Today is June 6, 2023. In a few weeks, Google Analytics GA3 (Universal) will come to an end. As an era comes to a close, let’s explore why you will feel at home with Matomo Analytics. Last week, I attended an interesting web event in France called Annecy Web, where I had the opportunity to engage with those who are shaping the digital landscape in the country today. Some participants I spoke with shared their thoughts and expectations regarding the having to leave Google Analytics and the transition to alternative solutions. Some were very enthusiastic and understood the need to move towards privacy-respecting tools that provide real control over data. Others had mixed feelings about this transition.
It’s true that Google Analytics has been around for a long time (since 2006, following Google’s acquisition of a company called Urchin, which you can find remnants of in Google’s tools, such as UTM, which stands for “Urchin Tracking Module”). Google Analytics became the de facto tool for audience analysis, and the industry as a whole embraced it due to its features and the fact that it was free. It even withstood the Snowden revelations, despite the privacy concerns that were highlighted, ultimately leading to the introduction of the GDPR five years later.
These discussions made me realize that transitioning to a new tool like Matomo, after years of using Universal Analytics, can be a source of stress. It involves a mix of fear of the unknown and the need to develop new habits while adapting to a new environment. My experience as a trainer has shown me that it is possible to overcome preconceived notions by getting hands-on (and engaging the brain) with practical implementation.
Now is the time to address this question. Let’s see how Matomo is ultimately quite similar to its counterpart and even offers more extensive possibilities. I will explain how everything should go smoothly for you and your organization. Numerous organizations I have worked with serve as proof of this.
Matomo’s interface is similar to Google Analytics’s
You are used to Google’s paradigm with the following tools orchestrated in this way:
- Real time reports
- Audience reports
- Acquisition reports
- Behavior reports
- Conversion reports
Guess what? You get very similar features in Matomo.
About the real time report
From the very beginning, Matomo (and its ancestor PIWIK) has offered real-time features. These are not immediately visible as they are categorized within the visitor reports. However, you can integrate them into custom dashboards to replicate the real-time reports found in Google Analytics. While they may not be identical to Google Analytics’ features, you can collaborate with a developer to incorporate elements like vertical bar charts (such as visits or events counts). I’ve been informed that Graphana is capable of providing this functionality. Additionally, you can enhance your analysis by including the Visits log and other insightful reports. This allows you to delve deeper into your data interpretation.
About the Visitors reports (Audience)
In Matomo, these reports provide insights into the website’s visitors. It’s important to note that in Matomo, we refer to them as “visitors” rather than “users,” as a user is defined as an individual with a user ID. With Matomo’s reports, you can discover the origin of visitors, their activities on the website (the visitors log is a valuable resource), and obtain information about the devices they use. It’s a straightforward process. Additionally, you have access to an overview of these reports, with similar interaction and visualization tools like charts and metrics.
However, there are a few limitations to consider. Demographic information is not available within Matomo. Google utilizes data collected through its advertising tools to populate this aspect. Matomo does not have access to your demographic data.
About the Behavior reports
Just like in Google, you will have information about what your visitors do. In this part, Matomo shows all the actions that it tracks by default:
- Pages information
- Site search
This is way more than what Google Analytics does, and the good news is that you will find the same Events division (category, action, name, value) as you used to. GA4 is way more complex.
If you are interested in digging deeper into this information, just turn to Matomo Tag Manager and fire off a few tags (downloads pagepaths, URIs, etc.). The behavior flows can also be found here (and is called Users flow).
About the Acquisition reports
This is where Matomo diverges a bit from Google. After an overview section, you will be able to analyze every channel that Matomo identifies by design:
- Search engines
- Referal websites
- Social networks
“Where has my Google Ads traffic gone?” you might ask. And you would be right. In order to track your Google Ads campaigns in Matomo (or any other external solution), manual configuration is required, unlike the seamless integration provided by Google’s own tools. However, the good news is that Matomo, like many other platforms, offers the ability to manually set up and track your Google Ads campaigns.
Measure conversions in Matomo
Navigate to the Goals and/or e-commerce sections. Just as you did in Google Analytics, you can track conversions in Matomo using similar filters, such as time spent on a visit, accessed pages, recorded events, and more. E-commerce goals can also be tracked in a similar manner, allowing you to obtain cart information and other necessary data for calculating your ROI.
Speaking of ROI, Matomo offers additional tools like the excellent Multi Attribution plugin (available by default in Matomo Cloud) that enables you to determine which channels ultimately contribute to more conversions.
Matomo integrates with Search Console and Google Ads
For SEO professionals, you have the option to seamlessly integrate Matomo with Google Search Console through Matomo’s official Search Engine Keywords Performance plugin (which is available by default in Matomo Cloud). As for Google Ads integration, we have addressed this aspect within the Acquisition reports. You can effortlessly integrate your Google Ads campaigns using Matomo’s campaign features (and rest assured, you can still utilize your UTMs).
Matomo is a web analytics solution, so you’ll be working with dimensions and metrics, just like in Google. You have the flexibility to add custom dimensions and create segments to filter your audience’s data. Visualizing data is made easy with charts and tables.
Custom reports are available as a plugin (included by default in Matomo Cloud), and they work as expected. You can seamlessly incorporate custom reports into your personalized dashboards, which are very versatile and can adapt to your specific needs.
Furthermore, you have the option to connect Matomo with external data visualization tools such as PowerBI, Tableau, and even Google Looker Studio. Additionally, exporting your data can be done in various formats, catering to your preferences (and if you’re a fan of RSS feeds, you’ll be delighted).
To delve deeper into your web analysis, Matomo provides the Tag Manager feature for comprehensive insights.
Matomo and Google Analytics: a few differences
There are certain tasks that you will need to approach differently. For example, let’s say you want to track a massive influx of traffic, like 4 million visitors arriving at your website within a few minutes due to your annual spam campaign. First and foremost, ensure that your Matomo On-Premise installation is capable of handling such high traffic or consider opting for a suitable Matomo Cloud subscription.
In Matomo, you need to set aside the traditional Account – Property – View paradigm. Views do not exist, and instead, you will either create additional website properties (which can be used to filter traffic) or employ segments in a more detailed manner.
Matomo On-Premise or Matomo Cloud, what is that?
Matomo is available in two versions. The first is the Open Source version, which you can download and install on your own server. It comes with basic features similar to Google Analytics, and you can enhance its capabilities by adding plugins from Matomo’s Marketplace. However, some plugins may require a purchase to access similar functionalities, like the custom reports.
The second version is Matomo Cloud, which is similar to what you were familiar with in Google Analytics. You create an account on Matomo Cloud, add users, and enjoy using it with its premium features. However, it’s important to note that Matomo Cloud operates as a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, meaning you will need to pay a subscription fee.
We must acknowledge one thing: the era of completely free (as in beer) web analytics has passed, regardless of the solution you choose to use.
Going further with Matomo
We have only covered a few things that are similar between Matomo and Google Universal Analytics. As an Open Source solution, you can get even further with it than you would with Google.
- Heatmaps and session recording features
- Funnels analysis
- Forms analysis
- Content analysis (like in UA)
- Media Analysis (track your embedded videos or MP3)
- Conduct A/B tests
Using Matomo On-Premise will give you access to many plugins and themes (and more to come) to add features or change your Matomo layout. You can even make it look like Google Analytics or like Piwik (Matomo’s ancestor) if you use to know it and are being a bit nostalgic.
And companies can develop their own features, this is Open Source you know.
Last but not least, Matomo can also import your servers logs that can be use for cookieless tracking or help you improve your SEO for instance.
How to try out Matomo
There are many ways to get your hands into Matomo. The easiest one is to start with Matomo Cloud demo instance. Remember Google Analytics Merch Shop? It is roughly the same using a dive website.
As for Matomo On-Premise version, the easiest way would be to turn to software like softaculous, which offer a 1-click install, or to hoster that do the same.
Moving to Matomo is a straightforward process, and within a few days, you will become comfortable using it. It offers similar features to what you are already familiar with, along with added flexibility.
There are two more noteworthy aspects to mention. Firstly, with Matomo, you retain ownership of your data and are not reliant on an external company. Secondly, it prioritizes visitor privacy and ensures compliance with regulations. This fundamental principle should be kept in mind throughout your transition, as it is at the core of Matomo’s creation.
I have tried to address the most common questions I receive, and I hope that this article helps you. If you have any further questions, suggestions, or would like to share your experience with Matomo, please feel free to leave a comment below.
Additionally, a concise summary of these points is available on SoundCloud.