Piwik: The open source alternative to Google Analytics

Posted by on Jan 29, 2012 in blog | No Comments

If you work at all with digital marketing then you’re probably familiar measuring your campaign’s results in Google Analytics, Google’s free traffic analysis package. What you might not be familiar with is Piwik, the open source alternative. Considering how great Google Analytics is, why would you even consider another product?

Some advantages to Piwik

  • Automatic tracking of outbound links. While you can use some good coding to make this work in Analytics, it’s nice to have to have it built right in. Any time a link is added to the site, via the CMS or anywhere else, it’s tracked outgoing.
  • Choose how often the numbers are crunched. While the new version of Analytics is pretty close to realtime, you might be flipping back to the old version sometimes for reports and exports. A 24 hour delay is a timeline in most digital campaigns. Piwik allows you to decide how often the numbers are run. It can be instant (the default) or up to once every 24 hours if you don’t need data that often.
  • Better report exports. While the old version of Analytics gave you a lot of reporting options and even an email scheduling feature, that’s been removed in the new version of GA. It will probably be added back in the future, but right now it’s a huge miss. Even with the old version the report formats were pretty limited to CSV, Excel and PDF. It left a lot of people taking screenshots to include in a Powerpoint or presentation. Piwik allows you to export directly to an image on screen, ready to drop into any format as well as giving you all the CSV and PDF options.
  • Easy report branding. If you work with clients and you’d like your reports to include your logo or color scheme, Piwik allows you to upload a graphic logo and see it across the site and reports. Done.
  • It’s open source. While that’s not inherently a benefit to most people, if you’ve got a special problem to solve to a tweak that you just have to have, you can make that happen with Piwik. Want to change that color scheme or default behavior? Get started!
  • You control your data. Since Piwik is running on your sever, your data is never transmitted to anyone else. While Google is generally pretty good about protecting your data, the new Privacy Policy only allows you to opt out of “any automated processes that aren’t specifically related to operating and improving Google Analytics or protecting the security and integrity of the data”1 which isn’t very comforting.

A few downsides:

  • Hosting. Since it’s not a hosted service, you will need to install and serve it yourself. It’s not a huge deal unless your site is very busy and you need to watch that server load. If you can install WordPress, you’ll be fine with Piwik.
  • Integration with other Google products. Google Analytics has a major advantage being so well integrated with other Google services like AdWords. Although Piwik allows you to track paid search traffic as well, you’ll miss some of the seamless data sharing between those services.

If any of those benefits sound good to you, I recommend setting up an installation of Piwik in addition to Analytics as a trial case on your site. You can get started by checking out the Piwik site right now.

1 Google Analytics Privacy Policy, 1.29.2012

Leave a Reply