Google Analytics: Is The Party Over When Everyone Opts-Out?

Google Analytics LogoAs you know we are great fans of Google Analytics, naming it the best free analytics package in our test of free analytics vendors. Now comes the word that the party may be over. On March 18th, the Google Analytics team made the following announcement on their blog (our emphasis in bold):

As an enterprise-class web analytics solution, Google Analytics not only provides site owners with information on their website traffic and marketing effectiveness, it also does so with high regard for protecting user data privacy. Over the past year, we have been exploring ways to offer users more choice on how their data is collected by Google Analytics. We concluded that the best approach would be to develop a global browser based plug-in to allow users to opt out of being tracked by Google Analytics. Our engineers are now hard at work finalizing and testing this opt-out functionality. We look forward to make it globally available to our users in the coming weeks.

Obviously it is hard to comment without more details, but this is another example where using third party software can leave you out in the cold when they decide to change the rules. We know users have for years used no-script and Adblock to block analytics packages, but a browser plugin could spread this to more non-technical users. Time will tell what happens, but we feel your web analytics are too valuable to wait. You need to evaluate your options.

Thankfully there are many options to choose from. To help here are our choices. It is not an exhaustive list, but it might help you start your search:

Best Free Alternative to Google Analytics: Self-Hosted
There are many good free webstat tools, like Statcounter, what we are looking at are Analytics tools, which provide a bit more info such as goal and campaign tracking.We are also not looking at free hosted solutions because those can disappear over-night. Our vote goes to which we profiled at version and have seen lots of great improvements since. To us it’s the most like Google Analytics, so the transition will be easy. They also get extra points for the fact they are self-hosted. The other free alternative we suggest you consider is Advanced Web Stats. Both options require self hosting.

Best Value for Money Alternative to Google Analytics: Hosted
To us, the best value for the money alternative to Google Analytics is GetClicky. A quick look a the comparison chart shows why we choose is a great alternative. The best part is the fact, they are one of the few services that supports Google Analytics campaign tags. That means if you have historical campaigns set up with Google Analytics, you can still capture the info with GetClicky. Its also a great way to check your “Google” numbers. Their price is under $120 for the superpro package.

Best Enterprise Alternative to Google Analytics:
This is a hard one, there is a lot of competition in this sphere, but if you have a site with a million pages a month, there are not many services that can handle you. Furthermore, the reality is at this level if your analytics are business critical, you really shouldn’t be using a free solution. It really gets down to what you need and what you are comfortable with. In our view Yahoo! Web Analytics is a great choice (see a good comparison here to Google. Keep in mind Yahoo! is has recently released a new version which added even more features. If you or your company decides to really spend some big bucks, you can also check outWebTrends as a robust Enterprise solution.

In conclusion, some have noted the opt-out will not have an impact. Personally, I am not sure — it depends on the simplicity of the opt-out and how much press it gets. If opting out of Google Analytics is really simple, adoption rates could be high. I also think it makes sense to start considering alternative analytic packages you can facilitate a smooth transition should you need to make it. It never hurts to have a “back-up” plan. Most importantly, you need a benchmark to watch your site to see if a significant delta arises in your Google Analytics and the secondary vendor you choose. To stay updated on the latest Google Analytics opt-out developments we welcome you to subscribe to our blog via email.

Adrian Speyer

About The Author: Adrian has over 12 years experience in Digital Marketing and Analytics. He currently works as a Marketing Manager at Vanilla Forums, a modern forum software platform that allows clients to connect and engage their communities and customers. He lives and works in Montreal.

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