Websites exist to encourage your visitors to perform some task, whether it is to purchase something, click on something, or merely view (i.e. read or watch) something. While not all websites are created equal, all websites want users to do something.
By employing web analytics, you can gauge how successful your website is and where improvements can be made to enhance the user-experience.
Just as not all websites are created equal, neither are web analytics tools. There are hundreds of different tools on the market, ranging from free solutions to those costing a hefty chunk of change, all with various capabilities. In this article, we’ll review some of the leaders in the free web analytics software space.
Where Do I Begin?
Before you are able to select the best analytics tools for your website, you need to determine which analytics metrics are most important for your organization to track. A hammer is a useful tool, but when you need a monkey wrench it comes up short. Whether selecting a free or paid analytics tool, start by asking these questions:
- Will a free tool provide the data points I need to measure?
- How many page views are analyzed per month?
- What data collection options are available?
- Can this tool be integrated with other sources of data?
- What is the learning curve to implement this application?
Only when you’ve determined what you need to track (e.g. who your visitors are, where they came from, what actions they took, the duration of their visit, and where they exited your site, etc.) can you begin to seek out the appropriate web analytics tools. For further guidance, check out this instructional video put on by Google and General Assembly which provides a general overview of how to use web analytics.
In recent years, Google has greatly expanded GA’s tracking capabilities to encompass virtually every aspect of digital marketing. GA now provides web-based content analytics, social analytics, mobile and mobile app analytics, website conversion analytics, and advertising analytics for social, mobile, search, and display campaigns.
If your page is receiving fewer than 3,000 page views each day, Clicky is a great alternative to GA. On the Clicky dashboard, you are provided with hourly traffic updates, top referring domains, top pages viewed, and average time spent on the site. These data reports are kept for 30 days to show monthly progress. If you go over 3,000 daily page views or are seeking additional features, the company offers a premium (paid) service, Clicky Pro.
Piwik is an open source analytics application that is free when hosted on your own server. You get basic user statistics and real-time tracking. Piwik also offers a mobile app for Android and iPhone. If you want to capture custom information about your visitors, Piwik’s features come as built in plug-ins, which makes them accessible for developers to tailor the features to meet your specific needs. Offered in over 30 languages, Piwik is a very usable solution for companies operating outside of the English speaking world. For those interested in a hosted version, Piwik is also available for purchase.
What sets MixPanel apart from other free web analytics software are features like visitor segmentation, event tracking through funnel data, retention reports, and a targeting system that assigns users into “commonality groups.” MixPanel also offers a tool that allows you to send an email message to customers and send notifications on web or mobile to previous customers or those using a free trial. This analytics software is free for up to 25,000 data points or for 1,000 profiles; there is a range of pricing for other data points and profiles.
Offering real-time customer analytics and integrated customer relationship management analysis on a single interface, Woopra’s basic plan offers a lot of features for under 30,000 actions per month. Through its somewhat novel live chat feature, Woopra allows businesses to collect additional “data” right from the user. Known for its funnel reports and analytics, Woopra allows you to adjust the usability of your website to rid yourself of conversion killers.
Open Web Analytics
Open Web Analytics is hosted on your own server, which allows you to retain sole control and ownership over your site’s analytics data. One feature that makes Open Web Analytics an interesting option in the free space is its click heat maps, which visually depict where users are clicking on your web pages. Open Web Analytics sets no data limits and can be used on an unlimited number of websites; however, it does take time to install and there is no available mobile app to report data directly to your smartphone.
In addition to these six options, a number of other free web analytics products are worth noting: GoingUp, Yahoo Marketing Dashboard, StatCounter, AW Stats, Click Tale, and Site Meter. Many of these have features in common with those covered above.
Although there are literally hundreds of products in the free web analytics market, these are some of the more commonly used options. Setting aside Google Analytics, as a rule most free tools offer what might best be described as “basic version” web analytics functionality.
For those of you in the market for more robust web analytics software that can handle some heavy lifting, check out our sister post on Paid Web Analytics.