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Cover image for Why you should remove Google Analytics from your site

Why you should remove Google Analytics from your site

markosaric profile image Marko Saric Originally published at plausible.io ・5 min read

I'm working on a leaner and more transparent alternative to Google Analytics without all the privacy baggage. It's called Plausible Analytics and you can see the live demo here.

Here’s a look at why I believe you should stop using Google Analytics on your site and help create a more open, independent web that’s more friendly to your visitors. Let's start.

It’s owned by Google, the largest ad-tech company in the world

53% of all sites on the web track their visitors using Google Analytics. 84% of sites that do use a known analytics script use Google Analytics. It’s the most popular third-party request on the web accounting for 0.64% of all network requests.

Google Analytics is run by the largest ad-tech company in the world. A company with a business model that loves to devour all the personal data it can get access to. Google’s products are free to use because Google has built its wealth by collecting huge amounts of personal information and using these personal and behavioral insights to sell targeted advertising.

It’s a bloated script that affects your site speed

Web analytics like any other element add extra page weight. Google’s Global Site Tag and the Universal Analytics script can be considered bloat if you only care about the most useful website stats and want to make your site as lean and fast as possible.

Global Site Tag, the recommended way of integrating Google Analytics, weights 28 KB and it downloads another JavaScript file which adds an additional 17.7 KB to your page size. Every KB matters when you want to keep your site fast to load.

It’s overkill for the majority of site owners

For most site owners, the amount of data Google Analytics collects is overkill. Most people find real and regular use for only a fraction of the metrics it measures.

Google Analytics has more than 125 different reports and more than 290 different metrics you can gather your insights from. Analyzing these is a full-time job that requires a lot of time, effort, expertise and experience to do well.

It’s a liability considering GDPR and other privacy regulations

Different personal data and privacy regulations have been introduced such as the GDPR in Europe, CCPA in the US and PECR in the UK. All these privacy regulations are a good step towards a better web and are a necessary thing in the world of surveillance capitalism.

Google Analytics collects a lot of personal data. Many Google Analytics users also enable different advertising features such as remarketing, demographics reporting and interest reporting. All this collection of personal data is a liability for your site.

It uses cookies so you must obtain consent to store cookies

Google Analytics is a cookie-based analytics tool and it's not possible to use it without cookies. It sets multiple cookies and it “uses cookies to identify unique users across browsing sessions”.

Privacy regulations have a say about cookies too. PECR, for instance, requires a site owner to tell their visitors about cookies that they use to track personal data and give visitors the choice of whether to accept them or not.

It requires an extensive privacy policy

In addition to the cookie notice and the GDPR consent prompt, Google has further requirements for your use of Google Analytics:

“You must post a Privacy Policy and that Privacy Policy must provide notice of Your use of cookies, identifiers for mobile devices or similar technology used to collect data. You must disclose the use of Google Analytics, and how it collects and processes data”.

It worsens your user experience due to the annoying prompts

To abide by the privacy regulations while collecting the personal data, you need to compromise the visitor experience by displaying annoying cookie banners and GDPR or CCPA consent notices. You also need to present comprehensive privacy policy regarding analytics tracking.

Google Analytics makes the user experience on your site more inconvenient. And if you’re simply using Google Analytics for basic web statistics, it’s worth considering the dramatic effect it has on the visitor experience and the loading time.

It’s blocked by many so the data is not very accurate

Google Analytics script is blocked by millions of people who use adblockers such as the uBlock Origin and by users of popular browsers such as Firefox and Brave.

There’s no definite answer on how many people block Google Analytics as that depends on the audience of your site, but for a tech audience, you shouldn’t be surprised to see 50% or more of the visitors blocking Google Analytics.

It’s abused by referral spam that skews the data

You may have noticed referrer URLs in your dashboard that are spam. Bad actors send fake visitors to your site which then shows their URL on your referral sources list. The intention is to get you to get curious and visit their site.

This referral spam has been going on for years and it can really skew the stats you see. Many site owners put a lot of effort and spend a lot of time blocking the referral spam. Some do it manually one domain at a time while some use more automated systems.

It’s a proprietary product so you need to put your trust in Google

As it says on the very top of the Google’s privacy policy: “When you use our services, you’re trusting us with your information”. In the case of Google Analytics, you’re not only trusting Google with your information but also the information of all your website visitors.

Google Analytics is a closed source, proprietary product. There have been many rumors for years on what Google uses all the data for. Google has denied many of the accusations and rumors but there’s no way of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. You have to simply put your trust in Google, the world’s largest ad-tech company.

Plausible Analytics as an alternative

Plausible Analytics is not designed to be a clone of Google Analytics. It is meant as a simple-to-use replacement and a privacy-friendly alternative that we believe can help many site owners.

  • It's quick, simple to use and understand with all the metrics displayed on one page
  • Lightweight script of 1.4 KB so sites load fast. Our script is 33 times smaller script than the Google Analytics one
  • Doesn't use cookies so there's no need to worry about cookie banners
  • Doesn't track personal data so it's compliant with GDPR out of the box and you don't need to worry about ask for data consent
  • It's open source with the code available on GitHub

Sign up for a free trial and give Plausible Analytics a chance. And if this message resonates with you, do spread the word to your favorite site owners. Friends don’t let friends use Google Analytics.

Posted on 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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So if you don't use cookies how do you report on new vs returning users? This is pretty important for a website. If you don't have the ability to look at a device behaviour over multiple sessions you are very limited in your understanding of customers and your product. As you mentioned Google analytics is free but uses your data. That's why we also have something called Google Search, Google Maps and so on for FREE. Finally, of you are a small businesses which wants to promote its brand, what's wrong with doing retargeting and leverage Google Ads ecosystem?

 

Like mentioned in the post, Plausible is not meant as a clone or a full blown replacement of Google Analytics. Some people are fine running GA and are happy to use Google Ads and the rest of the Google ecosystem. On the other hand, some would prefer to focus more on privacy of their visitors or on not having to get cookie / GDPR consent etc. Plausible is more meant for those use cases.

I've answered the new vs returning aspect in another reply.

 

I'm curious to learn about the new vs returning metric as well.

 

Here's how it's counted:

Instead of setting a cookie with a unique user ID, we simply count the number of unique IP addresses that accessed your website to determine the visitor count.

To enhance the visitor privacy, we don’t actually store the raw visitor IP address in our database or logs. We run it through a one-way hash function to scramble the raw IP addresses and make them impossible to recover.

To further enhance visitor privacy, we add the website domain to their IP hash. This means that the same user will never have the same IP hash on two different websites. If we didn’t do this, the hash would effectively act like a third-party (cross-domain) cookie.

Network Address Translation allows many unique users to share the same public IP address. For this reason we also add the User-Agent string to the hash, although we don’t store the actual User-Agent string.

There's some more detail on what we collect and how we do it in our data policy.

But what if their IP are changed? For example, they can change between different wifi/mobile networks. And on mobile network, some carriers actually assign a different IP if the user disconnect from mobile network for a long time.

If they change the IP they will be counted as another visitor. Similar as in if someone blocks/deletes their cookies, they become new visitors too. Not having to show a cookie banner is a worthwhile tradeoff for many sites though.

 

Can we just go back to hit counters already?

 

perhaps we should release one next? :)

 

Hi. Frankly, i didny appreciate to not find a pricing oage on the website. I can dubscribe for a 30 days trial but... Then? What happens? Why don't you tell it clearly? Why do I have to use Google to find the the startin plan is 6€/month?

 

We have a link to pricing in our top navigation bar and it is also prominently displayed on our home page.

 

Sorry, you're totally right. I apoligize for my comment. I shouldn't post anything at night when my eyes are too tired even to see what's cleared displayed :(

No worries, it happens!

 

So it can't be used for free as an OSS project?

 

The full code is on our Github page so you can take it and run it github.com/plausible-insights/plau...

We're also in the process of developing an easy self-hosted solution via Docker container. You can track the progress (and perhaps even help get us there faster) here github.com/plausible-insights/plau...

 

Hi Marko,

You have mentioned some crucial points, in contrast, to use of Google Analytics. But, I think the major reason for websites to use GA as the primary tracking tool is that it's free.

Spending thousands on website design, maintenance, tools, plugins, servers and other services, GA seems apt.

Plausible seems nice, however, it's paid after the trial, which makes me reconsider GA. Just a simple observation.

Alongside, personal data via GA is already with Google, as most of the users, and all Android users compulsorily require a Google email id.

Then taking into consideration the size of code, yes, it is a major issue, but, at the same time, GTM allows me to fire multiple tags using a single external file. If I'm configuring Plausible in GTM, then the file shall still trigger. If I cannot configure Plausible in GTM, then two files (scripts) are triggered, one for GTM consisting of remarketing and other behavioural tracking tools like Hotjar tags and the other one is Plausible, wouldn't this take longer?

And, as you mentioned that Plausible is neither a clone not replacement, it means that I need to track my website using GA + Plausible. Won't this take longer? Considering, another 1.4Kb shall be loaded?

For Privacy Policy, it's a mandate in every country to inform the users about privacy policy and request their consent. Failing to do so, E-Commerce websites, cannot sell goods/services worth a penny, I'm sure you are aware of it. So, there is not a major issue in adding a section for Privacy Policy related to GA cookies. Also, trusting No. 1 Tech Company is simple for people. Without trust from people, how can someone be No. 1?

Also, what is the effect of Plausible as a render-blocking resource (JS) for WordPress? Since 30% of the web uses WordPress.

The multiple formats are used for different reasons, and it's good that the data is centralized. SEO works on organic & referral traffic, Web development needs to account for OS, Browser, and Mobile users. UI/UX takes care of the Devices. Content looks after the user behaviour, and sales can be measures in terms of money. So, ultimately, all the data is useful for someone or another. Plus, the UI/UX of the GA dashboard is really simple. Alongside, other Google Tools like Ads and Search Console are integrated. Does Plausible provide these metrics? If it does, then it shall be really helpful.

 

Yeah, like mentioned in the post, Plausible is not meant as a clone or a full blown replacement of Google Analytics and Google's ecosystem. Some people want to run GA and want full integration with Google Ads, advertising and the rest of the Google ecosystem. Plausible may not be the best solution for those use cases.

We designed it more for use cases where people want to de-Google-ify their sites, or where people want more privacy to their visitors or people don't want to deal with all those cookies and GDPR consent prompts etc.

There is no issue with WordPress websites but we do want to provide an easy to use plugin for WordPress. It would be easier to implement Plausible that way than having to insert our one line script into your site manually. It's on our roadmap.

 

How does it compare to Matomo/Piwik?

 

Matomo/Piwik is great if you're looking for a more ethical full-blown Google Analytics replacement with pretty much all the same stuff that GA tracks too. So compared to Plausible it has a heavier script (22.8 KB vs 1.4 KB) and it is a bit more difficult to understand for people not too experienced with website statistics.

Plausible is built with simplicity, speed and privacy in mind so you're set out of the box. No need for extra configuration to make it compliant with regulations and no need to spend time exploring all the different reports and metrics. We just show few of the key metrics on one single page.

 

I can confirm that Matomo is a great alternative of GA but not the best one I ve encountered by now . For example it creates 16 dB tables in WP.

Yeah, it is not a very lightweight solution as it tracks pretty much the same amount of data as GA does.

 

My take after looking at the website is that it has simplicity of use going for it (like Piwik did in the early days) but it's not as open because of the lack of support for self-hosting.

Yeah we're open source and the full code is on Github but we haven't made it ready for easy self-hosting yet. The focus was on building the product first and we're a small team. There's some progress on the official Docker container with several community members involved so hopefully easy self-hosting will be ready too soon! Here's the thread github.com/plausible-insights/plau...

 

You‘re right. Personally I just want to know how many visits I got for each site, where they come from and how long they stayed. However, I used GA because it was (and probably is) the gold standard and „must have“ tool for analytics. I may reconsider this in the near future - thanks for your post 🙏

 

you're welcome!

 

What do you think of Cloudflare's analytics?

Safe? Need to ask for cookies? Enough information?

These are what they provide, BTW.

cloudflare navbar

 

What if a client wants to use Google Ads to boost website traffic? How would I go about tracking marketing campaigns such as those? I'm asking because analytics offers integration with that other platform. I would assume that maybe ad urls could just use query params and Plausible could just track custom events if a visitor came from a Google Ad or social media?

 

We do have goal / event tracking. But like mentioned in the post, Plausible is not meant as a clone or a full blown replacement of Google Analytics and Google's ecosystem. Some people want to run GA and want full integration with Google Ads, remarketing and the rest of the Google ecosystem. Plausible may not be the best solution for those use cases. We designed it more for use cases where people want to de-Google-ify their sites, or where people want more privacy to their visitors or people don't want to deal with all those cookies and GDPR consent prompts etc.

 

Great article Marko! I setup my page web3.coach last month without GA (or any other) tracking system and I couldn't be happier. Focusing on page views is often a bad practice when growing a site anyway bc it doesn't tell you much but there are few use-cases where anonymous, privacy respecting tracking would help. I will check your system later in the afternoon :)

 

Thank you!

 

I'd love to one day see an information & trust brokering protocol for which tools like these can implement clients.

But this is a statement in a conversation that may one day lead to that.

I'm glad to see it's not all a blocking vs collecting arms race.

Thanks, Mr. Saric.

 

thank you!

 

Your Plausible analytics are quite similar to Fathom analytics. What's the difference?

 

We're both starting from the concept of simple metrics but I assume we will diverge more and more as time goes on and as we focus on our different interests and priorities. We have a public roadmap where you can get a good idea on what's coming up and where we're heading next.

Plausible is open source so one of the goals is to try and get an easy self-hosted Docker container. There's work going on now and you can follow the progress here.

 

All right

And for you information, Fathom is open source too, and quite easy to self-host

I thought they closed their product and only had an older, less powerful version as open source?

 

The demo looks promising. I run a pro wrestling blog as a side thing and I use Google Analytics to check the growth that my site gets on a weekly basis.

I might check out Plausible (great name, by the way). Great read though!

 

Sounds good, thank you!

 

'Friends don’t let friends use Google Analytics' - Now thats Genius

 

Glad you like it! :)

 

I'm so glad that I bumped into your article. I'm, too, building a website, and (as a developer) cookieless is my main focus. Definitely will give your product a try.

 

That's good to hear, thanks!

 

This makes me feel we should do away with everything. Cz every business makes money out of you and every interaction with any other person is a privacy risk.

 

Thanks for doing this. The world needs a viable alternative!

 

Thank you :)