Why I Stopped Using Google Analytics (And What I Use Instead)
After removing the stranglehold of “big tech on my business and life, Google Analytics was one leftover I hadn’t yet replaced. But, now I have. Google Analytics is annoyingly complicated, and it isn’t the only game in town.
After multiple years of using Google Analytics to track my site’s traffic, I have just removed the tracking tag. I am no longer using Google Analytics.
Yes, Google Analytics is free. Lots of plugins integrate with it. It feels like the standard. It feels like everybody uses it so therefore it is just the thing to do.
But, Google Analytics isn’t the only game in town. Not only that, there are reasons why you may want to actually think about how you track your site traffic and not merely follow the herd mentality.
In This Post…
The Problems With Google
A few years ago, I began to take my digital sovereignty more seriously. And I wanted to remove the tentacles of “big tech” from my day-to-day life. I just didn’t want to depend on it.
One of the big ones was Google. I used Google for search, for all of my email, for calendar, for file storage… the list went on.
Google designs it this way. They give all these apps for free, but the reason they do that is to spy on you.
Google is collecting and archiving EVERYTHING you do. Your entire search history, your private life (via email and calendar), your internet activity (via Chrome and other tracking across the internet), your entertainment (via Youtube), your voice mails (via Google Voice)… and the list goes on.
It can be downright creepy, too. For instance, in a few instances, I have had videos show up on my Youtube Recommended list that there’s just no way they would have garnered I’d have any interest in from my viewing history. The ONLY way they would think that… is because of my Gmail and Google Voice voice messages. It is crystal clear they are scanning email and voice mails and putting that into the data packet… and using it for targeting.
You’re not paying for it, which means you are the product.
You are a big data packet.
So, I now use FastMail for my email and calendar. I use DuckDuckGo and Brave Search for search. I still use a few Google tools and their search from time to time, but it is intentional and not automatic. Google is never my default.
Thing is… I was still using Google Analytics. I hadn’t pulled that plug yet and found a Google Analytics alternative.
And let’s face it… Google Analytics isn’t really free.
Google Analytics Isn’t Really Free
Like all of their “free” apps, the reason Google Analytics is free is because it is a massive data collector for Google.
Using Analytics, they are able to spy on user behavior, interactions, traffic sources… even the individual performance of your business. And Google is expressly in the business of monetizing all of that data for their own purposes.
It isn’t just about you, either. It is about everybody who browses your website. Google is able to track people around the internet and enrich that data packet they have on every individual. When you are using Google Analytics, your site just became yet another cog in their data collection engine.
This is literally THE only reason Google Analytics is free.
But, that’s not all…
Other Reasons Why I Say Bye To Google Analytics
As part of the privacy problem with Google Analytics, they also place cookies on the visitors’ computers. This means…
- It can trigger the need to put annoying cookie notices on your website.
- It can trigger GDPR and other privacy law problems, depending on your location.
- If your visitors are using ad blockers, good chance it is blocking the ability for Google Analytics to even track it.
Funny, but when the privacy laws like GDPR came out, Google’s response was to stick settings into Analytics to disable tracking certain things. But, you had to specifically do it. Plus, that doesn’t mean Google isn’t still tracking it. How do you really know?
Also… and this is a big one…
Google Analytics is overly complicated.
It is bloatware.
It literally tracks SO MUCH DATA that going into your Analytics reports to get a feel for what’s going on feels like a trip into over-engineered corporate hell… mixed with a trip to the DMV.
Most all of the data in there is hard to find. Only the real basic stuff is even useful. You damn near need a degree in data science to be able to dive into the rest of it.
When I ask clients about tracking their traffic, most of them don’t. Yes, most all of them have Google Analytics set up because they feel like they’re supposed to, but they barely ever look at it. Because it is sheer overwhelm to do so.
Like most people, I was using Google Analytics for all this time and barely ever checked my traffic stats. When I did, I barely ever went any deeper than the “Home” dashboard. Going any deeper than that would make my eyes bleed.
The complication isn’t going anywhere, either. Just this morning (on the day I’m writing this post), I’ve had 2 clients forward me emails from Google they got. It has to do with their forced transition away from “Universal Analytics” to “Google Analytics 4”. And like normal people, my clients have no idea if they need to do anything about it. Because… Google Analytics is a complicated beast you’re afraid to even touch. 😉
Ironically, the forced switched to GA4 has a lot to do with all the privacy problems inherent in Google Analytics. 😉
Either way, they’re going to force you to switch whether you want it or not. You can’t even take your historical data with you, either.
So, the way I see it, there’s no time like the present to send Google packing.
The Google Analytics Alternative I Switched To
I was on a client call and she mentioned to me an analytics tool she wanted me to integrate her with. I had never heard of it. I made note of it to research later.
That tool is called Fathom Analytics.
I must say, they hit all the right buttons for me and I ended up signing up for it. The people behind it clearly have the same thoughts about Google and “big tech” as I do.
Fathom Analytics is simple. It does not track all the data that Google does. It just presents the stuff you’d really want to know and presents it into a simple dashboard that is easy to understand.
- Fathom is an independently owned company.
- They are selling their service in a traditional customer relationship, which means my data is not the product. Their tool is.
- Their embed code is simple and fast. Only about 1.6KB in size rather than the bloated beast that is the Google Analytics code.
- I own the data. I can even export it or can wipe the data at anytime.
- It is fully compliant with all privacy laws.
- It has free uptime monitoring.
For getting a more fine-tuned look at what’s going on with your site, Fathom supports things like referral URL variables, UTM tracking and event tracking. Referral URL tracking is easiest to use to track individual traffic sources (Iike your emails). UTM is usually used for ad campaign tracking. And event tracking would be for tracking button or link clicks, form submissions, opt-ins…. things like that.
It is all doable with Fathom. It takes a little bit to set those things up, but that would be similar with any such tool. The good thing, though, is that it is approachable. With Analytics, wading into their documentation feels like a trip into a college library.
So, I have switched over to Fathom Analytics. I have removed the Google Analytics tracking tag.
A Word On Analytics Plugins
It is a shame that pretty much all analytics plugins for WordPress just assume you are using Google Analytics.
It makes sense given the market penetration of the tool. But, a lot of people end up using these Analytics plugins mainly because it is all so overwhelming and complicated that they think these plugins are the easy way to do it.
So, you’ve got bloated plugins like MonsterInsights to help automate the inclusion of the Analytics tracking code and then bring a lot of that data into WordPress. Again, many people simply hate logging into their Analytics reports because it is so nasty to deal with, so they’d rather have something simpler inside of WordPress.
A lot of other plugins have features to make Analytics integration easier. But, they always assume you’re using Google Analytics.
It would be great to begin seeing similar tools for Google Analytics alternatives.
With Fathom, you won’t need any of those integration plugins. Fathom has one to simplify the inclusion of their tracking tag, but honestly… you don’t need it. The whole thing is just simple.
And your stat dashboard is just so easy and simple, you don’t need the bloat necessary to pull and simplify the reporting into your WordPress admin.
Are You A Client? I Will Set Up Analytics For You.
Fathom Analytics is a paid service. It isn’t expensive at all, but it is paid. If it were free, I’d worry. 🙂
But, if you are an active support or hosting client of mine, I will include Fathom Analytics tracking as part of your monthly support plan with me.
Your site will get it’s own simple, easy-to-understand traffic dashboard and I will share it with you behind a password. I’ll also integrate Fathom for you, so you won’t need to worry about it.
If you want to continue using Google Analytics as well, that’s your call. You can use both at the same time. Or, if you’re not tracking your traffic at all right now, then I can now help you get that problem solved.
You will also have uptime monitoring of your site as well as a weekly (or monthly, if you prefer) traffic report sent to your email.
If you are an active monthly client, just reach out to me if you want me to set this up for you. I will also be proactively reaching out to see if you’d like to get it installed.
If you are not an active client, you can join here. There’s a lot of other things I’m doing for client sites, but now we can add simple, “not big tech” analytics to the mix as well.
Or, if you just want to sign up for Fathom Analytics on your own, you can do that, too.
I Am A Fan Of “Small Tech”, Not Big Tech
I still use the products of big tech. But, I won’t use it for anything important. I have no interest in feeding the machine for no reason.
Google is everything I don’t like about “big tech”. It is too centralized, too big, too data hungry, too creepy… and there has been case after case after case of them abusing their position in the marketplace.
As I said, I still use Google from time to time. But, it is intentional, not by default. And they no longer have any control over my day-to-day, mission critical data or applications.
Google Analytics was the one straggler. And now I have turned that off, too.
As a site owner, I will still look to have my site perform adequately in Google search. I will still use Google Search Console to track that and optimize.
But, once a person is on this website, it is now a black hole as far as Google is concerned.
IF you’re still using the Chrome browser, well that’s on you. I guess they can still track you. But, I don’t want this website (or any of my sites) to be a cog in their data collection machine.
I respect YOU and your privacy more than that.
And I’d also much rather do business with small tech businesses ran by real people… than some big tech conglomerate that looks at me as nothing more than a data packet.
Hi David, did you ever consider WP Statistics? If yes and you did not go with, can you please explain why? Thanks.
I didn’t. In fact, never heard of it until just now. 🙂 Looks quite interesting, although I will say that I would be concerned about the extra load on the database and server keeping all that data inside of WordPress. Probably uses a fair amount of memory, too. Perhaps I’ll plan on testing this plugin to see how it performs.
Wow, very intersting post. Thanks for providing a bit of clarity on that subject. I always thought that was my only choice. Fk GA, its too complicated. I will have to look at Fastmail, but my question is what did you replace the calendar with. Also my only issue with getting rid of Google all together is that I use the Doc and Drive.
FastMail also has a calendar. 🙂 So, that’s what I use. When I need something for integration, I still use Google Calendar a bit, but then it just pulls into FastMail so that’s the only place I actually manage anything.
Nothing wrong with Google Docs or Drive if it works for you. Just back it up so you’re never dependent.