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:
- The programmers working on Google Analytics are incompetent fools.
- 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.