The best self-hosted website analytics tools
For everyone in the digital world, it is clear that collecting and analyzing web visitors data is an important and necessary part of any online business. What matters is the way visitors are tracked and how this valuable information is processed and stored.
Google’s marketing tools are extremely popular because of the useful metrics they provide to their users and it's no surprise that a large percentage of marketers and site owners use these products. However, we can't ignore the fact that the information collected about site visitors using Google Analytics remains Google property and site owners only get access to that information rather than having it stored locally on their Web server.
More and more users are thinking about how the information collected with cookies is used and more importantly - how it is stored. This leads to the need for anonymity and protection of personal data and confidentiality to grow even more.
We at VPS.BG value privacy and we do believe that personal data protection is a fundamental human right. We have never used third-party cookies and have never shared any information about visitors with third parties. Furthermore, we chose to give up on using the useful marketing tools that Google provides and we have elected to go for alternative, open-source, self-hosted analytics software.
There are different options for analytics software, some are cloud-based and others are self-hosted. In this article, we are going to focus on some of the most popular self-hosted analytics tools.
Cloud-based software for web analytics
Cloud-based analytics software uses a tracking code that has to be implemented on the website. The most popular example of such a software is Google Analytics, where site owners place the GA tracking code and share detailed information about user visits with Google.
According to the General Data Protection Regulation - GDPR, the operators of websites using GA are required to comply with the following requirements:
- seek the consent of their visitors for their data to be collected and shared with third parties
- inform them about the use of third-party browser cookies
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Self-hosted software for web analytics
Self-hosted SEO analytics tools store user data on a private server and do not share it with third parties. Methods for obtaining data include website tracking snippets that send data to the private server database. Alternatively, this can also be done by importing visitor data from the Web server logs.
This type of software is very suitable for companies that want to ensure the anonymity of their users and that also want to meet the high-security standards in terms of data privacy. If you are not sure whether to start using a self-hosted software solution or keep using Google Analytics - it is perfectly fine to try and use them simultaneously.
The best self-hosted analytics tools
In the following section, we will take a look at four of the most popular self-hosted solutions for website traffic analysis that you can easily install for your VPS or shared hosting server.
Matomo - focuses on protecting user privacy
Matomo is a self-hosted, open-source software that offers its users many of the tools that you can also find in Google Analytics including many more.
Above all else, the platform offers great anonymity, information security and data privacy. Visitors’ tracking data remains property of the site operator and is not shared with any third parties. It is not a coincidence that we at VPSBG choose to use Matomo.
Matomo is completely free. In order to use it you need to simply install it on your server. If you are not familiar with server administration, Matomo offers the installation of the application at an affordable price, which favors the work of marketers who choose to use the platform.
Additionally, there are currently over 70 additional plugins that you can use to customize the platform to the needs of your business.
With all that said so far, we believe that Matomo is a really good alternative to GA. In addition to being an open-source platform and all information about site visitors being private and secure, the software is becoming increasingly more popular and we expect it to be used even more actively in the future.
OWA - Open Web Analytics
Open Web Analytics is a PHP based, open-source platform, which offers developers various options for its implementation through an adaptive, richly developed and fully documented API. OWA fully meets the user security and GDPR requirements.
It is easy to use and install while also supporting a number of various plugins with which you can modify and customize how you obtain the information you want to collect and process, regardless of whether you are using the popular WordPress or another CMS platform.
AWStats - old but reliable
Web server logs provide rich data about the visits of your website. However, it is difficult to make a useful analysis by just looking at the raw data. AWStats comes in handy with detailed metrics and statistics that can be extracted from the logs.
The software was developed a long time ago and the interface is not modern, but it is an easy way to get analytical information without making changes to your website or implementing a tracking code.
Furthermore, AWStats is available by default in almost all cPanel based shared hosting without requiring install or setup. However, for larger sites, we recommend the use of a more advanced system such as Matomo.
GoAccess - review current visits
This is a real-time tracking tool that uses server logs to obtain information and allows you to monitor visitors' interactions with your site through a Linux terminal.
One advantage of GoAccess is that it does not require a complex installation or database. You can start using it right away and you can also expect a very good performance and speed when it comes to the processed data.
It is a good addition to the above mentioned software tools if you want a quick snapshot of the current users online at times of peak traffic, or to keep track of what's happening after a page is changed or a new post is uploaded.
Go Access supports all popular formats for tracking server logs, such as Amazon S3, Apache, CloudFront, Nginx and can also provide real-time information on all popular metrics: keywords, time spent on the site, geolocation, user-used platforms, browser of the user.
Which tool should you use?
Whether or not you use Google Analytics, it's a good idea to start using a self-hosted analytics software, regardless of the tools that you will choose to utilize.
Such software gives you full access to visitor’s data and patterns, allowing you to create a better overall user experience, which is key if you want to rank higher in Search. Additionally, you can be sure that your users’ data will be much more secure when stored locally.
If you decide to improve your reputation as well as protect your users, you can simply give up GA altogether and use only self-hosted software, which will be quite useful as Google plans to end third-party cookie support in the future.