Matomo Analytics is a free and open source web analytics solution. It’s a powerful alternative for Google Analytics, and has a strong focus on data protection.
A short history of Matomo Analytics
Matomo Analytics (formerly known as Piwik) first version dates back to 2007 and was created by Matthieu Aubry, who is still the team leader. In 2018, it was renamed Matomo.
Matomo is used on more than one million websites. It has been translated into 54 languages and has an active community.
Matomo is an especially interesting solution for professional websites such as company showcase sites. Some may find it difficult to use, since the integration with other tools in the Google ecosystem, such as Google Ads, Google DataStudio, etc. requires some progamming know-how.
Why use Matomo Analytics?
Are you looking for a way to measure your website’s performance? Then you’re probaly familiar with Google Analytics. However, if you need an alterative because of GDPR, then Matomo may be the right solution for you.
Matomo, like Google Analytics, records all statistics about your website visitors. You can find out which pages they visit most often, how they move between pages, how long they stay on each page, and so on.
Typically, reports are presented in tables and contain numbers and are organized in several dimensions. Let’s start with dimensions.
Dimensions are attributes that can be used to classify the data. Just like Google Analytics, Matomo provides you with a broad range of dimensions. Here is an (incomplete) list:
- temporal: The date, hour, day, week, month,…, of the Internet user’s visit.
- The URL of a page visited, entry and exit pages.
- Traffic acquisition channels (organic and paid, referral, direct, …).
- The search engines that bring traffic.
- The browsers that visitors use
- Geographic: The country, region, or city in which the visitor is situated
All of the dimensions are quantified with numbers. Again, Matomo provides you with the same information as Google Analytics:
- The number of sessions (visits)
- The number of pages per session.
- The session duration
- The bounce rate
- If you follow them via events, the actions taken
- Click on a button
- Visit a specific web page
For analyzing the data, it makes sense to create so-called segments. They can be defined in any way you want, but it makes sense to follow established practices, for example:
• Visitors who have converted the X goal and came from Google Ads
• Mobile visitors who signed up for your Email newsletter
• Visitors that did not proceed the checkout of your online shop.
There are almost no limitations to segments.
Matomo allows you to visualize the most common steps taken by visitors on your site. But it can be difficult to use this tool to understand the user’s journey through the site. While it can give you a feeling of what is going on, it is often much easier to focus on pages and see the previous and next paths in more detailed reports.
Heatmaps allow you to visualize the behavior of users on your webpage. Although there are specialized software vendors like Crazyegg or Hotjar, it is especially convenient if you have all the behavioral data of your visitors in one place. Be aware, that using heatmaps can lead to a huge increase in data volume. You should keep that in mind if you decide to self-host your data.
If you have a bigger site, e.g., an online shop, you can also track search results made on the site. This is very useful to understand what your visitors are looking for and for optimizing the search performance on your website.
Matomo Analytics Installation
Matomo offers three options, a self-hosted option, a cloud-hosted plan, and an enterprise solution.
Since Matomo is open source, you can download the source code and install it on your server. You will need to plan for its size, as it will store a lot of data and require a server that can navigate through the data. A self-hosted solution doesn’t provide all features that Matomo offers out of the box: you’ll have to add paid plugins to have all the features that you need.
However, it is the most flexible way of using Matomo.
Matomo Cloud is the second option. It’s a hosting solution that Matomo offers. You can create an account with a few clicks. This option allows you to access almost all plugins necessary for site analysis. This is the easiest and fastest way of getting started with Matomo. The convenience comes with the costs of not having access to the raw data which might be interesting to more advanced users. The pricing starts at 19EUR and increases based on the number of visits per month your sites have.
Matomo Cloud Enterprise
This third option comes in handy for users who want to have a more advanced and customized setup without worrying about maintaining the server and database. You can also request a custom domain or a white label solution in the inquiry form on the Matomo website.
Matomo supports different types of data collection, client side and server side.
Then, you will be presented with two solutions:
- Use the Matomo Tag Manager. It’s the equivalent of Google Tag Manager. You can integrate not only the Matomo Analytics tag, but any other tags you might need. This makes it much easier for advanced us age.
If you have a CMS system like WordPress you can use the Matomo plugin. The setup and installation is very simple and done with a few clicks.
Although this installation is more complicated, server-side tracking gives you a better picture of traffic and interactions on the site. Tracking cannot be blocked by ad-blockers because they work only at the client-side level. For example, you can track 100% of e-commerce sales and have perfect consistency between your back office and your web analytics tool. This will allow you to make better decisions and provide a more precise analysis.
Matomo Reporting API
Matomo’s Reporting API is well documented and is very simple to use. The API lets you programmatically retrieve any analytics reports from Matomo. You can select the data for one or several websites and specify date intervals and format (CSV, JSON, XML, etc.). Matomo also provides Management APIs to create, update and delete websites, users, user privileges, custom dashboards, email reports, goals, funnels, custom dimensions, alerts, videos, heatmaps, session recordings, custom segments, and more.
Differences between Matomo Analytics & Google Analytics
Matomo can be used in place of Google Analytics without sacrificing functionality and data quality. Matomo works in the same way as Google Analytics, but it requires more work on your side if you want to use it for free (self-hosted). Also, the self-hosted solution requires you to pay extra for
additional features such as heatmaps, etc. The cloud solution starts with 19€ a month for 50.000 hits/month and includes most of the extra features (e.g., heatmaps) that are otherwise subject to a yearly fee in a self-hosted environment.
Google’s ecosystem around Google Analytics provides easy integration with each other. This is where Google stands out. For example, to create impressive and useful reports, you can send Google Ads data directly to Google Analytics.
It’s more challenging with Matomo and that’s okay. But with little effort and sweat, you can create a lot of things (e.g., connecting Matomo to Google Data Studio).
Matomo Analytics and GDPR Compliance
In 2022, privacy will be and remain a major concern for both internet users and businesses. Website publishers face many challenges when applying the GDPR. Lots of Google Analytics users are currently incompliant with GDPR.
Since you have the complete data ownership of your visitor’s data you can use Matomo even the consent of the visitor if you do not track PII (personal identifiable information) and if your Matomo instance ins located within the EU.
Matomo Analytics provides a high-performance solution to analyze the performance of websites and applications. It’s a strong competitor to Google Analytics and a must if you have to comply with GDPR rules