Nov 22

Piwik (Matomo) vs Google Analytics

I have reviewed both Google Analytics and Piwik (now called Matomo) independently before. This report provides the opinion whether Piwik evolved since my last review when it was in its development infancy.

Piwik, now named matomo analytics 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 anonymise 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 significant 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 supports the hierarchy of the presentation of the data 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 mainly 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 highlights of the product, then that should be well designed to present the most critical level of information first.

Visitors Overview

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 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.

Evolution data.

Comparing exits or other metrics amongst pages is tough in Piwik. For example, comparing the warranty pages and the specials page exits below shows the data without many filter options. The data is represented on a 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 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.

Custom reporting

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 a critical report to segment your visitors’ source and sees their source including SEO, PPC or any referral medium.

Piwik does have a marketplace where themes and some plugins are available for download.

API access.

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.

Pro Solutions

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.

Miscellaneous

Date Filters

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.

Browser Versions

Google Analytics provides an explicit 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.

PDF exports

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 essential 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.

Automated Emails

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.

WordPress integration

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.

Final Verdict.

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 just 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 ( matomo )

Piwik is an excellent second alternative, but if you are someone who is going to use the basic set of data and need to get on with it, then Google analytics should be the go-to software.

About The Author

Ajay Chavda is the co-founder of Weboptimizers, an SEO agency in Melbourne and has been involved with SEO for over 15 years. Between the digital properties and security forums he has managed, his articles have been read by approximately 50 million unique visitors.

13 Comments

  1. matt
    February 25, 2016 at 12:44 am · Reply

    Hi there,

    Here some feedback

    Piwik offers PDF and email reports: https://piwik.org/docs/email-reports/

    Date range filter can be found by clicking on “Date range” in the calendar

    Browser versions report exists and can be found below “Browsers” report (click the link “Browsers versions report”)

    FYI Google Analytics Premium costs 150,000 USD per year

    Cheers

  2. marvays
    February 29, 2016 at 5:26 am · Reply

    Ease of use – Google Analytics? lol. Its realy not! The only reason why not to use GA is its lack of transparency.

    • Terry
      May 27, 2016 at 7:25 pm · Reply

      GA is far and away more intuitive to use than Piwik and presents that data in a way that’s much easier to digest.

      • Daniel C.
        May 12, 2018 at 11:31 am · Reply

        Analytics was easy to use like… 10-12 years ago. Most ordinary bloggers and non tech-savvy small company owners doesn’t understand the complexity of Google Analytics these days. Marketers? Yes! SEO/SEM consultants? Yes! Pro-bloggers? Probably! But… ordinary Joe’s? Nah…

  3. John
    March 5, 2016 at 6:01 am · Reply

    Thanks for the review, here’s a couple of points on why I use Piwik over GA. (I even pay for their services).

    1. I have many sites in mainland China, Google Analytics because of blocking can’t give me reliable stats from that region.
    2. Google doesn’t give me detailed IP addresses for my users. I can only track on a summary level. Great for stats just about my site, but when I’m trying to tie up O2O at individual level then I need tighter integration. Piwik gives me that, despite it’s flaws.

  4. John R
    April 5, 2016 at 2:30 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the article and most is true what you say, but there is something you didn’t mention: with GA, sites often hang until the javascript is loaded, especially if the javascript is placed in the header (as with many WP themes).
    With Piwik, I don’t have that issue, even when installed on a shared hosting account.
    A reason for me to stick with Piwik, is that I have no idea what Google does with the information gathered of my sites. I believe that we have to be careful not to give too much power in the hands of one company (which incidentally evaded taxes and as a result, we in Europe have a new law which pesters every small business owner with additional administration. Thank you Google and Apple 🙁 ).

  5. hola
    April 7, 2016 at 11:31 am · Reply

    Is there any way to get TrackerID and View ID juse like GA in piwik?

  6. martin
    May 19, 2016 at 3:39 pm · Reply

    Hi Matt – thanks for posting this info, but I was wondering if you also have any thoughts on problems with Google Anayltics spam referrals. This seems to be a big problem these days and almost a full time job to try and filter it all out. Does Piwik suffer from the same thing, and is it easier to manage?

    Many thanks

  7. Rowan G.
    June 13, 2016 at 11:31 am · Reply

    What I worry about with Google Analytics is that its ga.js and analytics.js file doesn’t always execute for all users (for instance on this very page I am getting a ‘https://www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js Failed to load resource: net::ERR_CONNECTION_REFUSED’ message on Chrome’s console, thus not recording my visit whatsoever). Since this happens on a regular basis on multiple devices and browsers with GA I wonder if such errors wouldn’t occur with Piwik.

  8. anon
    January 7, 2017 at 1:15 am · Reply

    > I am getting a ‘https://www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js Failed to load resource: net::ERR_CONNECTION_REFUSED’ message

    True this sh*t is happens with GA. I’m starting to more and more hate google for that and many other reasons

  9. Jeff Mcneill
    March 24, 2017 at 6:18 am · Reply

    This is clearly someone who uses GA all the time and “tries” Piwik for an hour or two. Not really a great comparison, for the following reasons:

    – GA needs a lot of customizaton/configuration to get the info you really want, so what if out of the box there are some things to look at?
    – Bringing in GTM as if it is some kind of GA feature, not really great
    – Forgot to mention the also free AOM plugin for Piwik, great integration
    – Browser versions is not a big deal, mostly noise
    – GA realtime just doesn’t work well, no matter what the display, not reliable

    Finally, the privacy part is really not thought out. For people who have customers in countries with privacy protection, using GA requires a lot of additional configuring to get it to obey Do-Not-Track, etc. Using GTM to integrate tags such as Bing, Facebook is much more intrusive and code-heavy than using Piwik and integrating directly

  10. Ajay
    April 6, 2017 at 10:24 pm · Reply

    Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for your detailed comment. My piwik experience is a little bit over a few hours as I have used piwik extensively for various projects where Google analytics was not a good use case. For an example, we had a client that had very specific requirement on their data being accessed. Being a financial company we had a large number of regulations that we needed to abide by.

    I wouldn’t call myself a Analytics Wiz by any means and this is an overview of how G Analytics is much more user friendly than Piwik. I love open source and believe that open source has shaped my life. However, I think Piwik has still a long way to go.

    GA simply works out of the box.
    If you sign up, copy the code and install a wordpress/magento/custom footer code you are done. Google take’s care of the rest. Browser versions are very important for larger organisation who believe that they will need to support certain browser for certain application as the use is high enough to make a drastic impact on the bottomline.

  11. Caroline
    November 30, 2017 at 12:25 am · Reply

    Hi, I really like your comparison and respect your verdict. However, I feel that this type of comparison could be carried out in many different ways, depending on which features you deem the most essential in web analytics tools.

    I think people who are about to make a choice between Piwik and Google Analytics could also be interested in the analysis presented in this article: https://piwik.pro/blog/infographic-piwik-vs-google-analytics/

    Cheers!

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