I ditched Google Analytics (and you may want to do the same)
If you own or operate a website, it's important to understand how users interact with your site. Website analytics can give you valuable insights into what users are doing on your site, what pages they're visiting, how long they're staying on each page, and more. However, many website analytic tools collect personal data without the user's knowledge or consent, making the website owner accountable for too many legal implications that they do not understand. To ethically track your website, you should first ensure that you are using privacy-compliant analytics software that meets the requirements made by privacy laws like GDPR, CCPA and PEDR. This will protect user privacy (while still allowing you to track website performance and will protect your business from breaking the law.
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What is website analytics?
Website analytics is the process of tracking, analyzing, and interpreting website data in order to understand and optimize website usage. Website analytics can give website owners valuable insights into how users interact with their site, what pages they're visiting, how long they're staying on each page, and more. Understanding this data can help website owners improve their site's design, content, and overall user experience.
Many website analytic tools are available, but not all of them are privacy-compliant. Google Analytics is one of the most popular website analytic tools, but it has come under fire for collecting personal data without the user's knowledge or consent, and for illegal data storage. This means those website owners who use Google Analytics are at risk of violating privacy laws worldwide.
How website analytic tools collect personal data without user consent
Here's how website analytic tools collect personal data. When a user visits a website, their web browser sends information to the website's server. This information includes the user's IP address, browser type, operating system, pages visited, and time spent on each page. This data is then stored in log files on the website's server. Google Analytics collects this data and uses it to generate reports for website owners.
However, this data can also be used to personally identify website users. Google Analytics does not anonymize IP addresses, meaning website owners can see the real IP address of every user who visits their site. This information can be used to locate a user's approximate location and track their website usage over time. Additionally, website owners can use Google Analytics to create website user profiles, which can include information like age, gender, interests, and more.
"Google isn't a charity. If you're not paying for the product, then you're the product."
- Paul Jarvis
The legal implications of using website analytics tools that collect personal data
This data collection raises serious privacy concerns. Users are not typically aware that their data is being collected by website analytic tools like Google Analytics, meaning they are not able to give their consent. And because this data can be used to personally identify website users, it is considered personal data under GDPR. This means website owners who use Google Analytics are at risk of violating international laws on data collection and user consent.
How to ethically track your website visitors
There are ethical website analytic tools available that are privacy-compliant, light and efficient. One of these tools is the Canadian software Fathom Analytics, the one I chose to use on this website after testing a few options available in the market. Fathom Analytics is a privacy-first website analytic tool that doesn't compromise visitor privacy for data. This means website owners can use Fathom Analytics to track website usage without violating any privacy laws. This software is easy to use, fast to install and isn't heavy on your website performance, which means it is better for your SEO game than Google Analytics will ever be. Fathom integrates easily with all content management systems such as WordPress, Squarespace, Kajabi and Wix and doesn't require you to use the annoying "cookie banners".
Another option is Plausible Analytics. Website owners can use Plausible Analytics to track website usage without violating privacy laws. Plausible is lightweight and open source web analytics. No cookies and fully compliant with GDPR, CCPA and PECR. Made and hosted in the EU, powered by European-owned cloud infrastructure. Plausible allows you to segment your audience by any metric you click on. It answers the important questions about your visitors, content and referral sources. You can also invite team members and share your dashboard privately as needed.
And the winner for us is ...
Both analytics tools are great and offer similar services. I chose Fathom Analytics for my website because I like to support local businesses (Fathom is based in Vancouver, BC), Fathom is the go-to analytics software for companies such as ConvertKit and Buffer, the creator of Fathom is Paul Jarvis, the author of "Company of One", a book I enjoyed very much and I really enjoy the simplicity of the software as opposed to the overwhelming Google Analytics' dashboard.
Making the right choice for your business
When choosing an analytics tool, it's important to consider which features are most important to you and your website. Some website analytic tools offer more features than others and will cost differently, so it's important to do your research and choose the tool that's right for you based on your business needs, skill level, and overall cost of software subscription. Most tools will offer a free trial period, use this offer to test tools and make a decision at the end.
Setting it up is easy once you've selected a privacy-compliant website analytic tool. Simply follow the instructions provided and you're on your way to collecting precious website traffic data.
It's important to remember that website analytics is just one part of the website privacy game. Website owners should also consider using website security measures like SSL encryption to protect website users' personal data.
NOTE: I am not a privacy lawyer and if you need legal advice about the data you collect, you want to hire a legal expert to provide advice to your specific circumstances.
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