Your Matomo Analytics data is 100% yours to own, with no external parties looking in - Matthieu Aubry
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Matomo Analytics is an alternative to Google Analytics that gives you full control of your data and protects user's privacy.

Matomo Analytics is an open-source alternative to Google Analytics in a world where privacy now matters. It has more than 1.4 million websites in over 190 countries. In addition to being open-source, it is extendable and can be customized. And just like Google Analytics, it helps marketers get a good understanding of the website performance and customer behavior.

Matomo’s background story

Matomo was developed by Matthieu Aubry along with some of his friends in late 2007. It was known as Piwik and offered full API support, a cleaner UI, modern graphics, better architecture, and better performance. Here's a timeline of the key milestones of Piwik's evolution into Matomo.

  • 2008 - Piwik released as a hosted application for developers
  • 2009 - Piwik selected as SourceForge's Project of the Month by InfoWorld's Bossie Awards
  • 2012 - Piwik started a crowdfunding campaign to develop new features
  • 2013 - Matthieu Aubry and Maciej Zawadziński, CEO of Clearcode, launched Piwik PRO to support the development of the open-source version of Piwik
  • 2018 - Piwik officially rebranded as Matomo
  • 2019 - A WordPress plugin called Matomo Analytics for WordPress was released. It also includes two other products: Matomo On-Premise and Matomo Cloud

Matomo Analytics plugin allows WordPress users to host Matomo directly in their WordPress. I'll explain this feature here later.

Matomo Analytics overview: what it does, unique features, and who is it for

If you're familiar with Google Analytics, Matomo will look very familiar. After installation, you can reach Matomo's main reporting screen via WordPress' admin navigation to access the following views:

  • Dashboard - you can get an overview of the key metrics and more informational widgets
  • Visitors - tracks visits over time, their locations, device info, and user IDs (if set up)
  • Behavior - focuses on pages, links, downloads, and reporting on performance
  • Acquisition - understand how visitors found your site (which channel they're coming from)
  • Ecommerce - tracks products and sales
  • Goals - set and track them

Below is the Dashboard view that is customized to display relevant widgets.

Matomo's Dashboard view that have been customized to display relevant widgets

Source: Wikpedia

You can also create segments, change the format of some of the reports such as charts, and export data sets.

As mentioned, the UI is similar to Google Analytics. If you compare features and reports, Matomo will fall behind. But the main website KPIs are all available here. The interface is easier to navigate and clear. And it's just available within your WordPress install. You don't have to sign up for a Google account to access it.

Matomo Analytics Tag Manager

Just like Google's version, Tag Manager is a little hard to implement. For those who are unfamiliar with the former, it's a tool that allows you to centrally manage scripts. Say you're running Hotjar, ActiveCampaign, and ZenDesk scripts; rather than installing them individually, you can manage them all from the Tag Manager UI. It also gives you more control over the scripts. For instance, you can set a rule so that your helpdesk chat window doesn't appear on a contact page. More advanced users are able to leverage variables and data layers, just like with Google Tag Manager.

Please note: Tag Manager does not work in a WordPress multi-site setup.

Google has brought a new ranking factor in their algorithm named Core Web Vitals, which emphasizes on load speed. With Matomo, you will be able to optimize your pages to rank better according to the Core Web Vitals ranking factor.

Extending Matomo Analytics

Matomo may be a 'lite' version of Google Analytics but its paid add-ons gives it superpowers. There are quite a few of them available in the marketplace. Here are some of the more popular ones;

Finally, it has some cheap paid add-ons designed for WordPress such as:
  • Heatmaps & Session Recordings – helps analyze your user behavior in more depth.
  • Form Analytics – track form conversion rates, time to completion, drop-off fields, and more.
  • Media Analytics – track how visitors interact with audio or video media players. It includes embeds from YouTube and other sources
  • Custom Reports – create your own custom dimensions and reports.
  • Search Engine Keywords Performance – view the visitor's actual search keywords.
  • Funnels & Cohorts & Users Flow –  helps you better dig into the user behavior across visits and time scales.
  • Multi-Channel Conversion Attribution –  understand how each marketing channel contributes to conversions.
  • Cohorts - lets your visitors engage and come back for more.
  • Users Flow - shows the most popular path which lets you understand your users’ needs
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Said Habouadi
I am a Bilingual Content Specialist with experience in technical translation, MTPE, marketing translation, link building, Press Release writing, bug reports, and search engine optimization. I have a passion for WordPress, open-source software, and programming languages.
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How Matomo handles privacy?

Matomo’s mission is to give control and data ownership back to users. It offers web analytics on your own servers. There are no third parties taking ownership, no on-selling of data, and no one looking in. In Mathieu Aubry's own words:

Your Matomo Analytics data is 100% yours to own, with no external parties looking in. Unlike Google Analytics which uses your data to serve its advertising platform, Matomo users can safely use analytics without worrying about data being used for marketing or any other purposes. Data ownership gives you the power to protect privacy. You’re in the driver’s seat with the power to decide what happens to your data, and to protect your user’s privacy.

Matomo uses the following features to ensure compliance:
  • Data anonymization
  • GDPR Manager
  • Users can opt-out of all tracks
  • First-party cookies by default
  • People can view the data collected
  • Capabilities to delete visitor data when requested
  • The data is not used for any other purposes (compared to Google Analytics)
  • IP anonymization
  • Visitor logs and profiles can be disabled
  • Data is stored in the EU (Matomo Cloud) or in any country of your choice (Matomo On-Premise)
In addition, Matomo complies with France’s National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) rules. The rules include:
  • Deleting personal data after 25 months
  • Using IP anonymizer
  • Offering Opt-out
  • Disabling Visits log and Visitor profile
  • Agreeing not to export the RAW data to other systems like CRM or data warehouse without consent.

Matomo as an alternative to Google Analytics

This is how they position themselves, and while it shares common features, its philosophy is completely different. Here I outline why Matomo is a better alternative to Google Analytics.

The major difference between Matomo Analytics and Google Analytics:
  • Matomo's UI is easier to understand and navigate.
  • You can access your stats right from your WordPress site, rather than visiting a separate website.
  • You don't need to sign up with a third-party service.
  • Matomo does not use data sampling on any of their plans. Whereas the free version of Google Analytics does on high-traffic sites.
  • Some of Matomo’s free features are available on Google Analytics (very costly) paid plans.
Here are some additional Matomo’s features that both Google Analytics options do not offer:
  • Cloud hosting option
  • On-Premise self-hosting option
  • Downloads and Outlinks tracks automatically
  • Content Interactions
  • Intranet Analytics
  • Search Engine Keyword Rankings
  • Media Analytics
  • Form Analytics
  • Heatmaps
  • Session Recording
  • Advanced Privacy Controls
  • GDPR Manager
  • Log Analytics
  • Integration with Bing and Yahoo Search Consoles
Difference between the privacy rules of Matomo Analytics and Google Analytics

Matomo never uses your data for their “own purpose” or any other purpose as Google does. When using Matomo, you don’t need to ask for specific consent from visitors to collect their information. With Matomo On-Premise, Cloud, and Matomo for WordPress, the data collected is completely owned by you. The CJEU ruled US cloud servers don’t comply with GDPR. Matomo’s cloud-hosted data is stored in Europe and your On-Premise data can be stored in any desired country.

Matomo encourages data anonymization. In other words, by carrying out data anonymization techniques, you can avoid showing users a consent screen. This is good for both you and your users. After all, they need not worry about feeding their browsing behavior into the Google machine.

When using Google Analytics, there can be a penalty of up to 4% of your yearly revenue. It is applicable for data/privacy breaches or non-compliance, according to Article 83 of the GDPR.

The pricing difference between Matomo Analytics and Google Analytics

While most websites use the free version of Google Analytics, larger businesses that require more accurate reporting are charged USD $150,000 / year. Matomo's premium features, instead, cost under USD $2,000 / year when bundled together. Moreover, Google Analytics is a hosted service. As a result, there are no associated infrastructure costs. On the other hand, high-traffic websites running on Matomo, factor in its impact on server resources.

See you and MatomoCamp?

Matomo has recently announced their new event but no date has been set yet.

The goals of the online event, as mentioned on their website are:

  • Knowledge sharing
  • Increasing awareness of the Matomo community and help it grow
  • Introducing Matomo to digital analysts

This is a great opportunity for people to learn about the solution and meet with like-minded people. Think of it as the WordCamp of the web analytics world. Sign up for the event here: https://matomocamp.org

Concluding thoughts: which is better, Matomo or Google Analytics?

Over the past year, privacy and compliance have become hot topics. Moreover, organizations have become increasingly aware of related legislation and penalties for non-compliance too.

Using Matomo over Google Analytics addresses a number of key privacy issues. In addition, it simplifies the terms required to publish. If you don't capture personal data then you don't have to cover this in your privacy policy.

Google Analytics is a better option if you need to use its more advanced features. Or if your hosting environment isn't powerful enough to handle the additional 'weight' of Matomo's plugin.

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