owned) and other ad JavaScripts are found on 57% of all sites and account for 25% of all third-party requests.

Alternatives to Google Adsense

Adsense and its competitors normally pay per impression, need a lot of data collection and profiling, load tons of third-party resources that slow down your site and require a lot of page views to make money.

They are one of the main reasons for all the clickbait articles. It’s all about getting as many views as possible to boost the number of ad impressions. I would suggest you explore different monetization opportunities instead:

  • Try affiliate marketing where you refer your audience to relevant products that help them achieve what they’re trying to do. Instead of chasing page views, you’ll need to help people.

  • Sell products, courses and services that educate, inform and entertain your audience.

  • Work with relevant brands directly and accept sponsorships from companies.

  • Sell subscriptions and accept donations from your loyal fans using services such as Patreon.

Google AMP

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is Google’s way to try and amend some of the ways that they themselves have caused the web to become slow and bloated.

Google themselves will point the finger at their analytics and ads when you use their page speed tests. They provide guides on making these third-party resources less slow too.

Websites are bloated thanks to the overuse of third-party JavaScripts such as Google Analytics and Adsense advertising scripts so Google has created a new way to speed the web.

Alternatives to Google AMP

Rather than using these workarounds, I suggest you tackle the problem of a slow website head on. It’s possible to make your site just as fast as an AMP site without using Google AMP. Here’s how:

  • Restrict unnecessary elements. Understand every request your site is making and consider how useful they are. Do those flashing and distracting calls-to-action make a difference to the goals you have or are they simply annoying 99% of people that visit your site? Do you really need auto-playing videos?

  • Review all your third-party scripts and find lighter solutions. I already discussed several of the most popular scripts in this post. Another popular element are the official social media share buttons. There are better and lighter solutions for all of these.

  • Lazy load images and videos. There’s simply no reason to load your full page and everything on it as soon as a visitor enters your site. Lazy loading only loads images in the browser’s view and the rest only as the visitor scrolls down the page.

Google reCAPTCHA

Many site owners use Google’s reCAPTCHA to sort out bots and verify real human visitors. They may use it to secure their login form or to protect their comments area from spam. You may know them as those “I’m not a robot” checks that make you verify different objects such as crosswalks.

It’s not a perfect technology as it affects many normal users too such as those using a VPN, those using alternative browsers or those who use browser extensions that block certain elements.

Alternatives to Google reCAPTCHA

There are many alternatives to reCAPTCHA. Explore those such as the image based VisualCaptcha which allows you to configure your own options, Honeypot which features an invisible field that users don’t see and hCaptcha which is like reCAPTCHA but a bit more transparent.

If you really must use Google reCAPTCHA…

There’s the Invisible reCAPTCHA. It works pretty much the same as the regular reCAPTCHA but there are no checkboxes and no tests for visitors by default. Only “the most suspicious traffic” will be shown the test so some real visitors may still be affected.

Google Blogger

Google’s Blogger (aka Blogspot) hosts just under 1% of all the sites on the web. The thing is, Google doesn’t seem to care much about it. There’s a lack of development efforts and resources. Google seems to just patch things up to keep it from completely breaking down.

Look at this list of updates. Since the start of 2015, the only significant update was the introduction of HTTPS. Everyone has seen the fate of Google Reader, Google+, Google Inbox and other services Google decides to neglect.

Alternatives to Google Blogger

There are many interesting options. The most popular one is WordPress which hosts more than 35% of the web. I use it to run this site. It’s free and open-source, you can download it, do whatever you want with it and host it wherever you want.

The passionate community behind the project has created tens of thousands of free design themes and plugins that you can use to create any website that you want. It also allows you to easily export any of the content you create in case you ever decide to leave.

Other Blogger alternatives are Ghost, Hugo, Jekyll and Plume. So many options are available that I have published a full list of the best blogging platforms.

Google Analytics

76% of all sites include analytics scripts from third-party domains. The most popular analytics provider is Google Analytics. It is used on 68% of the top one million websites.

I used Google Analytics and for years it was one of the first things I integrated on a newly launched site. This is a habit developers should try to get rid of. For most people, the data Google Analytics collects is overkill. We only ever use a small share of it.

Alternatives to Google Analytics

Use analytics that are self-hosted and that don’t send any of your visitor and customer data to third-parties. Or use external analytics that collect and process a minimal amount or no personal data at all. For more simple needs, you can even use your server logs. Many solutions do exist.

For those who want to understand their search engine visibility and traffic they get from Google, there’s Search Console which is the most accurate way of doing that. And you don’t need to add any scripts to your site to use it. It’s the Google tool I use the most these days.

Matomo is one of the big players in the ethical analytics market. It’s an open-source analytics software that's built as a full-blown replacement of Google Analytics that you can either self-host on your domain name for free or you can pay them to host it in the cloud.

And I'm working on Plausible Analytics which looks at website analytics in a different way. It is not designed to be a clone of Google Analytics but meant as a simple-to-use replacement and a privacy-friendly alternative:

  • It is a lightweight script of 1.4 KB so it doesn't have a big impact on your site loading speed
  • It features all the important metrics on one page so it is quick and simple to understand what's going on
  • It doesn't use cookies and doesn't collect any personal data so no need to worry about getting visitor consent to store cookies and to collect personal data. It's GDPR and CCPA compliant out of the box
  • It is open source with the code on Github, a public roadmap and a live demo where we have opened the stats of our own website

If you really must use Google Analytics…

If you really must use Google Analytics, these are the settings to make it a little bit better:

  • Remove the “Data collection for advertising features” which includes the remarketing ability, audience demographics and interest reporting under “Tracking info” and “Data collection” in the Google Analytics admin section.

  • Disable the user-ID feature which associates visitor engagement data from different devices and multiple sessions. This setting can be found under “Tracking info” and “User-ID” in your Google Analytics admin section.

  • Anonymize the IP addresses of your customers and visitors by adding this piece of code to your Google Analytics embed code.

I hope you enjoyed this list and that it helps you run a more Google-free website and browse a more Google-free web!

Posted on May 25 by:

markosaric profile

Marko Saric

@markosaric

On a mission to help you share what you love, get discovered by people who love the same things too and make the web a better place at the same time. Co-founder of Plausible Analytics.

Discussion

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Hey Marko, first of all, congrats on plausible really good stuff.

A couple of weeks ago I removed Google Analytics from my side project, it is used by so many users daily and it felt unethical to track users for no reason.

Damn, I even removed the "Chimp with the envelope."

The site is hosted on Netlify so I went with their own analytics, to have it all at home. One of the down points is that I can't share the dashboard...

But believe me, my first go to was plausible

Keep up the good work Marko.

/Mike

 

Thanks for the kind words Mike!

 
 

An example is Cloudflare as they recently removed Google's reCAPTCHA and replaced it with an independent service to "address a privacy concern inherent to relying on a Google service".

Well, I guess it's a thing now. I wonder if there may be compliance implications to this, in the future.

 

Will certainly be interesting to follow especially with some GDPR decisions for complaints filed against Facebook and Twitter expected soon.

 

I’m sure there are those that strongly disagree and that’s fine, but I’m going to continue using Google services. Why? Because they’re easier to use and more seamless, especially given I already have an entity on GCP and integration is a breeze. Second, and more importantly, because my users already use them and the vast majority simply aren’t concerned with Google’s alleged privacy issues...most adults recognize that yes, they are the product for these services but that they’re also getting something of value in return. (Also, it really feels like this series of posts should be labeled as advertisements.)

 

Like I mentioned it the post, some website owners are happy to use Google services and that's ok. This post aims to promote some alternatives for website owners that care about things like these as I believe it's important for the overall health of the web that it becomes less reliant on and controlled by one single organization that makes money from collecting, profiling and selling of user data.