Piwik vs. Google Analytics, A Comparison

I installed piwik on this blog.  That’s the script and cookie from piwik.realfreemarket.org.  If that offends you, you may use NoScript to block it.  I also have the raw Apache logs, so I can see how many people are blocking the piwik script.

When I first set up this blog, I tried adding the Google Analytics tracking code.  However, it didn’t work and I removed it.

Some people get offended by Google.  They didn’t like it when my blog was on Blogger (owned by Google).  They didn’t like the Google Analytics tracking/spying code.  You can read my blog 100% Google-free.

However, if the police really were interested, they could subpoena the information from Linode.  The way State spying laws work, Linode would be forced to comply with the subpoena, and they couldn’t even tell me!

Around the time I started using this blog, Google Analytics overhauled their site design.  As a result, all my configurations and preferences were lost, and I couldn’t figure out how to set it up again.  Instead, I stopped using it.

After using piwik for a day, my reaction is “Wow!  Piwik is so much better than Google Anlaytics!  It isn’t even close!”

Piwik gives me a cookie, so I don’t accidentally track my own pageviews.  Google Analytics doesn’t do that.

Unlike Google Analytics, piwik lets me track pageviews at the per-user level.  For example, Google Analytics will only tell me that page X was viewed 50 times.  Piwik will tell me that people viewed page X, then page Y, then page Z.

I’m trying to figure out how to filter the “Visitor Log”, showing only users with at least 2 pageviews.  I could always write some custom SQL+PHP for that.  (I already figured out that the relevant information is in the piwik_log_visit table and the piwik_log_link_visit_action table.)

I have noticed some flaws in piwik.  It has awkward date range selection.  If I go to “Visitor Log” and select “500 results per page”, it doesn’t remember the setting when I refresh the page.  However, that could be fixed by writing my own piwik plugin or with some custom PHP.

For another example, Google Analytics only tells me my overall bounce rates and bounce rate per page.  Piwik tells me which landing pages lead to long sessions and which lead to short session.

For example, “node.js sucks” is very popular in Google search.  However, most of that traffic is bounces or viewing only 2-3 pages.  Most of the long site visits are direct traffic, i.e. people who have my blog bookmarked.  That information isn’t available form Google Analytics.

Piwik is *MUCH BETTER* at telling me which traffic sources are leading to interested readers.  There’s two possible conclusions:

  1. The programmers working on Google Analytics are incompetent fools.
  2. Google Analytics is crippled on purpose, so that people won’t realize that their AdWords spending is wasted.

I’m always willing to believe incompetence ahead of sabotage.  However, Google does profit when people can’t measure the effectiveness of an ad budget.

There’s one flaw in Piwik, relative to Google Analytics.  Google stopped telling people what search keyword was used, when people find your blog via a search.  However, if you use Google Analytics, it may not be crippled in that way.  That would be offensive, if it were true.  I haven’t checked.  However, piwik does tell me the landing page, for those “Keyword Not Defined” searches.

Also, the piwik data is stored on my server, so I can use SQL to query it, if necessary.  Google Analytics won’t let you download the raw data.  (I looked for that feature, but couldn’t find it.)

Overall, piwik is much better than Google Analytics.  I just installed it, and already it’s much better.  It isn’t even a close comparison.  It gives me much more information than Google Analytics, especially when it comes to tracking users as they read my blog, recording the order of pageviews.  Is Google Analytics lousy because Google’s programmers are incompetent?  Is Google Analytics crippled on purpose, so that people won’t know if their AdWords budget is being spent wisely?

I’ve noticed another improvement of piwik vs. Google Analytics. Piwik tells me “url parameters”, the part after the ‘?’ in a url. That’s useful when forums link to my post, so I can see which specific post linked to my blog.

10 Responses to Piwik vs. Google Analytics, A Comparison

  1. Anonymous Coward June 26, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    I first starting using Google Adwords for advertising in the early days when Click Fraud was quite prevalent on the 3rd party display network i.e. your advert shows up on a third party website instead of Google Search.

    I got stung for 300 – 400 USD before I realized what was going on. At the time I was very busy with programming and just wanted to spend some money to get my software out into the real world. Overall it paid off. I now have a successful software product that a lot of major companies and organizations use.

    I was a regular custom of Adwords and over the years they must have earned a great deal of money from me.

    I asked Google repeatedly to refund the 300 – 400 USD they took from me via click fraud. I told me I had my Apache Logs and it was obvious to me an Indian screensaver website was stealing from me. The software I was selling had nothing to do with Indian screensavers and so my adverts should not have been showing there. In fact there weren’t showing there. The whole thing was a scam to take money from my Google Adwords budget. Strangely this Indian Screensaver website gobbled up my whole daily budget within seconds and then for the rest of the day none of my ads were shown.

    A university professor was sent to report on Google and Click Fraud. He found that Google’s methods to prevent click fraud were simple but they worked. HE ALSO STATED HE DID NOT KNOW WHY GOOGLE TOOK SO LONG TO FIX THE CLICK FRAUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    • Conversely, I was banned from AdSense due to “click fraud”. I didn’t do anything dishonest. Why didn’t Google just remove the invalid clicks, rather than completely ban me?

      Interestingly, Google bans people just before they reach $100 and qualify for a payout. In effect, I ran Google’s ads for 3 months for free.

      I wonder if I had good ad clickthrough rates, because I have a real blog and not a spam made-for-adsense blog?

      I’m evaluating other ad alternatives for this blog. I’d like to make $20/month to cover the Linode hosting costs.

  2. Anonymous Coward June 27, 2012 at 4:32 am

    Google has become a clown house.

    Google purchased the Android operating system from another company.

    Google purchased streetview software from another company.

    Their Chrome web browser is based on the OpenSource HTML renderer Konqueror which released a long time before they picked it up.

  3. Anonymous Coward June 27, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    > I didn’t do anything dishonest.

    I would have thought FSK would have got it yet.

    That is why the evil clowns do not like you. You are not one of them. You do not cheat and lie. They hate you for this.

    • Regarding Google AdSense, it was some anonymous script calling me a cheater. I couldn’t even appeal to a person.

      I’m looking at other ad options. According to my raw Apache logs, I get ~500 unique IPs per day. According to Piwik, it’s only 150, which means that 2/3 of my readers block scripts and ads.

      I am aware that it’s a handicap, to be honest and intelligent.

      • Anonymous Coward June 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm

        Perhaps you could call yourself a minority as based on honesty and intelligence and come to the United Kingdom.

        The stupid Zanu Nu Labour Party over here wanted to make it law that if two applicants apply for the same job, the minority applicatnt should get the job, if there is not much to choose between the applicants.

        They want to make positive discrimination legal and anything other than positive discrimination illegal.

  4. Anonymous Coward June 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    > I’d like to make $20/month to cover the Linode hosting costs.

    I pay about $5 – 7 USD per month for my hosting. It is on a shared webserver and has PHP, MySQL and automatic installation of Open Source blogs, forums, content management software…

    I have quite large software downloads and large numbers of visitors and nobody has complained about low speeds yet. I do have a static IP though and that costs more. Not sure whether I need a static IP though.

    • Linode is a little better than shared hosting. I get my own virtual Linux host with the root password.

      I looked at the cheaper options, but decided Linode was nicer.

      It also matters if I ever want to do anything more complicated than blog+PHP. I could run custom C/C++ on my server, but the shared hosts don’t allow that.

      “Discrimination” literally means “deciding”.

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