Review: What if Google Analytics is banned? Is Matomo Analytics a good alternative then?
Since the recent ruling by the Austrian privacy authority, there have been fears among marketers that Google Analytics could be banned at some point. At least within Europe. According to this regulator, Google Analytics violate European privacy law (GDPR).
After previous similar statements in the summer of 2020, companies are increasingly looking at alternatives. Matomo (formerly Piwik) is most frequently mentioned in this regard. For me, the signal to give this alternative to Google Analytics a try.
1. What's going on with Google Analytics?
Google's popular web analytics tool has been lying around since the introduction of the European privacy legislation (GDPR) under intense fire in 2018. Mainly because of personal data that - contrary to GDPR requirements - leaves the EU and is stored on servers in the United States.
As consumers become increasingly concerned about their online privacy, calls are echoing to ban Google Analytics - in its current form.
Specifically, it involves two statements:
- Summer 2020: European Union nullifies privacy agreement between EU and United States
- Winter 2022: Austrian privacy authority bans use of Google Analytics
Update January 2023: there is still uncertainty about the future of Google Analytics. Both Italy and Denmark have previously ruled that the way Google handles its data violates imposed European legislation. In Spain, on the other hand, they see no problem.
Extremely popular worldwide
Google Analytics is used on just about every website worldwide. So a European ban would have a huge impact. According to experts, it won't be such a big deal for now, but among marketers you notice that the subject is alive and well.
2. Matomo as an alternative to Google Analytics
Matomo (which is Japanese for "honesty") is by far the most popular alternative to Google Analytics. Matomo (once started as "Piwik") is an open-source platform that values privacy. For example, you have the option of storing data locally on your own servers.
Because of the latter, numerous large organizations have since switched. For example: Amnesty International, RedBull, NASA, Huawei and the European Commission. Also, the Belgian Data Protection Authority uses Matomo on their website.
Like Google Analytics, Matomo allows you to find out the origin of your visitors, set goals (= conversions) and create reports. With the difference that you have more insight into what happens with all this data.
How to install Matomo.
You can install and use Matomo in 3 different ways:
- Matomo On-Premise: You are going to install and manage Matomo on your own server. For GDPR the best choice, only you will need some technical knowledge.
- Matomo for WordPress: A free, easy-to-install plug-in for WordPress.
- Matomo Cloud: An easy-to-use, paid version of Matomo. If desired, you can use this version 21 day free trial first.
For this review, I choose "Matomo Analytics for WordPress," which works more or less the same as "Matomo Cloud. Only then you don't have access to the mobile app, for example. Are you considering the On-Premise version? Then find out here what it difference is between Matomo Cloud Hosting and Matomo On-Premise.
Contrary to what you might expect from open source software, the user interface is very accessible. The dashboard neatly charts your website's visitor statistics. Here are the 5 most important parts:
- Dashboard: Matomo allows you - à la Google Data Studio - to create your own dashboards. Starting from a template or not. You simply choose a parameter from the menu, after which your data is visualized. Would you prefer a circle or bar chart instead of a table? All possible!
- Visitors: here, Matomo gives you more insight into the profile of your website visitors. Which devices are they surfing with? From which country do most visitors come from? Or what are the most popular times of day?
- Behavior: a very important component for marketers. Here you can see which pages or external links are popular, what the "exit pages are and even for each page what the average load time is.
- Provenance: where did your visitors come from? Just like in your familiar Google Analytics environment, you will find through which source a visitor came to your site. By the way, Matomo also offers you a 'Campaign URL Builder'. Just like Google has its 'UTM codes', here you can build a url to measure the results of campaigns.
- Objectives: The last item in the menu is 'goals'. Here you can set a goal (e.g. thank you page) to measure the number of 'conversions' just like in GA.
In addition to these five features, you also have optional A/B testing, Funnels, Heatmaps and Session Recordings. However, these are paid features anyway.
As with Google Analytics, you can generate reports that you want to receive in your mailbox daily, weekly or monthly. Here you choose the frequency, format (e.g., HTML or PDF) and desired parameters.
3. Google Analytics vs. Matomo
If you ask my opinion, Google Analytics has a competitor to be feared with Matomo. Especially now that companies, marketers and consumers are increasingly critical of their online privacy. Fully justified of course.
Aside from the privacy hatch, I find Matomo especially more user-friendly than Analytics. In fact, for an average merchant who just wants to know how many website visitors he had last period, it seems like a better choice to me.
4. Frequently asked questions (FAQ).
Since you may still have some questions about the use and features of Matomo, I answer some more frequently asked questions below:
1. Does Matomo mean the end of annoying cookie banners?
There Matomo can work without tracking cookies, you could theoretically remove your cookie banner. Provided, of course, that you don't use any other third-party tools that required cookies.
2. Is there also a Matomo app?
Yes, Matomo has an app for both Android and iOS. However, you cannot use it if you have chosen to do the implementation through the WordPress plugin. Which in practice is no big deal, as Matomo Analytics is extremely "mobile friendly.
3. Can I import data from Google Analytics into Matomo?
Yes, Matomo itself indicates that this is possible. You can find more information about this via the following article.
4. Is Matomo free?
Matomo has two free versions: Matomo for WordPress and Matomo On-Premise. Only the Cloud App is paying (from €19/month).
5. Where does Matomo store my data?
When you choose Matomo On-Premise, all your data resides locally on your servers. If you choose the cloud version, a German data center is used for European customers.
6. Is Matomo GDPR-proof?
I'll leave the final answer to lawyers, but Matomo already fully suggests GDPR Compliant to be.
Want to test for yourself whether Matomo is a worthy alternative to Google Analytics? Good news! Matomo offers on its website a working demo environment to, allowing you to experience the possibilities for yourself.