Simple Analytics as an alternative to Google Analytics

Published on Jan 7, 2022 by Image of Iron BrandsIron Brands

Website analytics are essential. It gives you insights into the performance of your website and provides you with the necessary information to improve.

The market for website analytics is dominated by Google Analytics. At least 85% of websites with a web analytics tool have installed Google Analytics to track web traffic. It’s free, but it comes at a cost.

Simple Analytics is a privacy-first solution for organizations that care about their visitors’ privacy. By outlining the key differences, we make a case for Simple Analytics as a better alternative for Google Analytics.

Here’s why you should ditch Google Analytics and give Simple Analytics a try.

Let’s dive in!

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Simple Analytics vs Google Analytics: What are the key differences

  1. Differences in core values: Privacy-first vs Profit-first
    1. The privacy of your website visitors
    2. Compliance with GDPR regulation
    3. You should own your data
  2. User Experience & Tracking metrics
    1. UX: Simple one-page dashboard vs complex dashboard.
    2. Website loading time: Lightweight Analytics vs Heavyweight Analytics
    3. Pageviews
    4. Unique visitors
    5. Time-on-page
    6. Event tracking
  3. Additional Features
    1. Export your data
    2. Mini websites as referral links
    3. Embed chart on your website
    4. Hide referral spam
    5. Import your data directly from Google
  4. Why do we care

This analysis aims to provide you with a detailed overview of the key differences between Google Analytics and Simple Analytics. In summary, what’s best depends on your needs. If you care about your visitors’ privacy and want a clean and simple overview of your most important website tracking metrics, you might want to give Simple Analytics a try.

1. Differences in core values: Privacy-first vs. Profit-first

1.1. The privacy of your website visitors
1.2. Compliance with GDPR regulation
1.3. You should own your data

1.1 The privacy of your website visitors

Google is the biggest ad-tech company globally and tracks 56% of the websites on the internet. It’s a monstrous machine devouring your data for profit. This inspired us to build an alternative. An alternative that makes sure that your data is truly yours.

At Simple, you own your data, but we go further. We believe we can give companies insights into their website analytics without compromising visitor privacy. We do not collect any personally identifiable information (PII) from your visitors ever.

By using Google Analytics you are giving them the reins over your data and therefore your visitors’ privacy. You are not the one in control. Google is. There is no way to check behind the curtains at Google to know 100% sure what is being done with your data.

There is a shift towards data privacy, where tools like Simple Analytics are preferred over free tools where you pay with your data. Simple Analytics was one of the first in its category. We have been around for three years. Multiple privacy-friendly alternatives to Google Analytics have popped up in the last two years. We are a privacy-first alternative. Tracking hashed IP addresses for one day before removing their data is not uncommon among other privacy-friendly tools. At Simple, we don’t do any of that. We dare to state that Simple is the most privacy-compliant alternative to Google Analytics.

1.2 Compliance with GDPR regulation

We are not the only ones who recognize a need for data privacy. GDPR regulations have only come into force in 2018, but regulations will continue to become more pressing in the (near) future. This has implications for website analytics tools. We are on the good side of the equation.

Simple is compliant with the EU GDPR regulations, California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). Google Analytics is, by definition, not compliant. It tracks your visitors’ online behavior to send online commercials back at them.

Under the GDPR law, it is required to ask for consent to run a tracker like Google Analytics on your website. You are obliged to use a cookie banner to ask for your visitor’s consent.

By asking for consent, you are not only asking for permission on behalf of Google, but you are also worsening the user experience of your website by doing it.

Cookie banners are annoying. Using your website will be less convenient for visitors if they need to interact with cookie banners first. At Simple Analytics, we don’t collect any personal data, don’t use IP addresses or other tracking mechanisms, so there is no need to ask for consent; in turn, there is no need for annoying cookie banners.

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1.3 You should own your data

We don’t own your data; you do. Keeping your data safe is our main priority. We’re an EU-based company that stores your data securely on fully encrypted drives. We aim to provide you with a full picture of your website analytics by only collecting the bare minimum amount of data needed.

In addition:

  1. You are in control, and you can download or delete your data at any time.
  2. We ddon’tsell your data to third parties.
  3. Your data is not monetized by Simple Analytics. Because, once again, it’s yours!

Check our promises here.

2. Differences in user experience & website tracking metrics

2.1. UX: Simple one-page dashboard vs complex dashboard.
2.2. Website loading time: Lightweight Analytics vs Heavyweight Analytics
2.3. Pageviews
2.4. Unique visitors
2.5. Time-on-page
2.6. Event tracking

  Google
Analytics
Simple
Analytics
Do you want to avoid a cookie banner?
Do you want be GDPR compliant out of the box?
Do you want to own your data yourself?
Are you okay to miss ~27% of your visitors due to ad-blockers?
Are you okay if your analytics are shared with other products?
Do you want to have your data within in the EU?
Do you want analytics to be free?

2.1 UX: Simple one-page dashboard vs complex dashboard

All important website tracking metrics can be visualized in one simple dashboard, and therefore they should be. Hence our name: Simple Analytics.

There is no need for multiple layers of menus and dashboards in most cases. Google Analytics is an overly complex tool for which you need training to understand it fully.

Simple Analytics provides an overview of all the essential metrics in a single dashboard. It’s intuitive, privacy compliant, and simple. See for yourself.

Can you spot the difference between the dashboards?

2.2 Website loading time: Lightweight vs Heavyweight

The analytics script we run on your website is 15 times smaller than the Google Analytics script (3kb vs 45kb). Analytics scripts have an impact on the performance of your website. The heavier the script, the longer the loading time of your website.

Our founder using Google Analytics.

We ran a performance test comparing the impact of both scripts on website performance. The outcome showed a difference of 10 basis points in favor of Simple Analytics. If you want to find out how we ran the performance test, check our blog.

Comparison between using no analytics, Simple Analytics, and Google Analytics.

2.3 Pageviews: Bypass ad-blockers for more accurate views

Recording page views is easy without invading visitor privacy, although there are stark differences in accuracy among different analytics tools. The main driver of these differences is ad blocker software.

Estimates are that around ~25% of internet users have ad blocker software installed. Usually, the younger the audience, the more ad blockers are installed. Not only do they block advertisements, but they also block certain analytics scripts like Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is blocked by almost every ad blocker software, whereas Simple Analytics is not. This has a significant impact on your website analytics. Using Simple Analytics, your page views will be tracked more accurately.

Sometimes our script is blocked as well. By setting up our ad blocker bypass, we ensure that all your page views are counted.

2.4 Unique visitors

Recording pageviews without invading visitor privacy is easy, but recording unique visitors is not. Being privacy-first means that we have to do things differently. Google Analytics uses cookies to track unique visitors. Other privacy-friendly tools are using hashed IP addresses (which is better but not GDPR compliant). We figured out a privacy-first way to do this.

At Simple Analytics, we don’t ever want to ask your visitors for their consent. That’s why we came up with a unique way of tracking unique visitors. When a visitor lands on your website, the browser sends a referrer origin along. Based on this referrer, we can identify whether the visitor is unique or not. See our page on unique visits explained.

Admittedly, tracking sessions is difficult for us. Google Analytics provides more accurate data regarding sessions. This is because they use cookies to follow you around.

2.5 Time-on-page

There are a few key differences between Google Analytics and Simple Analytics when tracking the time on page. Google uses timestamp hits to indicate the time on page. The drawbacks of this method are that Google fails to track the time on page accurately. In our analysis, we’ve come to the following conclusions:

  1. Google Analytics does not record the time on page if you only visit one page
  2. Google Analytics does not record the time on page of the last page visited
  3. Google Analytics does record time on page if you leave a tab open but are ‘spending time’ in a different tab.

The time on page metric used by Google Analytics is flawed.

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At Simple we detect when a visitor navigates to a different website. In comparison to Google Analytics, we do record the time on page for a bounced visitor and the time on page for the last visited page. In addition, we’ve researched the best method to calculate the average time on page. To filter out outliers we are using the median instead of the mean to get to the most accurate number. As a result, the time on page using our method is expected to be lower than in Google Analytics.

2.6 Event Tracking

Tracking events is an important website tracking metric. It provides insights into visitor activity while on your page. It tracks whether someone downloaded your pricing table or if someone filled in your form. As said, we are not using cookies; thus, it isn’t easy to track visitor activity accurately. We don’t store your visitor’s data, so naturally, events will not be linked to a specific visitor.

We are, however still able to track events using our ‘buckets’ approach. If x visitors visit a landing page, with y visitors clicking a signup form, we can calculate the conversion rate for that specific event. In our dashboard, you can fire up multiple events and if you want, we have some standard events automated for you. You have to install the script once, and it collects events for outbound links, downloads, and clicks on email links. In addition, you can add your custom events.

3. Additional features

This is not the time to talk about features, but there are a few worth mentioning as they differ from Google Analytics.

3.1. Export your data
3.2. Mini websites as referral links
3.3. Embed chart on your website
3.4. Hide referral spam
3.5. Import your data directly from Google

3.1 Export your data

Simple Analytics provides the possibility to extract raw data to use for your internal dashboards and tooling. Remember, it’s your data, so you should be in total control. It’s possible to use our API (for aggregated data) or use our user interface to export the raw data in many different formats.

We are privacy-first but simple-second. Your simple analytics dashboard is a simple one-page overview of your most important website tracking metrics. Simple and clean. In that respect, we also visualized your referral links. Instead of showing you links to specific referral pages, we created mini websites. They are screenshots of your referral link pages. Instead of showing you a referral link, we show a visualization of the referral page.

3.3 Embed chart on your website

We provide the possibility to embed a chart of your analytics on your website. You can customize the chart and overwrite all the colors. You can build your dashboard with the metrics you want using our API.

3.4 Hide referral spam

Referral spam can cause your analytics to be inaccurate. With a click on a button, you can hide referral spam in your analytics. No need to build complex filters.

3.5 Import your data directly from Google

Switching to a different product brings hassle. It takes time, and there are always switching costs involved. We try to minimize the switching costs by making it possible to import your Google Analytics data directly into Simple Analytics. Your past data will be updated in the Simple Analytics dashboard, so you don’t have to start from scratch whenever you switch.

4. Why do we care

Adriaan started Simple Analytics three years ago to provide an alternative to Google Analytics for organizations that are concerned about their visitor’s privacy. Iron has joined the team in December 2021. As data privacy will become more pressing in the coming years, we aim to create a solution that is compliant and future-proof. By supporting us in our mission, you are not only preserving your visitor’s privacy but also supporting an indie team of two instead of the data devouring machine called Google.

Thanks for considering Simple Analytics. It’s truly appreciated. Let us know if you have any questions. We are open to suggestions regarding new features. Check our roadmap and join the discussion in our slack community.