Piwik has repeatedly emphasised ownership of data when compared to Google Analytics. Their probable USP is that it is self-hosted(PHP, MySQL) vs. Google Analytics is a remotely hosted service. So with any of your visitor’s data, you remain in control with PIWIK.
The latest version of PIWIK also boasts of some advanced privacy features such as an ability to automatically anonymize visitors IP and respecting do not track features. A full list of features from Piwik is also available at this link.
I have been using Piwik since version 1.8 so their dashboard is a large improvement from their older dashboard.
Piwik also boasts of other main features like real-time visitors, events, segmentation and many others.
Real Time Visitors
Piwik now has the functionality of showing the real time visitors. However, the information processing from a real-time widget is not useful because the representation of the information leaves much to be desired.
The following is a screenshot from Piwik real-time dashboard widget.
The following is a screenshot from Google Analytics
Google Analytics real-time visitors tab is much better designed to represent the information. It also follows the hierarchy of the presentation of the information with the most relevant information presented immediately.
1) Google Analytics provides the total current live visitors on your page while Piwik does not make it clear which visitors are still on the page.
2) With the per minute page views (GA) chart, it is also easy to estimate the average number of pages a visitor is viewing while Piwik makes this impossible due to the scrolling action.
3) The source of the traffic is clear.
So all in all, Google Analytics gives you top pages, top sources, visit page views, top locations and visitors currently on the website. Piwik’s information representation is largely unclear and the real-time function does not serve a definite purpose as it should.
I am not a big fan of real-time visitors feature. All the data manipulation begins after collecting all the data. However, if real-time visitors is one of the features of the product, then that should be well designed to present the most critical level of information first.
Piwik visitor’s graph is generic at best. The key to using data insights is the ability to manipulate the dataset. Capacity to manage dataset in Piwik is a tad bit confusing especially the segmentation.
The following is a screenshot from the Piwik dashboard for visitors panel.
When clicking on the page views line (as it is a clickable element) one would expect that the page should bring up the top pages report within a subsection of the page.
Following is a screenshot from Google Analytics.
Note how without changing the page; you can see the top countries for your visitors. So in addition to getting the information for the sessions, you are further able to segment the visitors on the same page by multiple criteria including demographics, system or behaviour.
The other great thing about Google Analytics is that you can further apply segments and overlay over the original graph. See the screenshot below.
So for example, it is easy to see the total mobile traffic visually on the site vs. the regular traffic and get a precise number of dataset belonging to a particular segment. When applying the segmentation to the Piwik dashboard, the original data layer is replaced by the new data layer and hence the comparison becomes non-useful.
This segmentation is then extended further in Google analytics across a range of variables. For an example see the operating system segmentation report with referrer as Google. The first picture below shows the Piwik representation of the data. The second picture is the G Analytics segmentation.
GA custom segments with referrer as Google.
Custom segmentation was introduced in 1.12 version of the Piwik, which was crowd-funded. Real-time visitors maps and custom alert plugin were also crowd funded.
Comparing exits or other metrics amongst pages is tough in Piwik. For an example comparing the warranty pages and the specials page exits below shows the data without many filter options. The data is represented on popup so it is also not very user-friendly.
Extending the annotations also took a lot of time on a VPS server. See the screenshot from the Piwik.
The following is a chart of the exit pages from Google Analytics.
The chart and the data representation could be better in G Analytics, but it is b as compared to Piwik.
You are also able to see this on a slider based on sessions and be also able to customise the graph in Google Analytics.
See the screenshot below.
Consistent data across screens.
Data in Google Analytics remains consistent across screens. For an example, if you segmented visitors via All sessions and Tablet traffic, the segment stays in place if you browse from one screen to another.Moving from acquisition to behaviour keeps the segment in place in Google analytics.
Piwik does not share data on the screen so the screens are not consistent.
Google Analytics has a large number of reports that you import created by another user to make your life easier. For example here is a list of a lot of reports available.
Piwik is missing such a feature.
Following is a screenshot of a custom report from analytics. This is an extremely important report to segment your visitors’ source and see their original source including SEO, PPC or any referral medium.
Piwik does have a marketplace where themes and some plugins are available for download.
Both Piwik and G Analytics have API access.
Tag Manager and Remarketing
Avinash wrote an excellent commentary on how to choose an analytics software which is an excellent read. If you are doing any marketing on the website integration of a tag manager becomes critical.
Google’s tag manager is free and easy to set up. It also has inbuilt G Analytics code integration so if using G Analytics; Google tag manager is a no-brainer.
Google Adwords conversion code or remarketing tags also integrate nicely with the tag manager.
Piwik integration of Goals is probably the only insight for an eCommerce site with Piwik.
Piwik also offers a Pro account in the cloud which I did not try as the open source edition did not provide a fundamental advantage to the other products available.
Google Analytics also offers a custom pro solution the price of which is unavailable.
I reviewed Piwik three years ago when it was missing date filters. Even today Piwik is missing a function date filter for the data.
Here is a time filter from Piwik
Here is Google Analytics date filter.
The ease of use and the understanding of the options in G analytics is much better. Piwik date filters are confusing, and it took me a while to figure out how the screen worked.
Google Analytics provides a clear browser version for say “chrome” family of browsers. This information is missing in Piwik. I believe this information would be very critical for web developers to aid in the redevelopment of the existing website.
G Analytics allows PDF export for any report.
This facility is missing in Piwik. For someone who deals with a lot of reports – PDF seems to be a universally accepted file type. PDF export is also one of the important features that I have come to love about G analytics. Piwik does not provide this feature. However, Piwik does provide JSON, CSV, XML and a few other export types.
Updated 25/2/2016 – Piwik provides PDF reports.
Google Analytics provides a great way of sending automated emails and hence some of the reporting becomes automated.
Although a subtle feature, it has turned out to be a very incredible feature for someone like me also doubling as a task reminder.
Word press is the most used blogging application. A large number of plugins are available for G analytics integration. Most plugins provide event tracking by default so no additional steps may be necessary for G analytics to set up event tracking.
Piwik does have a WordPress plugin as well.
I love open source products. I have been using Piwik for a long time. However, I feel that given the current state of Piwik it simply does not offer any exceptional, unique features that Google Analytics cannot provide.
If you are a small business owner or a blog owner, Google Analytics will do a great job satisfying your analytics requirements. It is easy to set up, and you can be up and running in literally 15 minutes.
Points of consideration
- Ease of use – Google Analytics
- Features – Google Analytics
- Data manipulation – Google Analytics, Piwik
- Easy to setup – Google Analytics, Piwik ( minimal install )
- Custom segmentation – Google Analytics
- Third party integrations – Google Analytics
- Additional goodies – Google Analytics
- Data ownership – Piwik
Piwik is a good second alternative, but if you are someone who is going to use the basic set of data and just need to get on with it, then Google analytics should be the go-to software.