8 minutes reading time (1500 words)

Web Analytics: Alternative to Google Analytics? Matomo

Web Analytics: Alternative to Google Analytics? Matomo


Are you looking for a secure, private way to analyse your visitors and check what they are doing on your site? Then Matomo might just be the product for you. In this article, I will explore this analytics tool and discuss what it is good at and why you would want to use it.

The origin story

Matomo started life as Piwik, founded by Matthieu Aubry in London in June 2007.

It was designed from the start as a free open-source alternative to Google Analytics.

The idea was to build something that was just as powerful, but also respected user privacy and ensured users had full ownership of their data.

The first alpha release followed in September of 2007, with March 2008 being the first time the public could get their hands on it with version 0.1.1. In August 2010 the first mobile app was launched and by June 2012 it had passed a million downloads.

Piwik PRO grew from the community version and was formed in 2013 to provide enterprise-level support and premium features on top of those of the open-source foundations.

Code was contributed back to the open source project until the split 5 years later.

Matomo is born

In January 2018 the community version of Piwik became Matomo (Japanese for ‘honest’) and the projects who shared a common root, diverged.

It has an international development team behind it and runs on PHP/MySQL web servers.

The international aspect of the project is demonstrated by the fact that it's been translated into at least 54 languages.

How many use it

The last figures I could find were from 2022; at that point, Matomo was used by over a million websites. They accounted for over 2% of all the websites with known traffic analysis tools and 6% of all the top 10k websites. Governments are cited as users as well as the European commission.

Matomo brands itself as the leading open-source alternative to Google Analytics. They are working toward a vision laid down in 2007:

“To create, as a community, the leading open digital analytics platform, that gives every user full control of their data.”

To this end, they have produced a complete all-in-one web analytics platform that offers

100% Data Ownership, Options to self-host On-Premise or Cloud host and GDPR compliance.

In their literature they say they offer the user:

Web and mobile analytics Conversion Optimization features (Heatmaps, Session Recording, AB Testing, Funnels, Form Analytics) Visitor Profiles Tag Manager No data limits No data sampling White label reporting and custom designed interface

Some of these things are core to Google Analytics (GA) as well, but some really set Matomo apart from Google Analytics. 

And if you think that Matomo is just an open-source version of GA, then think again:

Matomo offers its users video analytics, something GA does not.  Matomo also offers heatmaps showing how users interact with various pages through colour-coded splotches. GA does not. And Matomo can offer unsampled analytics: so you are seeing all the data not as Google does, a sample of what the data is and conclusions drawn from that. 

So from my reading of all the literature, it would suggest Matomo is more accurate and better represents your site's analytics.

What's the catch - No free lunches

Google Analytics is free and Matomo costs or has to be hosted would be the simplistic way to put it. But is it really fair to say that Google Analytics is free, after all, they seem to be a profitable company and most profitable companies need money in order to be profitable!

It's a valid argument to say you are paying Google with your data, with your clients’ and visitors' data. They are giving you a tool, and in exchange, you are giving them your data and they are then monetizing that data.

With Matomo and other analytics that let you keep your data you are free to monetize your data or not, as you choose.

Matomo Cloud Vs Self Hosted

Matomo summarises the benefits of each thus:


Easy to set up - no technical knowledge needed - To set up and maintain Matomo On-Premises requires technical knowledge Same setup process as Google Analytics - If you want to set up and manage Matomo like your other favourite analytics tool, then the Cloud may be the best option for you. Automatically updates - We take care of all the maintenance and updates for you with Cloud hosting while hosting On-Premise requires ongoing maintenance Save time and money - When you Cloud host Matomo you will save time on setup, maintenance and monitoring.

Self Hosted

Host Matomo on your servers - Take full control of how you host Matomo - a big bonus for data-sensitive businesses You choose which country where your data is stored - Matomo's secure server is based in Germany and follows EU laws for the Cloud Free to download and use - Cloud packages start from USD$19.00 per month Fully customisable and extensible - No data limits whatsoever

With both the complete analytics suite of features is available, both are suitable for enterprise packages.

The marketplace, a site people can put extensions for Matomo on, is for self-hosted only. There you can buy additional features, this is not available for the cloud version.

Support is free through the community marketplace and shown as only for the cloud if a support package is purchased, but of course, with self-hosted you are free to pay anyone for help on your own servers.

The following also applies to both

Can migrate data from one hosting option to the other - switch at any time No data sampling - All data is 100% accurate regardless of what hosting option you choose 100% data ownership - User-privacy protection GDPR compliant

Pricing of the cloud

So how much will it cost you? Well, that depends on how much traffic you have. This is starting to sound like a chicken and egg paradox: To know the cost of using an analytics package… I need an analytics package!

So with rough estimates of your traffic, you can plan. At the time of writing this article, the price was by tiers and is the following:

50,000 - £17.00. Additional over the allowance 5,000 for £1.70

100,000 - £29.00. Additional over the allowance 10,000 for £2.90

300,000 - £59.00. Additional over the allowance 30,000 for £5.90

600,000 - £95.00. Additional over the allowance 60,000 for £9.50

1,000,000 - £139.00. Additional over the allowance 100,000 for £14.00

2,000,000 - £269.00. Additional over the allowance 200,000 for £27.00

5,000,000 - £690.00. Additional over the allowance 500,000 for £69.00

10,000,000 - £1,290.00. Additional over the allowance 1,000,000 for £129.00

25,000,000 - £3,190.00. Additional over the allowance 2,500,000 for £319.00

50,000,000 - £6,290.00. Additional over the allowance 5,000,000 for £629.00

100,000,000 - £11,900.00. Additional over the allowance 10,000,000 for £1,190.00

As you can see there is a cost to analysing all this data.

Your data will be stored in Europe, support is via email. You can have up to 30 websites, 30 team members, 100 segments and 150 goals, and 30 custom dimensions and your raw data is stored for 24 months. It includes 100 custom reports and 100 forms.

Self-Hosted prices

The cost of the self-hosted is very different.

You provide the server so the cost of that is dependent on whether it's an old machine in your attic or a fresh new cloud server with one of the major companies.

Your data will be stored wherever your server is and support is via the community forum.

You can have unlimited websites, team members, segments and goals, and 100 custom dimensions and your raw data is stored for, well as long as you want to store it.

Reports and forms have an annual charge, as do:

Activity Log Search Engine Keywords Performance Funnels Users Flow White Label Heatmap & Session Recording A/B Testing Media Analytics Roll-Up Reporting Advertising Conversion Export SEO Web Vitals Multi-Channel Conversion Attribution Cohorts

So to get a lot of these features even if self-hosting you will need to pay.

But there is a lot included out of the box and if you are a web agency then providing heat maps across the board or A/B testing then it may well be worth it and the costs per customer are small.

Which will it be, self-hosting or cloud solution?

This leads to the conclusion that small site owners are more likely to go with the ease of the cloud and those who are larger and happy to roll their sleeves up will probably go the self-hosting route.

In the next instalment, I will go through the actual setup of both the cloud and the self-hosted step by step so you can decide before the big switch off on Google Analytics whether you want to be the master of your own analytics, sharing your data with no one unless you choose to or sticking with the “free” but shared data model.

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Thursday, 29 February 2024

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