We have written an in-depth article on the four best privacy-friendly alternatives to Google Analytics. We did not include Cloudflare Web Analytics as one of those, as we believe it’s short on a few criteria, and we’ll show you why in this article.
- Cloudflare Analytics vs Cloudflare Website Analytics
- Data insights
- Features differences
- Ease of use
- Why do we care
Cloudflare Analytics vs Cloudflare Website Analytics
Cloudflare has two analytics products. One is called Cloudflare Analytics and is only available to premium users of the Cloudflare suite. The other is called Cloudflare Web Analytics. It’s a standalone product.
The biggest distinction between the two (next to its availability for users) is that Cloudflare Analytics relies on server-side tracking. Cloudflare Web Analytics relies on client-side tracking (like Simple Analytics & Google Analytics).
Server-side tracking involves sending data to a web server before transferring it to third parties. It makes sure that there is more control over the data transfer. In addition, you don’t have to worry about ad-blockers or core web vitals because you don’t need to add a script to your website. There are drawbacks to server-side tracking as well. Page views are highly inaccurate because it’s difficult to filter out robots and other automated traffic to your website.
We’ve also created an article on using server-side tracking if you want to know more.
Cloudflare Web Analytics Dashboard
The article will focus on Cloudflare Web Analytics (the free standalone product). We’ll compare it to Simple Analytics on the most important criteria.
The first and foremost difference between Cloudflare Web Analytics and Simple Analytics is the insights both tools provide. There is a stark difference in how both tools collect data and display features.
Cloudflare Web Analytics does not measure the total traffic to your website. But instead, a small subset of your data is analyzed and measured. This sample is then used to estimate the overall results.
More web analytics tools use data sampling at a certain point. Even Google Analytics uses data sampling whenever your website hits 500,000 monthly page views (in the free version).
The extent to how inaccurate the data is depends on the sample size. You can adjust the sample size in Google Analytics based on your preferences. To modify the results, you can indicate ‘faster results’ or ‘greater precision.’ Cloudflare only analyses 1-10% of your website traffic (a very small sample size). You can’t adjust the sample size to estimate your real data.
The main reason for data sampling is that it's cheaper. Especially for supposedly ‘free’ products like Google Analytics and Cloudflare Web Analytics, it makes sense to start working with data samples after a certain point, as costs will outweigh the benefits.
At Simple Analytics, we never sample your data and always show you the actual traffic coming to your website. We believe in giving you the most accurate data while preserving the privacy of your users.
Cloudflare Web Analytics only collects and stores data for six months. Previously this was only seven days. We believe this also has to do with the costs of maintaining servers. Cloudflare Web Analytics is free, but servers and maintenance can become expensive. As this is not their core product, we expect they want to keep the costs down.
This is a severe drawback. Most organizations want to measure their analytics over longer periods. This is impossible with Cloudflare Web Analytics.
At Simple Analytics, we store your data indefinitely (or for as long as you want). It is possible to measure your page views over yearly periods. There is no cap.
Cloudflare Web Analytics vs. Simple Analytics
Bot traffic is not excluded
The actual traffic in Cloudflare Web Analytics is inaccurate. This is because they don’t exclude bot traffic in their website statistics. Bots are classified as ‘Unknown’ browser types and are a significant percentage in Cloudflare's website statistics. At Simple Analytics, we exclude bots in your statistics as they do not represent actual page views (we also don’t account for bots pageviews in our pricing).
We are constantly improving our Robot Detection feature to provide the most accurate statistics for your website.
Number of websites
You can add a maximum of 10 websites to one account in Cloudflare Web Analytics. Again we assume this has something to do with data storage costs. At Simple Analytics, there is no limit to how many websites you can add, but we have multiple plans and a fair use policy.
Time on page
Cloudflare does not show us the average time-on-page metric. The time-on-page is an essential metric to track how long website visitors stay on your website. We’ve created our own time on page, different from our competitors but more accurate.
Cloudflare does not support UTM tags. Their documentation states that they will likely add it in the future. With Simple Analytics, you can add UTM tags to segment referrers.
Event tracking is also not possible in Cloudflare Web Analytics. We are all for straightforward web analytics and believe that 95% of Google Analytics is unnecessary, but event tracking should be in every analytics tool.
We have created an automated events script to automatically collect the most important events. It collects events for outbound links, downloads, and clicks on email links. In addition, you can also get your hands dirty and add your custom events and add Metadata to your events.
We created our ‘Goals’ dashboard as an extension of our Events. It allows you to create funnels between events (or pageviews).
You can add multiple steps in the funnel and filter for specific characteristics such as “referrer” “path” and much more. Adding your most important KPIs to your visitor dashboard as a mini-dashboard is also possible. By clicking the mini-dashboard like in the image below, you can immediately see how the KPI performs over time and see metrics like “time on page,” “browser type,” “country,” and whether users prefer mobile or desktop.
Google Tag Manager Integration
Using code is not for everyone. Luckily there is something called Google Tag Manager to make your life easier. We understood the importance of GTM and created an integration. If you have always used GTM for your events, you can still use it to install Simple Analytics events.
No live visitors
It’s not possible to see live visitors on your dashboard. There is no live version of the product. Check out our live dashboard.
Well, we don’t want to blame Cloudflare for not adding mini-websites. Simple Analytics is probably the only tool that transforms boring traffic-referrer links into a mini-website.
Mini websites in Simple Analytics
At Simple Analytics, your data is yours, and we want to ensure you can use it how you want. Therefore we offer many APIs, including raw-level data that can be connected to your dashboarding tools. We allow you to import that data if you have used Google Analytics before.
Cloudflare provides limited data to be exported to your dashboarding tools. There is an API to export limited data, but importing your Google Analytics data is impossible. In addition, there is zero documentation on connections with dashboarding tools such as Power BI or Google Data Studio.
Ease of use
For Cloudflare users, it’s easy to use Cloudflare Web Analytics because you don’t need to add another script to your website. In addition, Cloudflare Web Analytics does not impact your page load speech as much. The script is 4,3kb, whereas Simple Analytics is at 3kb. Google Analytics and Matomo, however, are way bigger and have way more impact on your core web vitals.
One of the main pillars of Simple Analytics is to create a script that does not impact user experience. To see the impact of scripts on page load times, we conducted a test comparing page load times after installing Simple Analytics and Google Analytics. The outcome showed a difference of 10 basis points in favor of Simple Analytics.
“If you are not paying, you are the product” - Everyone.
Just like Google Analytics, Cloudflare Web Analytics is free. We always get suspicious when a service we use is free. Everyone knows the mantra: If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. Everyone knows this because it's true 100% of the time.
Google Analytics is free because Google monetizes the data on your website. As a privacy-friendly web analytics tool, I highly doubt Cloudflare does this. However, running the service costs money, so what’s the strategy here?
It might be a form of ‘engineering marketing,’ which means they’ve built a free service to attract users to their main offerings. We shouldn’t forget that Cloudflare is a massive company with almost infinite resources. Making a web analytics service to attract more awareness to their other products could be a marketing strategy. If this strategy is not successful, will they keep continuing the product?
Another take is that Cloudflare wants more information concerning page-loading data. Cloudflare’s primary offering focuses on deploying websites as soon as possible.
Why do we care
At Simple Analytics, we believe you can get the insights you need in a privacy-friendly way. We are 100% GDPR compliant and don’t use any trackers or cookies (so there is no need for an annoying cookie banner).
We believe the internet should be an independent place that is friendly to website visitors. By opting for Simple Analytics, you’ll be supporting us in our mission and protecting the privacy of your website visitors. If this resonates with you, feel free to give us a try.