| Matomo Analytics Consultant & Trainer

Choosing the Right Matomo Version: Cloud, On-Premise, or Matomo for WordPress – A Comprehensive Guide

Choose the right version of Matomo: Matomo Cloud, On-Premise, for WordPress

Coming from the world of Google Analytics, things were relatively easy. To get started, you simply created a Gmail address, accessed Google Analytics, and began using it. You could also access other people’s accounts or add them to yours, as it was a centralized solution similar to major platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

However, when it comes to using Matomo, you may find yourself faced with an existential question about which version to choose. It is actually easy. Let’s decipher this and determine which Matomo will benefit you the most.

Table of Contents

Matomo: a Matter of Choice

There are three available versions of Matomo: Matomo Cloud, Matomo On-Premise, and Matomo for WordPress. With that choice comes as well new vocabulary such as Open Source, plugins, premium features, SAML and LDAP integration, or hits, which you may not have expected or had to concern yourself with before. It’s a whole new world opening up to you.

One important thing to keep in mind throughout this discussion is that the golden age of free digital analytics is over. Google Analytics is no longer available, and GA4 requires the expertise of qualified professionals (when you previously could handle most of your digital analysis on your own). It may also require learning additional software like Google Big Query or Looker Studio, as well as paying for API usage on large websites. Other solutions like Adobe Analytics or Plausible are either paid or require technical skills as well.

With that being said, let’s delve into the different versions of Matomo, their advantages and disadvantages.

Matomo Cloud

First off, let’s start with Matomo Cloud. This version of Matomo is the closest alternative to what you’re familiar with in solutions like Google Analytics. To get a glimpse of its capabilities and interface, you can explore the official Matomo demo version here: https://demo.matomo.cloud/. The demo provides access to all the tools you may want to explore, including the ability to change the interface language using a dropdown menu. Please note that this language customization is only available in the demo version for testing purposes, but you can adjust the interface language in any version of Matomo you choose.

Matomo Cloud websuite

What is Matomo Cloud?

Matomo Cloud is offered by Innocraft, the company behind Matomo. It provides a centralized version of Matomo, eliminating the need for setting up a web server and installation, unlike the On-Premise version (which we’ll discuss later). With Matomo Cloud, you receive a pre-packaged version of Matomo that offers the best features available, such as real-time tracking, visitor behavior analysis, acquisition tracking, and goal tracking. Additionally, Matomo Cloud includes a range of premium features like ecommerce tracking, A/B testing, heatmaps, session recordings, and custom reports. These features are also available as plugins n the Matomo On-Premise version with an annual subscription fee of approximately 4500 EUR/USD.

To sign up for an account on this platform, simply visit https://matomo.org/matomo-cloud/. The subscription process is straightforward, and once completed, you’ll have access to your Matomo instance at a URL like https://my-company-name.matomo.cloud. For a comprehensive comparison between Matomo Cloud and Matomo On-Premise, you can visit the dedicated webpage at https://matomo.org/pricing/.

Matomo pricing comparison page between Matomo Cloud and Matomo On-Premise

To provide you with a different perspective on this version of Matomo, we can draw a comparison to WordPress.com. Similar to creating an account and swiftly setting up a blog with a predefined set of features, Matomo offers a streamlined experience. You can tailor the features according to your requirements and pay a fee accordingly.

Matomo Cloud subscription model

However, this convenience comes with a cost. You will be required to pay a monthly or annual subscription fee based on the number of “hits” you anticipate recording on your website. In Matomo’s terminology, a hit refers to an action being logged by your instance. While Google Analytics primarily tracks pageviews and events by default, Matomo goes beyond and tracks additional actions or hits:

  • Pageviews
  • Events
  • Outlinks
  • Downloads
  • Site Search
  • Content tracking
  • Media tracking

To determine the appropriate number of hits for your needs, some calculations are necessary. Matomo’s documentation provides guidance on hit calculations.

If your Matomo instance exceeds the expected number of hits/actions, you will incur additional charges based on your subscription level. For instance, if you choose the cheapest subscription tier at 19 EUR per month for 50,000 hits and your Matomo records more traffic than that, you will be billed an additional 1.9 EUR for every 5,000 extra hits.

Pros and cons of Matomo Cloud

Pros of Matomo Cloud

  1. Easy setup and implementation: Matomo Cloud offers a straightforward onboarding process. Simply provide your credentials, and you’re ready to start using Matomo. The platform generates the necessary tracking codes and even sets up a default Matomo Tag Manager if desired.
  2. Reliable infrastructure provided by Matomo: Innocraft, the company behind Matomo, manages the infrastructure for Matomo Cloud. They handle the webserver setup and maintenance, ensuring a secure environment that can adapt to your needs. Matomo Cloud is hosted on Amazon AWS servers in Germany, guaranteeing compliance with GDPR regulations.
  3. Always up-to-date: Matomo Cloud automatically incorporates the latest upgrades, including core features, security enhancements, and premium features. You don’t need to worry about manual updates or rely on your IT department to perform them.

Cons of Matomo Cloud

  1. Payment limitations for high-traffic websites: Matomo Cloud’s pricing options may not be suitable for websites with significant traffic. In such cases, Matomo On-Premise could be a more appropriate choice, as we’ll explore later.
  2. Limited website configuration: You can configure up to 30 websites. While this is generally sufficient, if you need to track a large number of landing pages independently, you may face limitations.
  3. Restricted access for users: the number of people who can access your account is limited to 30. This may be adequate for many organizations, but if you have a large team or collaborate with external agencies, it’s important to plan accordingly.
  4. Segment limitations: you can add up to 100 segments. While this is a generous number, Matomo does not offer views (similar to Google Analytics), which means you may need to rely more on segments to filter and analyze data.

And the list goes on for:

  • Goals
  • Custom dimensions
  • Raw data retention
  • Custom reports
  • Forms
  • Tag manager containers

But thoses limits are pretty high, so you should not bother much here.

Matomo Cloud: Use Case Scenarios

Based on my experience, Matomo Cloud is particularly suitable for small and medium-sized organizations that want a quick and hassle-free integration with Matomo. It eliminates the need for additional services or an internal IT team. Matomo Cloud offers a comprehensive set of tools that can meet the needs of most situations. The entry-level pricing at 19 EUR per month is attractive for blog owners or associations looking to gather information. Additionally, Matomo Cloud provides compelling premium features and, in my opinion, surpasses the capabilities of previous versions like Google Analytics (GA3). Yet, it can also appeal to companies with high traffic and that do not want to bother installing Matomo On-Premise and maintain it.

Matomo On-Premise

Matomo On-Premise, formerly known as Piwik, is the original and historical version of Matomo. It was introduced in 2007 by Matthieu Aubry as an Open Source alternative to proprietary web analytics solutions. Unlike Google Analytics, Piwik required the installation of a web server, making it initially more challenging to set up. It gained popularity, particularly in Germany, where stricter privacy laws were in place before the GDPR era. Many organizations, both externally and on intranets, relied on Piwik for analytics.

Matomo On-Premise presentation webpage on matomo.org

In 2018, Piwik was rebranded as Matomo. Although there is another analytics solution called Piwik PRO, it is important to note that the two are distinct and separate entities, which can be explored further in another blog post.

Building upon the foundation of Piwik, Matomo introduced additional tools such as a tag manager and plugins like heatmaps and session recording. The name “Matomo” itself carries the meaning of “Honesty” in Japanese.

It is worth mentioning that Matomo On-Premise is also referred to as the Matomo Open Source version. Technically, it aligns more with the concept of Free software, as its code is licensed under the GPL3 License. Drawing a parallel to WordPress, this version of Matomo is similar to WordPress.org, where users download the software source code and install it on their own web server.

Pros and Cons of Matomo On-Premise

Advantages of Matomo On-Premise

  1. Total ownership of your data: Matomo On-Premise gives you complete control over your data. The data belongs to you or your organization. While Matomo Cloud allows you to export your database if needed, with Matomo On-Premise, you have full control from the start.
  2. No limitations on data volume: unlike Matomo Cloud, there are no restrictions on the amount of data you can collect with Matomo On-Premise. As long as your web server can handle it, you can collect and analyze unlimited data. This is particularly beneficial for high-traffic websites. Additionally, unlike Google Analytics, Matomo does not sample your data, ensuring comprehensive analysis.
  3. Extended customization: one significant advantage of Matomo On-Premise is the extended customization options it offers. By utilizing the plugins available in the Matomo Marketplace, you can access the same features provided by Matomo Cloud, including premium features, or choose the ones that best suit your needs and budget. Moreover, you have the flexibility to personalize the interface with themes, allowing you to achieve a desired look and feel. Whether you prefer a familiar Google Analytics-like appearance or a more modern or retro design reminiscent of the previous Piwik version, the choice is yours. However, the true power of Matomo On-Premise lies in its open-source nature, which enables companies with developers or individuals with coding skills to create their own custom tools. This level of customization empowers you to integrate information from your own databases into Matomo, replicate features you admire from Google Analytics, or even enhance the interface with unique elements.
  4. Predictable costs : another advantage of Matomo On-Premise is the ability to have predictable costs. This is particularly valuable from an IT perspective, as stakeholders can plan and budget for analytics expenses in advance. You have clear visibility into your server costs and the additional functionalities you may require. Unlike some other analytics platforms, Matomo is capable of handling any amount of traffic without incurring surprise fees. This aspect is especially beneficial for larger organizations that deal with significant website traffic volumes.

By opting for Matomo On-Premise, you gain enhanced customization capabilities, predictable cost planning, and the ability to adapt the platform to your specific requirements, making it a compelling choice for organizations seeking more control and flexibility over their analytics solution.

Cons of Matomo On-Premise

While Matomo On-Premise offers numerous advantages, there are some limitations and considerations to be aware of. Here are a couple of its downsides.

  1. Technical onboarding: setting up Matomo On-Premise requires the involvement of IT personnel or third-party service providers, such as web agencies or integrators. The installation process involves configuring and deploying a web server, which may be beyond the scope of expertise for marketers or communication professionals. This reliance on technical resources for onboarding can add complexity to the implementation process.
  2. Maintenance: with Matomo On-Premise, you are responsible for the ongoing maintenance and security of your instance. This includes upgrading Matomo to the latest version and ensuring the web server hosting your installation remains secure. While upgrades on small Matomo instances are generally straightforward, larger deployments may require more substantial maintenance efforts. Additionally, since Matomo On-Premise allows you to retain full control of your data, you must take appropriate measures to comply with privacy regulations like the GDPR. This may involve implementing additional security measures, such as using a VPN to access your Matomo instance. Despite these considerations, Matomo On-Premise remains a powerful analytics solution that provides control, customization, and data ownership. It is well-suited for organizations that prioritize data privacy, have the necessary technical resources, and require extensive customization capabilities.
  3. Responsibility for security and updates: with Matomo On-Premise, you are responsible for ensuring the security of your server and keeping the software up to date. This includes implementing security measures, such as regular patches and updates, to protect your data. Despite these considerations, Matomo On-Premise offers unparalleled data ownership and scalability for organizations that require complete control over their analytics infrastructure. One important aspect to consider is compliance with privacy regulations, such as the GDPR. When using Matomo, including both Matomo Cloud and Matomo On-Premise, you are required to adhere to these regulations. This means that you cannot retain user data indefinitely. It is generally recommended to set a data retention limit, with 25 months being a commonly suggested timeframe.

Matomo for WordPress

Matomo for WordPress is a version of Matomo Analytics that is delivered as a plugin for the WordPress platform. This official plugin is developed and maintained by Innocraft, the company behind Matomo. With Matomo for WordPress, you gain access to the full range of capabilities found in Matomo On-Premise, including its extensive plugin and theme ecosystem, as well as the Matomo Tag Manager. What sets this version apart is its tailored features specifically designed for WordPress.

Matomo for WordPress - Plugin Ethical Stats download page

Technically, Matomo for WordPress leverages the existing WordPress database to store its data, rather than utilizing a separate database structure unique to Matomo. This approach has certain implications, which we will explore in the following sections.

Pros and Cons of Matomo for WordPress

Advantages of Matomo for WordPress

  1. Free and Easy to set up: Matomo for WordPress is the open-source version of Matomo, and it comes at no cost. You can easily install it directly within your WordPress website by navigating to the Plugin section and searching for “Matomo Analytics – Ethical Stats.” Simply click on “Install” and then “Activate,” and you’re good to go. Since this plugin integrates with the WordPress database, there’s no need for a separate installation. It’s a hassle-free process. Just remember to include a line or two in your privacy policy, which Matomo provides.
  2. Specific Features for WordPress: Matomo for WordPress offers specific features tailored to enhance your WordPress experience. You can quickly view your key performance indicators (KPIs) within your WordPress dashboard and access convenient links to check traffic data for specific date ranges, similar to Google’s tools. Additionally, you can activate various features with a simple tick, such as cookie tracking, ecommerce tracking, 404 and JavaScript errors tracking, visit duration tracking, cross-domain tracking, automatic annotations for published articles, and more. You can also easily customize Matomo’s administration tools, including GDPR settings, excluded IP addresses, and even integrate a MaxMind geolocation key. If you require more advanced functionality, you can access the complete Matomo interface and even utilize Matomo Tag Manager.
  3. Cost of Plugins: if you want to extend your analysis capabilities by adding plugins, such as the highly recommended Custom Reports feature, Matomo for WordPress offers discounted subscription costs compared to Matomo On-Premise. This provides cost savings while still expanding your analytical capabilities.

Limitations of Matomo for WordPress

  1. Limited to one website: Matomo for WordPress is restricted to tracking data for the website where the plugin is installed. You cannot add additional websites to be tracked and utilize your WordPress instance as a Matomo server. Similarly, if you own multiple websites, you won’t have a consolidated view of their data, unlike other versions of Matomo.
  2. Specific maintenance: if you manage multiple WordPress instances, you will need to upgrade each Matomo installation individually. This can require additional time and effort compared to managing a single Matomo instance for multiple websites.
  3. No log analysis: Matomo offers an advanced feature called Log Imports, which enables cookieless tracking. However, this feature is not available in Matomo for WordPress. The plugin relies on the WordPress database, which differs from the traditional database used in the other Matomo versions, making log analysis unavailable in this particular setup.

However, if you have a WordPress website, this is an alternative that simplifies the process of accessing Matomo On-Premise without the need for managing a separate web server, leveraging your WordPress existing infrastructure and simplifying the technical setup.

How to Choose the Right Matomo Version?

When selecting the appropriate Matomo version for your organization, it’s crucial to consider various criteria that will help you make an informed decision.

Criteria #1: Traffic Volume

If your websites receive relatively low traffic, Matomo Cloud may be the ideal choice. With its affordable monthly price starting at 19 EUR for 50,000 hits, you gain quick access to Matomo, updated features, and hassle-free management. It offers a cost-effective and predictable solution.

On the other hand, if your websites generate a substantial amount of traffic, such as millions of hits, Matomo On-Premise might be more suitable. It can handle nearly unlimited hits. The cost considerations come into play around the 5-million hits mark, which would require an investment of 790 EUR per month (or 7,868 EUR per year with a 17% discount). Additionally, there are premium plugin costs of 4,499 EUR per year, along with hosting and maintenance expenses.

Criteria #2: Technical Competence

Consider the availability of IT teams or partners to handle an On-Premise installation. If you lack such resources or prefer minimal maintenance responsibilities, Matomo Cloud is likely the better choice. However, keep in mind that this decision comes with certain limitations and restrictions, particularly in terms of customization.

Criteria #3: Number of Websites and Team Members

Matomo Cloud is a suitable option for most scenarios, allowing you to get started with Matomo easily. However, it has limitations, especially when it comes to the number of websites and team members. Ask yourself, “Do I need to track more than 30 sites or involve more than 30 team members?” While 30 may seem like a sufficient number, larger organizations may require greater capacity to work with various teams or provide external access to web agencies or consultants. In such cases, multiple Matomo Cloud accounts or Matomo On-Premise might be considered. Additionally, consider features like segments, custom dimensions, goals, custom reports, and Matomo Tag Manager’s containers as explained before.

Criteria #4: Budget and Long-Term Costs

Budget considerations should take into account long-term planning, as IT departments often project their budgets three to four years in advance. Both Matomo On-Premise and Matomo Cloud offer good visibility in terms of budgeting, although the calculation is simpler for Matomo Cloud. Other factors to consider include team training and the migration of Google Analytics tagging plans. Furthermore, account for potential additional costs, such as implementing data visualization tools like Tableau or Power BI if your Data Protection Officer (DPO) restricts the use of Google Looker Studio with Matomo.

By carefully evaluating these criteria, you can determine the Matomo version that aligns best with your organization’s needs and objectives.


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