"Is Google Analytics Illegal?”. If you have followed the news lately, you must have heard about that topic. It started in Austria where the Austrian Data Protection Authority has decided that Google Analytics violates the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union (GDPR). It was followed by France where the French Data Protection Agency (CNIL) stated that Google Analytics was illegal, because of the data transfers to the United States. More information can be found here.
We will not focus on whether Google Analytics (referred to as GA in this article) is illegal or not, but as more and more companies are wondering whether they should move away from GA, we would like to present some alternatives of analytics tools. In this article we go through a couple of platforms that either replace or complement the features offered by GA and we present their main characteristics. The objective is not to influence nor to conduct a detailed analysis but rather to give a high-level overview.
Different tools for different needs
It is definitely the most used web analytics tool. A big benefit is that the free version is easy to use and configure, and is a fit for most companies. If more advanced capabilities are needed, it is possible to upgrade to the premium version, Google Analytics 360. On top of that, it offers the ability to seamlessly be integrated with the Google ecosystem of products.
An important drawback is that the collected data belongs to Google, which can make it difficult to maintain conformity to data protection regulations.
Over the last couple of years the digital analytics field has evolved to aggregate data of websites and apps, as well as to move beyond cookie tracking. Google addressed this a couple of months ago with the release of the latest version of their analytics product, Google Analytics 4 (Universal Analytics will be going away in July 2023). A major difference with Universal Analytics is the model used, from a session-based to an event-based model.
It has long been considered as the biggest competitor of GA360. Nonetheless, they are quite different. Unlike GA, the collected data belongs to the company itself. Adobe Analytics is very robust but also very complex, as the implementation is harder and the tool is less intuitive. Yet, once you master the tool, you can go deep in your analyses with all the customizations and segmentations.
AT Internet (a Piano company)
In 2021, AT Internet was acquired by Piano, a customer experience platform. AT Internet is also a web analytics tool, such as GA & Adobe Analytics, but compared to these tools, AT Internet is a company located in Europe. As a French-based company, the platform was designed with data privacy needs in mind, by ensuring the companies to remain GDPR compliant.
The ease of use of AT Internet can be compared to the one of GA and the platforms have many similarities, especially with GA4, as it is an event-based tool.
There are several interesting tools directly integrated into the platform. Among these:
- A tag inspector that ensures good governance of the data collected.
- A data manager that allows data to be corrected in case of error.
- A query tool which makes it possible to easily connect data to other tools via an API.
In addition to these, there are two interesting solutions in terms of data quality and GDPR:
- A solution that allows companies to capture the traffic lost because of ad blockers.
- For French customers, there is a CNIL (GDPR) exemption that allows them to capture traffic even if the user has declined cookies.
Matomo Analytics (formerly Piwik)
You might be more familiar with Matomo under its earlier name, Piwik. Piwik started in New-Zealand as a free open-source alternative to GA. Then they joined a team in Poland to provide paid analytics solutions to businesses, branded as Piwik PRO. Due to differing opinions about the company’s future, the Piwik team left Piwik PRO to become Matomo. Today Matomo and Piwik PRO are two different companies, independent from each other. They even seem to be competing with each other, as some of their services overlap and they both position themselves as GA alternatives on their website.
According to Matomo, they are a “Google Analytics alternative that protects your data and your customers' privacy”. It differs from GA in a number of ways. Firstly, it is an open-source software, giving users the freedom to modify it without limitations. Secondly, businesses get full ownership and control over their analytics data. Nobody can access their data, not even anonymously, which is not the case with GA. Thirdly, there is no data sampling limit.
Similarly to AT Internet, the company Piwik PRO is located in Europe.
You can read this on Piwik PRO’s website: “Easily migrate from Universal Analytics - Join the early access program and test our new feature that automatically migrates all your settings”. The core difference between Piwik PRO and GA is that Piwik PRO enables you to have full data ownership and to remain in control of your data, while GA is remotely hosted. Next to that, you get 100% unsampled data. Finally, you get unlimited hits per month, unlimited number of goals, unlimited data storage time, etc.
Amplitude is a product analytics platform, built for product teams, while other tools from this article are web analytics platforms, built for marketing teams. Amplitude has always been built on an event-based model. This wasn’t the case for GA, until they released GA4.
Some companies use both GA and Amplitude. GA is helpful when it comes to measuring traffic and engagement, while Amplitude is useful to better understand your user behaviors and patterns, by providing actionable insights across the customer journey. Amplitude is very customizable in terms of reports and they have a lot of templates, which makes it easy for you to build the needed reports.
Earlier this year they launched new features and products on their platform. Among these:
- New digital analytics features, including new campaign reporting, metrics and tables.
- Customer data platform (CDP).
More information can be found here.
This table gives a (non-exhaustive) comparison of the tools:
- Google Analytics (free version) works better for small to medium companies, as it’s free and it offers access to basic web analytics features.
- Adobe Analytics is a better option for large enterprises, as it can become expensive (depending on how many hits you have) but it offers advanced web analytics features.
- AT Internet, Matomo Analytics & Piwik PRO are preferred by businesses looking for better legal alternatives to Google Analytics. They are fully GDPR compliant and allow companies to maintain complete control over their data.
- Amplitude is chosen by companies willing to focus on their product.
Choosing the right analytics tool is challenging, as no single tool fits every need. In some cases it can even be relevant to use two complementary platforms. Each of these above tools has its strengths and weaknesses, it is up to you to choose one of them based on your needs. In this article we provided you with a high-level overview but feel free to reach out if you want to go deeper and need help to make the right data-driven decision!