Website Analytics for Architects: Best Alternatives To Google Analytics (2021)

Published Categorized as SEO, Tools, Websites

I’ve recently made the switch from Google Analytics to a privacy-focused alternative.

There are several new analytics startups on the market right now. Some of the more popular ones are Fathom, Simple Analytics, and Plausible (the one I’ve chosen for Vanity Projects).

The goal of all of these new analytics tools is to offer brands a faster, simpler, more private (and arguably more ethical) alternative to Google Analytics.

Here’s a quick post about why I made the switch, and the reasons you might want to ditch Google too.

These tools have more accurate data.

According to Statista, at least 26.4% (and maybe as much as half) of internet users have an ad blocking plugin installed on their browser.

Did you know what happens in your Google Analytics if someone with an ad blocker shows up on your website? Nothing. Absolutely nothing happens. Google can’t even tell that somebody visited, let alone what they did.

The end result is that the number of visitors you see in your Google Analytics dashboard is missing a third (or more) of your actual visitors.

So, what’s the point of Google Analytics if it isn’t able to collect data on all of your visitors? What use are the traffic numbers if they don’t represent the reality?

That’s where these new analytics tools come in.

With these paid analytics tools, you can use your own domain name to “self host” the tracking code, and bypass all of the major ad blocking plugins.

The process of setting it up is pretty straightforward, and once it’s done, your analytics will be able to track every visitor to your site – even if they have ad blocking installed.

They make your website faster.

The second major benefit of these tools is that they’re ultra-lightweight, so they help to speed up your site.

If you’re anything like the typical architecture firm I speak to, your website is way too slow and bulky, and you need to trim the fat wherever possible.

Go to PageSpeed Insights or GTMetrix, run a scan on your firm’s website and see how you score. I’ll drop my GTMetrix results here to gloat a little bit…

Google Analytics adds about 46KB to your site, these other analytics tools add less that 1KB.

It’s a small difference, but when you start actively looking to make your website as fast as possible, every bit counts.

Site load speed is really important for your website. It effects how enjoyable your website is to navigate, and how likely people will be to spend time on your site. It’s also a really significant ranking factor for Google.

You can reduce your carbon emissions (believe it or not).

An unexpected and positive benefit of minimizing your website page size is that over time, you’ll actually lower your businesses’ carbon footprint.

Every time someone loads your website, a server, computer, and transmission network kicks into gear and consumes energy. The bigger your website, the harder these machines have to work to show your website to your visitor.

Here’s a cool calculator you can use you estimate the carbon emissions your site creates each time someone visits.

As it mentions on the homepage:

The average website produces 1.76 grams CO2 per page view. For a website with 10,000 monthly page views, that’s 211 kg CO2 per year.

I’ve tested some local architecture firm websites and found that they produce more than twice that industry average.

Now, the extra 44KB or so that Google adds into the mix is not the root cause of that bloat. But, in the aggregate, if we can make each element of our websites as efficient as we can, we’ll rank higher in Google search results, improve our visitor metrics, and reduce our emissions and hosting bills.

The data looks really pretty.

I’m including this as a benefit of these alternative analytics tools, because I reckon the number one reason architects ignore their Google Analytics is that it’s so damn ugly. Seriously, Google Analytics is unattractive, overly complicated, and seriously confusing.

To Google’s credit, they’re trying to make it a bit prettier, but they have a long way to go.

What I love about these alternative platforms is that they are simple, minimal, and really good looking.

Here is Plausible’s main dashboard. Click here to check out their live demo.

plausible analytics dashbaord

And here is Fathom’s dashboard.

In my experience coaching and advising architects on marketing, one of the biggest mindset shifts I notice is when a director starts taking an interest in their website analytics – beyond just logging in to note the total visitors every now and then.

If these tools help more architects to make that leap from ignorance to curiosity because they’re attractive and easy to use, then I think these analytics tools can be a really transformative starting point for firms to develop better marketing habits.

They don’t harvest or sell your user data.

Finally, there’s a strong argument to be made that Google Analytics is unnecessarily invasive and collects far too much personal data on your visitors without their permission.

Right now, most website visitors can’t tell they’re being tracked, but browsers are adding features to alert people if a website is tracking them.

If you’re looking to make a positive first impression with your website visitors, and establish trust, then protecting their online privacy is a great place to start.

The entire marketing industry is moving in this direction anyway. Countries are busy regulating internet tracking to protect their citizens online rights, and organisations like Apple and Mozilla are working towards eliminating these traditional tracking methods (like the ones Google Analytics employs) altogether from their devices and browsers.

Google have agreed to phase these tracking technologies out by 2022. Even so, consumer expectations are shifting quickly, and your visitors already expect to visit your website without being tracked after they leave.

The alternative analytics platforms don’t cookie your visitors or track them around the internet so that they can be targeted with ads. These tools also let you own whatever data you do collect, because their business model is selling analytics tools – not the private information of your visitors. So, if you decide to delete all of the analytics data, you just press a button and it’s gone.

For some brands, privacy is a key ethical concern. For others, it’s just a nice bonus on top of a solution that provides speed and accuracy. I lean towards the second group. But still, it’s nice to know that my website is following privacy best-practices, and there’s nothing I’ll need to worry about as internet privacy rules change over time.

What are the trade-offs? Let’s start with the cost.

These tools are priced on a monthly subscription model, calculated on how much traffic your site has each month.

Plausible starts at $6 per month. I’m on their $12 tier because my pageviews are over 10’000 per month.

plausible analytics pricing

Fathom starts at $14 per month for 100,000 pageviews.

fathom analytics pricing

And Simple Analytics starts at $19.

I think the price of these tools is the biggest dealbreaker for most architecture firms. Why would you pay for speed when, until reading this article, you had no idea that your website scores 9/100 on Google Pagespeed Insights and takes 11 seconds to load? Why would you pay for privacy when you don’t have to? Why would you pay for data accuracy when you never look at Google Analytics anyway, so who cares what the numbers say?

I get it! If you’re apathetic about your website and analytics, then you don’t need to sign up for another tool you’ll never use.

But, if you’re motivated and serious about improving your website and your marketing, then this is an area you should be thinking about investing a small amount each month.

You don’t get as much info.

For the real analytics geeks, these tools won’t cut it. Since they’re unable to track and spy on your visitors, you only get basic answers to the basic questions like:

  • Where did our visitors come from?
  • How many people visited the site?
  • Which pages did they visit?
  • How many “goals” or “conversions” did we achieve?
  • What was the bounce rate, and time on site?

Basically, you can only see what a visitor does in a single session. Compared to Google Analytics, these tools are really limited.

But, you’re an architecture firm with a simple portfolio website, possibly a blog, and a contact page. You aren’t a multi-million dollar e-commerce store. You aren’t an app. You really don’t need more data than what these tools offer.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours digging through analytics with my clients to answer their marketing questions, and I can hardly think of anything that we couldn’t figure out with the simple data in these tools.

Conclusion

Could these analytics tools help architects to become more informed marketers?

In the end, I think it’s worthwhile to trade a small monthly bill, and a bit of data, for speed, privacy and a more enjoyable analytics experience that you’ll actually use.