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39 Comments

Google Analytics is worthless

Hello everyone!

I'm currently trying multiple testing solutions for Testkit.

These were the tools I've used (Some at the same time)

You may now ask why I use so many analytics solutions simultaneously, and I have a simple answer for that: I couldn't decide. So I tried all of them.

Now I won't go into detail on how all of them work and what the differences are, but there was one thing that I noticed while comparing all of them:

Google Analytics is worthless

Why may you ask?

Squeaky has a nice feature: it can track people's interactions on the website while keeping privacy in focus - it doesn't use any cookies, and therefore I didn't have to ask for permission. I did have to ask for consent for Google Analytics, though, which is exactly where the problem is.

Through the heatmaps that Squeaky provided, I saw that around two-thirds of all visitors rejected the cookies or used something like "I don't care about cookies" or uBlock to disable tracking cookies altogether.

I saw a significant spike in visitors on Squeaky, Matomo, and Cloudflare Analytics. However, there were five times fewer visitors on Google Analytics.

As a comparison, here are the numbers from Squeaky:
Squeaky Analytics

And from here are the numbers from the same day in Google Analytics:
Google Analytics

For me, that makes Google Analytics pretty much worthless. Yes, I can still see a lot of data of people that accept cookies, but the reality seems that more and more people are aware of their privacy and use either tracking/cookie blockers or reject the cookies themselves.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this!

  1. 12

    Choosing a GDPR compliant solution is the way to go, like Pirsch (I'm building it), so you don't need consent and won't feed the beast. Also, GA might become illegal if they don't adapt.

    1. 4

      Curious to hear what makes Pirsch different than other alternatives out there? Would love to give it a try

      1. 9

        Hi Maaike!

        The most significant difference is our backend integration. Instead of relying on a JavaScript snippet, which can easily be blocked, you can use Pirsch server-side. We also offer an extensive API that can be used to access your data and automate everything. A customer from the Netherlands for example builds their whole in-app analytics on top of Pirsch.

        Last but not least, we have the most appealing interface! :D

        1. 3

          The interface looks slick guys, great job

          1. 2

            Thank you, Ryan! :)

  2. 8

    The thing is, there are many analytics solutions out there, but most websites today rely on Google Analytics. Google Analytics tracks users across devices, builds profiles, and enables them to be targeted with ads.

    This means you can't be sure that your website visitors are not being tracked by Google when they visit your website. Google Analytics is an enormous privacy risk. It logs the data of every visitor to your website.

    We use plausible.io which aims to provide a minimalistic alternative analytics tool that respects users' privacy. It inserts code into your website and reports back browser-specific metrics like screen size and operating system, but not any information about individual visitors themselves. Plus, it has a self-hosted open-source alternative.

    1. 1

      It's the third time I'm hearing about plausible.io, Arbaoui. I did research but felt like they are missing some key features? Is it really that good?

      1. 2

        My UX sense drive me to simplicity, so plausible succeed in that purpose;
        Plausible offers an easy-to-use interface with simple filter options that allow you to see the data you are interested in quickly. No complicated or hidden filters, no multiple tabs to switch between.

        It allows you to see your site traffic and all the essential insights on one page in one minute, without the distraction of fancy features or layers of menus.

        1. 2

          Useful insights, thank you!

      2. 1

        Come and try Squeaky @maaike 🙃

        We do offer traffic analytics like Plausible, but it's not actually the core element of our product, it's more of a user experience analytics tool, like Hotjar. So we might have some other features you find valuable or interesting 🤞

        1. 1

          Squeaky looks cool! I've been hoping for something similar.

          Noticed that your Terms of Use page is 404ing!
          https://squeaky.ai/app/terms

          1. 1

            oh hey, thanks @mattmorris - whereabouts was that link? We actually host the terms here now instead.

            Actually have been working on updated Terms this week too.

            1. 2

              Sure thing! It happens to the best of us.

              It's the link from https://squeaky.ai/app/auth/signup

  3. 6

    we are using umami.is amd Microsoft clarity. They work great.

    1. 3

      Oh never heard about it, how is https://umami.is/?

      1. 1

        I like it a lot. it has a lot of stuff..

    2. 2

      This looks pretty neat, thanks! I have to try it :)

  4. 5

    It's a cheap and easy solution to get some management off my back while I can focus on real problems at hand.

  5. 5

    I have to disagree with some of the things in your post. I've been working with Google Analytics for 3+ years now in my day jobs.

    Consent
    You can configure Google Analytics in such a way that you can be GDPR compliant without having to ask consent to store cookies. My source on that is the Dutch Authority on Personal Information (Authoriteit Persoonsgegevens). Done right, you can track the number of accept/reject clicks in your cookie consent banner as well.

    Cookies
    Google is also working on collecting data without relying on cookies and filling in the gaps with machine learning. Though I think it's definitely fair to assume that even if you configure Google Analytics as privacy friendly as you can, Google will still try to gather as much data for themselves as they possibly can. If you truly care about privacy you should probably steer clear from anything Google.

    Blockers
    From a technical point of view you can circumvent blockers by going with server side tracking, though you should ask yourself some ethical questions before you go that route. Admittedly, it requires more knowledge on your part to implement.

    You can work your way around all the issues you mentioned, though there's definitely a learning curve here. It took me a while to get to that level and it's my job. If you're (understandably) not that interested in the workings of Google Analytics, one of the other tools that you mentioned might be a better fit.

    Edit: The part on configuring Google Analytics GDPR compliant could potentially no longer be true thanks to a ruling in Austria yesterday. The Dutch authority I mentioned released a statement yesterday that they're investigating the situation.

  6. 4

    Cookieless is the way forward, and GA will probably adopt it sooner or later. At least that's our approach at HockeyStack to ensure higher accuracy. Squeaky seems to be cookieless too.

    1. 2

      We are! Big fan of what you're doing with HockeyStack by the way 😍👏

  7. 3

    You can try Appmetrix and let me know how it goes!

    1. 1

      This comment was deleted 7 days ago.

  8. 3

    The user isn't a moron. She/he learns (how to block or ignore, in this case). Those who treat humans like a bot (+see them only as a number on the analytics dashboard) are destined to lose, in my opinion. People have been ignoring cookies and getting better at blocking/rejecting them over the last years.

    Happy that other options worked well for you. We've been trying Fathom Analytics and we never looked back at Google Analytics.

    1. 1

      Hmm I want to make sure I understand this right.

      Through the heatmaps that Squeaky provided, I saw that around two-thirds of all visitors rejected the cookies or used something like "I don't care about cookies" or uBlock to disable tracking cookies altogether.

      ^^So the user on a website needs to"Accept Cookies" for Google Analytics to track them via their platform? If so, I'm surprised Google Analytics has any credibility at all. I default to keeping that off. I'm sure everyone else does too.

      1. 1

        It's up to the website implementing Google Analytics (or any other tracking tool) to configure it in such a way that it respects your cookie choices. There's nothing stopping the website from still using Google Analytics with cookies even if you reject them. I know of websites that don't bother to implement a consent banner at all, regardless of what the law says. I've also worked on a website where they accidentally ignored your consent choices and tracked you regardless.

        Have a look at my other comment in this thread, it provides additional information.

  9. 2

    Here's a list of website analytics.

    Several are cookie free:

    • Fathom
    • SimpleAnalytics
    • Plausible
    • Pirsch

    and more

    1. 1

      Stop feeding the beast

      So true

  10. 2

    Interesting. After your test uses, what provides the best use cases with real time usage, click through, time on page/site?

  11. 2

    @yassineze Awesome to see you're getting value out of Squeaky already 😊 It's actually really cool to see this comparison for us internally too, it hadn't occurred to me how many sessions must be missing from Google Analytics data...I mean I knew you'd lose a few from their reliance on cookies etc, but amazing to think you're seeing up to 2/3rds of people reject them!

  12. 1

    Hey @yassineze

    IMO usefulness of Google Analytics comes with few caveats.

    1. If your audience is typical HN/IH crowd, AdBlocker will obliterate your statistics
    2. Based on recent decisions from Dutch and Austrian DPAs, Google Analytics will be very hard to configure in compliant manner. There will be many folks screaming there is no way, but do your research.

    If you are seeking alternatives, there is a really good write up at Creatively

    Disclaimer, our product Wide Angle Analytics is on the list.

  13. 1

    Can not agree more. All vanity data and nothing at all useful.

  14. 1

    I thought you had the option to anonymize data on Google Analytics? I recall seeing an anonymize flag you could pass in the gtag code snippet on your front end.

  15. 1

    One of the many reasons I work on Fugu 😅

  16. 1

    Coincidentally, I had been working on a 'GA alternatives' post for a while, all the while the news story broke that Austria has ruled against GA and the legality of their data storing methods.

    The post in question:

    https://stackdiary.com/open-source-analytics/

  17. 1

    For most of my sites/projects/things, I use either no analytics at all, a home made tool/script or Koko Analytics (if it's a Wordpress site). This way I'm always in control and in confirmation with GDPR.

  18. 1

    This comment was deleted 7 days ago.

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