Do you really need Google Analytics for your website or blog to determine how many visitors your site gets and where they come from? No. Here are some alternatives you never thought of.
Google Analytics is excellent and it is a very powerful tool for analysing the visitors to a website or blog. If you want the best site analytics, it has to be near the top of your shortlist of possibilities. However, there are several reasons why you might not want to use it.
Some people find Google Analytics complicated and there are often posts in social media groups related to websites, blogging and SEO from people having problems either installing it or getting information out of it. For example, a common problem is that website visitors are zero according to GA, and the problem is usually that the GA code is inserted twice – check plugins and themes.
Google Analytics is great for technical people, SEO and marketing people, but not so great for the less technically minded. It is hard. There are even courses and training materials to teach you how to use it, if you have the time and inclination. Some people just want a simpler alternative.
Google Analytics is yet another script on your site slowing it down. Although it is built to be fast and not to slow sites, it is inevitable that it does. No code is always faster than some code, no matter how optimized it is.
There are also legal problems with using Google Analytics and it has been banned by several European countries because of privacy concerns and GDPR. It collects information and transfers it outside of the EU, which the EU doesn’t like. It may get resolved eventually, but who knows when?
I looked at alternatives to Google Analytics in these articles:
- Burst Statistics: Privacy focused Google Analytics alternative
- Add analytics to WordPress and increase privacy with Koko
- Track page views in WordPress and show a post view count
There are other alternatives, but in this article I want to show how you can get analytics information without using any analytics service or plugin for WordPress. If you know where to look, you can find analytics data that could be a useful alternative to Google Analytics for some people.
You will not get the depth of detailed information that Google Analytics can provide, but if your needs are very basic, you can manage without it. Many bloggers for example, simply want to know how many people visit their website, where they come from and which posts bring in the most visitors.
Getting rid of GA can speed up your site a little and make it a bit more private, which are two useful benefits. You won’t need a course to understand the figures either.
Web host traffic analysis
Web hosting companies provide the server on which your website runs. They record all traffic to your site and most provide you with some means of viewing the data. This is free analytics that you don’t need to set up or maintain and the data is there waiting to be accessed. There are no settings, no on/off switch, it’s just something web hosts do.
To see the information you must log into your web hosting account. Not your website, but the company that hosts it and to which you pay your hosting bills.
There are too many web hosting interfaces to say exactly where you will find your site analytics information, so you might need to search for it. In fact, if there is a search option, use it, or even google it.
For example, Bluehost is a popular web host and after logging in to my.bluehost.com click Advanced in the sidebar. Scroll down to the METRICS section and there are several useful functions for viewing website traffic. Click Awstats, then click the magnifying glass next to your domain.
There is a mountain of analytics information here, including monthly, weekly and hourly visits, what operating system and browser visitors used, which countries they came from, how long they stayed on your site, how many views each page on your site got, which search engine was used to find your site, and more.
Just a word of caution here. Web host analytics may include everything – bots as well as real people, so it tends to inflate visitor numbers. You might think you have a lot of visitors when in fact a large proportion of traffic is actually just bots crawling your site. It is still useful info though.
Ad provider analytics
A large part of the web is paid for by advertising and it is rare to come across a website that does not have some form of adverts. It isn’t much fun being on the receiving end of ads, but they do keep many online sites and services free.
It is quite likely that you have ads on your website or blog and one of the biggest providers is Google AdSense. Millions of websites have AdSense ads, and many more use alternative ad providers.
No matter who is providing the ads for your website, they will almost certainly track views, clicks, geographic location of visitors, and other information. It is essential information for advertisers.
Your ad provider could be a source of visitor analytics. It will not be as comprehensive as Google Analytics, but it may be enough to provide you with useful information about visitor numbers, location and popular pages on your website.
Log into Google AdSense and click Reports in the sidebar. At the top of the page, select the time period, such as Last 7 days or Last 30 days. Just above the chart are buttons to select what to show. Click Page views to plot this on the chart and see how many people are visiting your blog or website.
In the Search reports panel, select Top pages to see your site’s most popular pages, click Content platform to see a breakdown of visitors by device – desktop computer, smartphone and tablets. Select Countries to see where in the world your visitors come from.
Other ad providers have analytics and may offer more or less information than Google AdSense. You won’t know until you look for it. Log into your ad account and search for analytics information. You might even get an email each month that contains it.
The visitor analytics information is very useful, but bear in mind that everything is from an advertising perspective. Pages that do not show ads may not be included in the analytics, so visitor numbers may be slightly less than the true number. It depends on how many pages you have without ads.
Google Search Console analytics
Google Search Console is another useful source of analytics. However, bear in mind that it only shows how your site performs in Google search, so if you get visitors from other search engines like Bing and Yahoo, or social media like Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and so on, they will not appear in the figures. This is strictly Google search only. However, it is still useful analytics information.
On the Google Search Console Overview page is your site’s performance, showing the number of web search clicks. Click the Full report link on the right to see more information.
Click each of the tabs and see the most popular pages on your site, the countries people came from and the devices the used. Remember that this is just Google search.
Ahrefs is a subscription web service that is mainly used for SEO and marketing purposes. You can audit your site, analyse competitors, find keywords, track search ranking, see the number of backlinks, and much more.
Sign up for a free Ahrefs account. The free tools and information are very limited, but some analytics data is provided. For example, you can view a list of your top performing web pages and see how much traffic they get.
The figures are probably estimated, since it cannot track page views on your site directly. However, it is still useful to look at.
Google Analytics is excellent and provides very detailed information about the visitors to your website. It is good for technical people, SEO and marketing experts. However, for performance and privacy, you may not want it.
Your web hosting company records server activity and produces analytics reports, which are useful, but be aware that they may include visits from bots in addition to real people. Your advertising provider, like Google AdSense for example, collects visitor information and statistics, and may provide access to the data. Google Search Console provides information about the people that click on your site in Google search results. Ahrefs also provides some useful information, even with a free account.
None of the alternatives to Google Analytics can match it and they do not provide anywhere near the depth of information professionals need. However, they may be all that you need.
If you are currently using GA, before you quit and delete the code from your site, make sure these other sources of analytics provide sufficient information for your needs. If you are happy with it, delete GA and your site will be faster and more private. That is good for you and for your visitors.