Google analytics vs piwik: the ultimate comparison
Web analytics is the process of measuring, collecting, analyzing and reporting your web content’s data in order to understand the behavior of visitors to your website, so you can optimize your website usage in a more effective way. It can be used as a tool to gather details as how many people visited your site, how many of those were unique, how they came to your site i.e. either they came through a link or directly, information about keywords they searched, how long they stayed on your site or a particular page and when they left, which areas of your site is getting more traffic, whether your site’s pages are working well, the number of hits and page views received by your website, bounce rate, new visits and more.
Ecommerce companies like Ebay, Amazon, Flipkart etc. use web analytics as a part of the CRM analytics (Customer Relationship Management Analytics), to measure details like monitoring the dollar volume of purchases, customizing their site in order to attract customers, analyzing repurchase of a product by the same customer, observing the geographic regions from which customers came to your website, and predicting which products customers are more interested to buy in the future.
In addition, web analytics also being used by advertising companies to estimate how a site’s traffic changes when a new advertising campaign launched. It helps measure popularity trends which are useful for marketing.
Web analytics provides information to site administrators, publishers and advertisers that can be used to improve the effectiveness of a web site, in order to create a better user experience.
There are two types of web analytics: one is “Off-site” and the other is “On-site”.
Off-site web analytics refers to the study of online behavior of a site. It provides you details as your possible audience, visibility of your site to the web community, how well your site is found in search engines, and who links to your site (buzz/comments) on the whole internet. It can give you valuable information which helps you make further decisions. Tools like Google Trends and Compete can be used as off site web analytics to gather data as how you can better position your site, where your competitors advertise and how you can identify marketing initiatives.
On the other hand, On-site web analytics measure a visitor’s activity on your site, as how they found your site and how they navigate on your website. It provides you all the information about the performance of your site in a business perspective. Generally, this information is used to improve audience response to an advertising campaign and compare against KPI (Key Performance Indicators) for the performance of the website. It also helps you ask for feedback from your users, which can give you valuable insight about how you should optimize your website in order to increase the conversion rate as well as your Return on Investment (ROI). Tools like Google Analytics, Sitemeter and Piwik are widely used as on-site web analytics.
Generally, web analytics refers to the on-site visitor analysis. There are a number of web analytics which are being used by website owners. Some of the famous web analytics are Google Analytics, Piwik, FireStats, Reinvigorate, StateCounter, Sitemeter etc.
Google Analytics is a free web analytics service provided by Google. It helps website administrators to generate detailed statistics about how much traffic your site is getting, sources of the site’s traffic, sales and conversion that are used for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and marketing purposes. It can track all types of visitors either they come directly through search engines or social networks or a referral link. It also displays pay-per-click networks, advertising, email marketing and digital collaterals.
This web statistics tool is most widely used by website administrators, technologists and marketers from which the web analytics industry growing day by day. The new version of its tracking code is called the asynchronous tracking code, which can track even very short activities of your visitors on your site. This new code can be placed between the “<head>…</head>” HTML head tags.
The basic service is free, if your site is receiving up to 10 million hits per month. But in case, if your site is getting more than 10 million hits per month, then a premium version is offered for a fee.
Key Features of Google Analytics:
This feature allows you to monitor visitor activity seconds after it happens on your site. For instance, you can observe how many users are on your site right now, their geographic locations where they came from, traffic sources that referred them, and what they’re viewing right now.
With Real-Time, you can also monitor whether new or changed content on your site is being popular, whether a promotion you make today is driving traffic, immediate effects on traffic of tweets and blog/social network posts, and whether the tracking code is working on your site.
Using this feature, you can make your own metrics dashboard by picking the dimensions (for example City, Browser, OS) and metrics (for instance Bounce Rate, Page Views, and Visits) and choose how they should be displayed. To build a custom report, you must specify at least one dimension and one metric.
This feature allows you to analyze a specific kind of traffic on your site. You can either select and apply predefined segments such as “Organic Traffic” or “Visits from Purchasers“, or create your own segments. It helps you to understand your visitor behavior by custom segments, how they engage with your site, and gather the information of customer which is most important regarding your business.
After applying a segment, you can see it reflected in historical data as well as across all your reports in the view. You can also compare different segments, and analyze a particular segment throughout all your reports.
Highly Customizable Dashboard:
The dashboard provides you an overview about the performance of your properties, by showing summaries of different reports as widgets. With the help of the dashboard, you can see correlations between different reports, and quickly check the health of your accounts.
Using this feature, you can create a highly customizable, drag & droppable and absolutely widget-based “Company KPIs” dashboard that contains all important key performance indicators of your business.
By default, Google Analytics account displays a dashboard pre-loaded with a small number of widgets. You can add, customize and remove new widgets to a dashboard as per your requirements. The number of dashboard you can create is up to 20, and the number of widgets each dashboard can have is up to 12.
Google Analytics offers a number of visualization tools like “In-Page Analytics” and “Flow Visualization”. “In-Page Analytics” reports are used to visually assess how visitors interact with your web pages. While “Flow Visualization” generates a graphical representation of the path visitors take through your site from the source, during the different pages, including all paths through which they exited your site. Google Analytics displays visual information using a variety of charts, which makes your web analysis easy.
Sharing & Communication:
With the help of Sharing Tools in Google Analytics, you can develop and share customized dashboards with your SEO and content teams, regarding the important metrics for your organization. Its “Intelligence and Alerts” feature helps you notify your colleagues, and discover unexpected changes. You can also mark key events in the history of your account, so your team can see.
Content analysis helps you understand which pages are most popular on your website, which parts of your site is getting more traffic, how often user visit each page, how often they convert, and how long they stay on your site. So you can test and improve your web pages, in order to create a better user experience.
“Site Search” reporting helps you find out what search terms used by your visitors, number of visitors who use the search engine on your site, and engagement of your visitors to your site after their searches.
“Site Speed” analysis helps you find how much time a page take to load, and how quickly the browser makes it available for visitors. So you can fix slow pages to improve your site speed, as a slow speed website can affect your advertising and search engine ranking.
“Event Tracking” feature helps you understand how visitors interact with your pages. You can set up event tracking to know more about visitors’ behavior, what they do on your site, how often they’re clicking the links to download brochures, or interacting with AJAX and Flash elements.
If you are running Google ads on your site, Google Analytics can help you make your AdSense program more effective. As it directly imports AdSense data, which helps you display ad units at the finest place on your website.
Social reports help you measure the impact of social media programs on your business goals. It helps you gather social data, which provides a great view of your community and content.
The “Social Plugins” report shows which page of your site is most shared, which social button (like the Google +1, Facebook Like) is being used to share that page, and how visitors engage with the content of your website across social platforms like Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter etc. It provides all information about how visitors engage with your content on websites external of your own.
This feature of Google Analytics shows you the impact of mobile on your organization. It offers “Software Development Kits” for iOS and Android, so you can measure the entire customer journey (from development to download) for apps.
You can view statistics of your website by location using “Map Overlay & Mobile Device Reporting” feature. It helps you understand how much of your traffic is mobile, geographical origins of mobile traffic, make predictions about the region where traffic may increase, discover which operating systems and mobile devices visitors are using to visit your site.
Piwik is open source web analytics software that runs on a PHP/MySQL web server. It provides detailed reports regarding who are your visitors, what they are doing on your site, where they came from, how they found your site, which search engines and keywords they used, popular pages of your site, which language they speak, their geographic locations, which browser/OS they are using, how much time they spent on your website, when they left the site, your marketing campaigns and more.
Piwik can also be used with a variety of third party apps including CMSes like Drupal and WordPress, bulletin board systems like phpBB, E-Commerce apps like Magento and PrestaShop, and more. Piwik developers have also created approx. 20 third-party plugins that are used to expand the capability of Piwik.
However Piwik is free to use, Piwik team also provides some premium services including Piwik related consultation (for custom development, installation, maintenance, system configuration, scaling etc.), yearly support plans, and training & managed hosting.
Key Features of Piwik:
Real Time Analytics:
Piwik provides real time analytics reports. When you request data for any date range including “today” or “current month”, you’ll always access up-to-date analytics data which includes the most recent visits. Reports are updated every 10 seconds by default, but you can customize this delay.
Piwik also provides specific tools as “Live! Widget”, “Visitor Log” and “Live API”, which helps you better, understand your real time traffic.
The “Live! Widget” displays the real time flow of visitors on your site. It shows a real time counter for page views, visits and number of actions performed by the visitor, in the last 30 minutes and the last 24 hours. It refreshes every 5 seconds and shows new visits, including attributes like date, country, browser, operating system, time spent on the website, whether the visitor is returning or new, goal conversion etc.
The “Visitor Log” displays the similar data as the “Live! Widget”. But it doesn’t refresh automatically, you’ve to refresh the page to see your up-to-date visits. It’s very useful to see all the visits and check individual user sessions through these visits. It helps recognize what your visitors were searching, they found an answer or not, or which particular page they visit before converting a goal.
The “Live! API” is used to obtain individual user records. It provides easy access to all of the visits and actions in a given day or date range.
You can create a personalized dashboard by adding new widgets, according to your most important metrics. It’s very easy to remove default widgets from your Dashboard. You are also free to select a dashboard design from numerous columns layouts. You can rename or remove dashboards, create a new dashboard, and reset dashboard to the default layout.
By using its “All Websites Dashboard” feature, you can get a quick view of what is happening on your all sites right now. You can view the number of visits, page views, unique visitors, as well as the last few day evolution through a spark line.
You can also choose to load the “All Websites Dashboard” by default, and automatically receive the “All Websites Dashboard” by email – daily, weekly or monthly.
With its amazing eCommerce analytics feature, you can track eCommerce interactions as eCommerce orders, eCommerce cart update, and product and category page views. Piwik generates eCommerce reports like eCommerce orders, total revenue, average order value, eCommerce conversion rate, purchased products, and abandoned carts metrics.
It generates a list of top products sold, arranged by any of these product metrics: Product revenue, quantity purchased, unique purchases, average price, average quantity, total visits, and conversion rate. You can get the top product reports by product name, product SKU (Stock Keeping Unit), or product category.
Row Evolution Report:
This feature displays you the past & current metric data for any row in any report. It helps you understand how visits to a particular page or with a particular browser change over time, how the use of a keyword changes over time, whether your product is increasing its effectiveness over time, whether people are visiting your site through a mobile device etc.
In addition, you can compare multiple row evolutions to get even more insights. If you find some important insights from viewing/comparing row evolutions, you can record them using another powerful feature of Piwik, called Annotations.
Goal Conversions Tracking:
This feature helps identify new objectives, whether you are achieving your current objectives, examine performance SEM Campaigns, and find out how to increase revenue per visit and conversion rates.
Goals can prompt based on customer actions (for example newsletter subscriptions, play/download a video, view/request demo of a product), or when the user visits a particular page (for instance contact-us.html, checkout.html).
Manage Unlimited Users And Web Sites:
This feature allows you give people access to your Piwik data. For instance, your webmaster may need information about the conversion rates and goals of your site, while your marketing manager may require the data related to behavior of visitors to your site. In this situation, you can add user and manage user access to websites. You can provide a personalized dashboard to your users as per their requirements. So they can easily access data related to their particular designation, with a few clicks.
Piwik can also be used to track unlimited websites. You can track pages on several domains and sub domains. Generally users track from 1- 10 sites, but some Piwik servers track above 10,000 sites.
You must be logged in to your Piwik administration area as the super user in order to add a new user or website. If you are super user, you can also update or delete a user or a website anytime.
Piwik Professional Services:
Piwik Consulting Experts help organizations and individuals globally use Piwik analytics to attain their particular requirements. Piwik Experts offer a number of services like Piwik installation setup, troubleshooting, special configuration, maintenance, enterprise level support, managing high traffic Piwik servers, designing custom plugins and new features, and more.
Official Piwik Mobile App:
Piwik provides official Piwik app known as “Piwik Mobile” for iOS and Android tablets and phones. So you can access your Piwik data whenever you’re connected to the internet.
Piwik Mobile App is very similar to its web version, having the same look and feel with outstanding functionality. This app is available in more than 40 languages and absolutely free.
Custom Variables Analytics:
Site Search Analytics:
This feature allows you to track how people use your site’s search engine. It helps you understand which pages visitors visited immediately after using your internal search engine, which categories visitors used to search, what keywords are used by visitors to search content through website’s search engine, which of those keywords resulted in no results, and what content your visitors could not find.
This is an awesome and unique feature of Piwik. With the help of “Transitions Plugin”, you can analyze the things done by your visitors directly before and after viewing a particular page. This feature is quite hard to find in other web analytics tools.
Comparison of Google Analytics & Piwik
Google Analytics is very simple to install on your website. Just type your site information, and it generates a code for you. It requires very little technical knowledge and less time. After putting code on your website, you have no control over your data as your all data is controlled by Google. Google Analytics doesn’t allow you to download the raw data. That’s possibly not a major concern for most website owners, but for some it may be a significant concern.
On the other hand, Piwik is open source software that you’ve to download, install and host on your own server. Piwik also has a very simple and user-friendly installation process like Google Analytics. Its web based installer take about 3 minutes to install Piwik on your hosted server, but it requires a little knowledge of PHP and MySQL, if you are going to make your own custom edits to the Piwik software. After installing Piwik on your server, you have full control of your data as you host your analytics data on your website server. This is one of the positive things we’ve found about having Piwik that all the data is under your control and yours only.
Google Analytics has a very professional looking dashboard, but Piwik dashboard has some more features. Piwik shows you the most important information integrated into its first dashboard page, while Google Analytics displays only particular parts of the data at the time. Piwik dashboard emphasizes on personal preferences and customizations. For instance, you can personalize your Piwik dashboard layout choosing from different column layouts, while Google Analytics doesn’t provide this type of feature. We’ve found that most of the features of Google Analytics dashboard are already present in Piwik dashboard.
The most prominent feature of Piwik is “Server Log Analytics”. Using this feature, you can analyze visitor server log, including service provider, IP address, user agent, referrer URL, search keyword, status, and actions etc. You can filter all traffic from a given IP or IP range, to analyze the overall user experience. You can’t track particular visitor in Google Analytics, as it doesn’t provide this feature.
One major positive thing we’ve found about Google Analytics is that you can integrate it with Google Adwords or AdSense, while Piwik can’t be integrated with Google AdWords or AdSense. This is the one of the main drawbacks of Piwik. In this case, Google Analytics is better for those who are running the advertisement.
We’ve discovered another down side of Piwik is if your server goes down, so does your site statistics and tracking. As you have the same server for your site and Piwik, they both go down. In this case, Google Analytics has the plus point because of having Google’s servers, which never goes down.
Another difference between Google Analytics and Piwik is that Google Analytics only shows bounce rates per page and overall bounce rates, while Piwik displays landing pages which lead to long sessions as well as short session.
Overall, we can say that Piwik is the future alternative to Google Analytics, but it’ll take a little time to achieve a reputation like Google Analytics. However Google Analytics have great features and free to use, even then we can consider Piwik for small as well as larger organizations which wants to use a self-hosted open-source web analytics. Google Analytics may absolutely the first choice of website owners, but if you want to have a full control of your analytics data, then Piwik is the best alternative to Google Analytics.
It’s very hard to arrive at a concrete conclusion, because one has amazing features over the other. So you should choose your analytics according to your requirements, personal preferences and organizational infrastructure.
Hope you enjoyed reading this interesting post. If you have any suggestion/query, you can leave that in the comment section given below.
I am a professional web programmer, and I am passionate about writing on web design and development. I also own SeoSemanticXHTML, a leading PSD Conversion company, and like to keep myself updated on the latest trends.
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