Farewell Google Analytics; Welcome GoatCounter

permalink, shortlink

TLDR: This website is now free from Google Analytics tracking. I’m giving a try to GoatCounter as a privacy-friendly alternative

Farewell Google Analytics, you won’t be missed…

For as long as this website exists, each page was loading Google Analytics script. I used this tool to get a sense of how many people were getting there. I never had a large audience, or even published a lot of content, so why do I care? The point is, it’s always self-rewarding to see that people read the stuff you write, and use the tools you made. It might also be a good incentive to publish more content. Or a way to identify which content gets traction, and which one does not.

When I created this blog ~15 years ago, I added Google Analytics without event thinking about it. It was a free-to-use and popular tool. I’m pretty sure I was already familiar with it for having used it at work at one point or another. Since then, I never really questioned that decision and even almost forgot about it at some point.

It’s not surprising at all. At the time, I was relying on Google for many of my online activities. My emails were on Gmail, my agenda was on Google Calendar, my files were on Google Drive, etc. Now that was 15 years ago. I took a lot of distance with Google ecosystem since that time. I use a Synology NAS as a Personal Cloud Storage since 2017. It’s been 4 years since I left Gmail (Hello Runbox 👋). The less Google knows about me or my personal life, the better. There is no reason for me not to apply those principles to any Internet user stepping around here. You shouldn’t have to worry about your privacy while reading any of my blog posts.

Besides, Google Analytics is not compliant with GDPR regulation in Europe. Or at least it requires the website owner to write a proper privacy policy, to display a cookie banner, etc. I’m not a layer. I only have a very rough idea of what’s compliant or not. I’d rather not have to think about this at all. Considering the (very low) traffic on this blog, legal risk is hopefully quite low. But that doesn’t mean it’s a risk worth taking. And moving away from Google Analytics all together sounds way easier. For sure, I should have done it earlier.

Welcome GoatCounter, privacy-friendly web analytics for small websites

For a couple of months, I went without any tracking at all. Then, as I decided to take back ownership on my content, traffic insights became a somewhat useful again. I started looking for privacy-friendly alternatives to Google Analytics. Something that would be available at a small cost, with little to no maintenance.

I was even surprised how many options are available on that segment. From big players to free/open-source projects, there are many different possible choices. Now, finding a solution matching all my criteria wasn’t that easy. Open-source projects are great, but often need to self-host them. Which means maintenance and hosting costs. Hosted solution, on another hand, don’t need much maintenance, but usually come for a price. Apart from solutions targeting big companies, a few providers offer decent services at a reasonable price (from $9 to $15). This is probably OK for small companies, or people that can generate revenues from their personal website. Here again, it didn’t match my own needs.

I finally came across GoatCounter. This project, developed and maintained by Martin Tournoij, apparently targets my exact use-case (See Why I made GoatCounter). It’s open-source and available for self-hosting as well as a free hosted service. Of course, it assumes a reasonable use, which should be OK for most personal websites. And if you’re willing to support the project, you can become a sponsor via GitHub Sponsors. Integration is only about adding a single script (~3.5 KB) to your pages.

Yes, it doesn’t have as many features as some other tracking systems, but that’s not the point. As far as I’m concerned, it gives me enough visibility on my website’s traffic, with no maintenance effort and at no cost. It provides a great alternative for anyone willing to host their own website. I’ll be giving it a try for now. In the next few weeks, I’ll consider sponsoring in the next few weeks, to make sure it remains available for free.