Introduction to Matomo (Piwik) – Best Google Analytics Alternative

I have used many analytics tools over the years from statcounter, clicky, kissmetrics, mixpanel to expensive solutions like Adobe Sitecatalyst and Coremetrics.

Most of these tools don’t hold a candle to GA in terms of features and the one which do are just too difficult to use.

In order to really understand and appreciate how easy it is to use Google Analytics, I would suggest taking what I call “Adobe SiteCatalyst Challenge”.

Use Adobe Sitecatalyst for a week or two and try to perform all of the tasks you usually carry out in GA.

Let me know, if you don’t find yourself calling their customer support every day or two just to perform seemingly simple tasks like applying an advanced segment to a report.

There is no doubt, sitecatalyst is very robust, infact it is way too robust for a mortal man.

You don’t need to run a supercomputer to apply an advanced segment to a report.

If you can’t use the tool easily then what is the point.

One tool that stands out from the GA alternatives crowd is ‘Piwik’.

This tool without a doubt, is a serious contender of Google Analytics and serious threat to GA premium.

I use this tool in addition to Google Analytics.

My primary reason to use piwik is to get the unsampled data, though it provides many other benefits over GA like full ownership of the analytics data.

If you have read the article Understanding Data Sampling in Google Analytics, you already know how damaging data sampling can be for your analysis.

If your website gets lot of traffic (millions of pageviews a month) and you can’t afford an enterprise level tool like GA premium then Piwik is your best choice.

I would even go ahead and say, why spend $150k a year (even if you can afford to) on GA premium, if there are better cheaper alternatives available.

Surprisingly, many GA premium customers I have talked to, have not heard of Piwik and when they do, they are literally shocked to know that it has no data sampling limit, no limit on data storage and collection and above all, they can actually own their analytics data and all that for free or minimal cost.

To an average Joe (like your client) the difference between what he is getting from GA premium and what he can get from Piwik is really the annual cost of $150,000

Yes, your client (aka business) see the cost more than anything else.

No matter how big your client is, $150,000 per year cost on an analytics solution is not something which can be conveniently ignored.

You can hire two web analysts full time for this cost which would help you much more in improving the business bottomline.

Remember, any analytics tool/solution (no matter how robust) can not provide any useful actionable insight on its own. You need people, really smart people for data interpretation. So when it comes to investing between a tool and an analyst, invest more in analyst.

Piwik is the tool which let you invest more in people even at the enterprise level.

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What is Piwik?

It is an open source analytics platform. It is free to use if you set up, configure and maintain it on your own and on your own web server.

If you do not want to setup, configure and maintain your infrastructure for Piwik and/or if you want to customize Piwik to meet your specific tracking/reporting requirements then you need to use Piwik Pro which is a paid service.

If you are hosting piwik on your own web server(s) then there is no data storage limit. You can store as much data as your infrastructure can support.

If you are using Piwik servers to host your piwik instance (cloud hosting) then the upward data limit is 500 million actions (more about actions later) per month.

Piwik is available in 53 languages, supports all time zones, support 100+ currencies and can also be accessed via Android and IOS apps.

Following are some of the features of Piwik:

  1. Ecommerce Tracking
  2. Event Tracking
  3. Goal Conversion Tracking
  4. Campaign Tracking
  5. Site Speed Tracking
  6. Real time data
  7. Customizable dashboards
  8. Site search analytics
  9. Page level tracking
  10. Annotation
  11. Mobile App analytics through Piwik IOS and Android SDK.
  12. Cross domain tracking
  13. Cross device tracking through User ID
  14. Piwik Analytics APIs (Analytics Web API and Tracking Web API)
  15. Advanced video tracking

Through Piwik you can track almost anything you can track through Google Analytics.

The one area where Piwik is far behind than GA is attribution modelling. In fact no analytics tool can compete with GA on attribution modelling at present.

You can integrate piwik with almost all popular shopping carts (Shopify, Magento, opencart, prestashop, zen cart, oscommerce, woo commerce etc) and set up ecommerce tracking.

You can integrate piwik with all popular CMS like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and sharepoint. Piwik can work on variety of platforms from PHP, Android, IOS, C#, Ruby, Node.js to Microsoft Silverlight. Check out the integration module for more details.

For custom integration and white labelling, you need to use Piwik Pro.

Unlike GA, piwik also provide ‘Server Log analytics’ and ‘Intranet Analytics’.

Through log analytics you can report on server errors and reprocess historical data.

Intranet (unlike internet) is a local/internal network generally used by large organizations in the Govt, Education and Financial sectors.

Through piwik you can measure how intranet traffic is using your website(s). This is particularly useful for colleges and universities where students regularly use the intranet to consume contents and interact with faculty and other students.

Unlike GA, piwik provides almost endless customization of its analytics platform through its own plugins, through piwik marketplace and through its custom development services.

Following is the short introductory video on Piwik:

Checkout the online demo to see how piwik works.

 

Piwik key benefits over Google Analytics

#1 Piwik has no data storage and collection limit, if you are hosting piwik instance on your own web server or hard disk.

#2 There is no limit on the number of goals, transactions and pageviews you can track.

#3 No limit on the number of websites you can track.

#4 No limit on number of user accounts, scheduled reports and the amount of data you can export.

#5 Because piwik has got plugin architecture and open marketplace, it provides endless customization of its platform.

#6 Piwik has got no data sampling issues. You get 100% unsampled data. This is what I like the most.

#7 You have complete ownership and control over your analytics data. Nobody other than you, can access your data not even anonymously. This is not the case with Google Analytics. Moreover if you violate Google TOS, Google can terminate your GA account and you can loose all of your data overnight.

#8 In Piwik you can configure privacy settings according to your company’s privacy policy and your country’s data protection laws. What that means, you are not bind by Piwik’s own policy and TOS on privacy and data protection.

You can choose to track personally identifiable information (PII) like visitors’ names, email addresses, IP addresses etc in your piwik reports. Google doesn’t allow tracking PII.

#9 Piwik provides option to white label its platform through ‘white label plugin‘. Through this plugin you can re-brand piwik for personal/commercial use. For example you can use own color and font scheme, add your business logo etc.

#10 You can use Piwik professional services (training, consultation, custom development etc) for very low cost (comparatively). Google provides these services only to GA premium customers for which you would have to pay $150,000 per year.

So for majority of users who use GA, professional services and dedicated support is simple out of reach.

Note: Piwik is working on a plugin which will let you easily import all of the GA data into Piwik.

 

Introduction to Piwik Pro

Piwik pro is the paid service of Piwik. It includes:

  1. Piwik Cloud service
  2. Piwik Enterprise service
  3. Piwik Sharepoint Service

Piwik pro service can be self-hosted or cloud hosted.

Use Piwik pro if your website/business needs customized analytics solutions and/or you want Piwik to setup, configure and mantain piwik, either on your infrastructure or on piwik own web servers.

If you don’t have such needs then use Piwik standard (free version). Piwik standard offers everything you would get in the pro version in terms of features and functionality.

I use piwik standard on optimizesmart.com

 

Piwik Cloud Service

Use this service if you don’t want to store and maintain piwik on your infrastructure.

The advantage of using Piwik Cloud service is that your Piwik instance will be hosted on Piwik servers + you will get access to technical support, premium plugins and other Piwik Pro services.

You can track as many websites as you like with your Piwik cloud instance. If you think certain functionality is missing from your Piwik cloud instance, you can hire a Piwik Pro expert who can develop a custom plugin which extend the Piwik functionality in a way that meets your specific tracking/reporting requirements.

You can also ask Piwik experts to help you in:

  1. integrating Piwik with your CRM and ecommerce platform.
  2. analysing your analytics data.
  3. creating new custom reports, dashboards and other data visualization solutions
  4. building your own analytics tool based on piwik.
  5. scaling piwik for high traffic

 

Piwik Cloud Pricing

Piwik provides 30 days free trial (no credit card required) of Piwik Cloud.

Once your trial period is over, your monthly payment would be calculated based on the number of actions recorded for your website in the last one month.

Actions in piwik are just like hits in Google Analytics. They are users’ interactions like pageviews, events, downloads etc. Piwik register number of actions recorded for your website each month.

Piwik defines traffic as the total number of actions recorded for your website in a month.

Piwik calculates your monthly payment for Piwik Cloud on the basis of your last month traffic. For example for upto 100k actions per month, Piwik Cloud would cost you around $27 per month:

piwik cloud pricing

This is your starting price for using Piwik Cloud. Piwik cloud can record up to 500 million actions (half a billion actions) per month for just around $4900 per month ($58,800 per year):

piwik cloud pricing2

There are only handful of websites on this planet which get 500 million or more actions per month. Vast majority of websites get less than 10 million actions per month.

Even if your website gets 10 million actions per month, it would still cost you only around $735 dollars a month to use Piwik Cloud:

piwik cloud pricing2

If you are using GA, then to support a website with 10 million hits per month, you would have to switch to GA premium which would cost $150,000 ($12,500 per month). Otherwise you would see lot of data sampling issues.

So for 1/18th of the GA premium price, you can take advantage of enterprise level analytics solution through piwik and get unsampled data in your reports.

 

Piwik Enterprise Service

Use this service if you want to store all of the analytics data on your web server but you need deployment, customization and maintenance support from Piwik on a ongoing basis.

Piwik for enterprise service is ideal for Government and Educational institutions where data privacy and ownership is of great concern.

This service includes:

  • on-premises setup and configuration.
  • training (user training, technical training, custom training and onsite training)
  • custom development
  • support (email, phone, dedicated account manager)

This service comes with 4 plans: Basic, Standard, Premium and Pro and pricing depends upon your requirements and infrastructure. So there is no fixed price and you need to request a quote.

 

Piwik Sharepoint Service

Use this service if your company uses sharepoint. You can choose a self hosted (sharepoint on premises) or cloud hosted (sharepoint cloud) service. Click here for more details.

 

Installing Piwik on your website

Unfortunately installing Piwik is not as easy as installing Google Analytics.

You need to do lot more than just adding a piece of JavaScript code to your website. If you are using wordpress, you can follow the steps below to install the free version of Piwik:

Step-1: Check whether your web host meet the minimum requirements to run Piwik.

Step-2: Setup a new MYSQL database for installing piwik. You can also install piwik in the existing database but that can really slow down your website.

Many web hosts provide the functionality to create a new MySQL database just by clicking few buttons in the control panel:

add a new database

Contact your web host for more details regarding setting up a new database.

Step-3: Note down the following database information while creating the new MYSQL database:

  1. Database Server (host) IP address (like 20.149.0.56)
  2. Database Name (like abc_piwik)
  3. Database Username
  4. Database Password

If your web host has set up the new database for you then get the database information from them. You would need this information later while installing piwik on your website.

Step-4: Download the latest version of Piwik from here and then unzip the file on your hard disk.

Step-5: Open your FTP client and set the transfer type to binary.If you use FileZila, you can set the transfer type to binary by going to Transfer menu > Transfer Type > Binary:

transfer type binary

It is important that you use ‘binary’ mode to upload piwik files. Otherwise you will get error during installation.

Step-6: Upload the piwik files (in binary mode) to your desired location on your web server.

Step-7: Once the upload is complete, navigate to the piwik folder on your server in your browser window. For example if you uploaded piwik files at: www.mysite.com/piwik then enter this URL in the browser window.

Step-8: As you soon as you enter the URL, you will see the piwik installation welcome screen:

piwik welcome screen

If there is some problem with the piwik files upload then you will see the error message.

If there is no problem with the upload then piwik will do the ‘system check’ to make sure that your web server meets the piwik minimum installation requirements. If everything is ok then you will proceed to set up database otherwise piwik will identify the issue and tell you how to fix it.

 

Step-9: Click on the ‘next’ button to set up MYSQL database for piwik. Enter the database information (host, name, username and password) you noted down while setting up the new database:

my sql database setup

Leave the value of ‘table prefix’ field and ‘adapter’ field intact.

Step-10: After filling this form, click on the ‘next button. Piwik will now add necessary tables to your database.

Step-11: Once the tables are set up, click on ‘next’ again in order to set up the ‘super user‘ account.

Super user has the highest permission and can perform administrative tasks like adding new users, assigning permissions to users, adding new websites to track, adding plugins etc.

Note: There can be only 1 super user per piwik instance.

Enter the login information to set up the ‘super user’ account:

super user piwik

Note down this login information, as you will need it later when the first time you log in into piwik.

Step-12: After setting up the ‘super user’ account, click on the ‘next’ button and then enter your website (the one which you want to track) name, URL and timezone:

set up website

Step-13: Click on the next button and then copy-paste the JavaScript code provided by piwik on every web page of your website, just before the closing body tag (</body>):

piwik tracking code

If you don’t want to insert this piwik tag manually, you can use the wordpress plugin wp-piwik.

Step-14: Once you have added the piwik tracking code on your website, click on the ‘next’ button to verify your installation.

If everything is ok, you will see the ‘congratulations’ screen. Click on the ‘continue to piwik’ link:

continue to piwik

Step-15: Log into piwik. Use the login information you used while setting up ‘super user’ account and then configure your piwik settings. Watch the video below for more details:

.

Other article you will find useful: Why Adwords and Google Analytics data don’t match & how to fix it

 

Learn about the Google Analytics Usage Trends Tool

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Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of OptimizeSmart.com

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

  • Over eleven years' experience in SEO, PPC and web analytics
  • Google Analytics certified
  • Google AdWords certified
  • Nominated for Digital Analytics Association Award for Excellence
  • Bachelors degree in Internet Science
  • Founder of OptimizeSmart.com and EventEducation.com

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