Ditching Google Analytics

23 October 2020

I’m not sure when it happened (15 years ago?) when I started treating Google Analytics as a default add-on to every website I built. It was better than processing raw server logs and I could present clients with fancy charts. Everyone loves fancy charts and the code was easy to add. As a bonus it’s free.

Over the years it became ubiquitous and clients expected their site to use Google Analytics. Personally, I was never convinced. Sure there were a bunch of really interesting tools with data that might be right (anyone want to guess how accurate demographics data is?) but for my non ad based clients it doesn’t offer much. In fact, it’s bad.

Google analytics is free because Google uses the data to sell ads. Google is an advertising company and that’s fine as long as you and your visitors can get some benefit from that. If your site serves advertising it’s worth looking at. If not, then your visitors are being monetized without their consent by a company that has no scruples on how they use this data.

As a consulting firm we can’t entirely ditch Google Analytics because some clients want them. Trying to convert them off it is a fools errand. Thankfully, some of our clients are foolish 😉

One client that has ditched Google Analytics (GA) is nader.org. The site for this consumer advocate doesn’t need the features of GA because they don’t sell ads, are not looking to provide personalization or monetize the site in any way shape or form. Heck the links to 3rd party booksellers aren’t even affiliate links. They’re not interested. In fact they are not really interested in much website data. In 20 years they’ve never asked what people are viewing on the site, where they come from or what makes them leave. It’s unique. Providing this data would have zero influence on the sites content.

As an added benefit, ditching GA code made the site score a little higher in PageSpeed.

Other projects, such as Advocacy Center, use a self hosted analytics tool called Matomo. It provides a good amount of data and an easy way for visitors to opt-out. Not sure it’s the perfect solution but for now it’s something we are experimenting with.

When it comes to website analytics we are no longer defaulting to Google but instead asking what data do we really need. Turns out, the answer is generally not much.