Google Analytics has been a popular and essential tool for gathering data on website traffic for years. However, with the introduction of GA4, many businesses are left wondering if they should update. Many are not sold on GA4 and want to know what GA4 alternatives are available.
This post will discuss the differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics, why businesses may want to switch, and the best alternatives to GA4. You should better understand whether your investment should be in Google or another brand's measurement tools for 2023 and beyond.
Let's get started.
GA4 vs Universal Analytics… what's the difference?
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest iteration of Google's analytics software, designed to provide more comprehensive data analysis tools. So, what's the difference between GA4 and Universal Analytics (UA)? The main difference is that GA4 measures data based on events, while UA relies on session-based tracking.
Furthermore, GA4 provides a long-term analytics solution adaptable to digital evolution. It tracks user data based on website and first-party data instead of third-party cookies, making it more privacy-friendly. Third-party cookie tracking is ending, and GA4 is preparing businesses for the future of how the web will evolve.
Google has announced that it will soon sunset Universal Analytics to promote GA4, which means the latter tool is built to offer a flexible and robust measurement system that will last for the long haul.
Using GA4's event-based tracking system, businesses can analyze user behavior across different touchpoints and micro-moments on their site or app. This allows site owners to gain insights into their audience's behavior and preferences that can be used to enhance their digital marketing strategies.
Overall, switching to GA4 offers an opportunity to benefit from advanced and segmented audiences as they continue to evolve in the future.
So what's the downside?
Google Analytics has gone through several iterations or versions throughout its history. The original version and platform were launched in 2005 when Google acquired Urchin. Since then, Google has released two versions since this acquisition and two iterations of each.
The launch of GA4 is much more profound than the previous changes as the Google Analytics interface and administration within GA4 are much different than past versions. This feature weighs most heavily on those who grew to rely on the previous Google Analytics.
The foreign nature of how to properly set up, administrate, and report out of GA4 is causing some to consider switching to another platform.
Additionally, people are questioning Google's data privacy, with some stating that Google is using your personal data for corporate gain and/or selling it to other companies.
If you don't believe us, search “google selling your personal data” on Google, and you'll see pages of results, approximately 2.2 billion, that have some relevance to Google selling your information.
Some countries in the EU have banned the use of Google Analytics as it violates GDPR compliance as data is not stored within the EU and Google stated that they will not host data in servers outside of the United States.
The advent of GA4 doesn't change this last point. GA4 will not be GDPR compliant and for companies in the EU, making a switch to a different analytics platform is a necessity, not a choice.
So what are the viable GA4 alternatives a company might decide to use? And are they affordable?
GA4 is free, but almost all alternatives available are not. Let's look over your top affordable options and see if it makes sense for your business to make a change.
Alternatives to GA4
While GA4 has its advantages, it’s not the only option available. There are plenty of alternatives to Google Analytics that solve issues like privacy and insights, for instance, ensuring long-term tracking of user behavior.
If you find GA4 too complicated or overwhelming, it's important to consider other options carefully. Some marketers feel that upgrading to GA4 is a process that takes time to be made. However, the window to the sunsetting of Universal Analytics is coming quickly.
As of July 1, 2023, there will no longer be GA3 tracking available, and those who still have it as the only measurement solution on their website will find that the data collection ceases completely.
Add to that the fact that you will lose all access to your historical Google Analytics data and reporting within Google Analytics, and the decision to update or switch becomes more critical with each passing day.
Several alternatives offer unique features that can help solve any concerns you have. One such solution could be Matomo, which is similar to Google Analytics, but it prioritizes privacy concerns.
Others, such as Adobe Analytics or IBM’s Tealeaf Customer Experience Management, offer more sophisticated tracking and insights than GA4 but are too expensive for many to bear.
Ultimately, the decision should depend on your business's unique needs and requirements to ensure you receive a smooth and productive experience.
Here are some complete solutions that are more affordable and have been rated as the best Google Analytics alternatives.
GA4 vs Piwik
Piwik is an open-source web analytics tool that has become increasingly popular as an alternative to Google Analytics 4.
GA4 allows you to track user behavior across multiple platforms and devices, providing a complete picture of how visitors interact with your website. GA4 also offers advanced analytics features such as predictive metrics, machine learning, and user-centric measurement, which can help you identify opportunities for optimization and improve your overall website performance.
Piwik offers a self-hosted Google Analytics alternative. Piwik allows you to monitor and analyze your website traffic, user engagement, and conversion rates in real-time. Piwik also offers a range of features such as heat maps, event tracking, and A/B testing, which can be customized to match your specific needs.
Because Piwik is self-hosted, you have complete control over your data and can ensure that it is stored securely and in compliance with data privacy regulations.
Both GA4 and Piwik offer comprehensive solutions for website analytics, with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. The choice between the two will ultimately depend on your specific needs, budget, and technical capabilities.
Piwik Key Features
- Data Ownership: With Piwik, you own your data, and you can store it on your own servers, giving you complete control and privacy over your analytics.
- Customizability: Piwik allows you to customize your web analytics according to your needs. You can track any parameter or event you need, making it a very flexible tool.
- Real-time Tracking: Piwik offers real-time tracking, so you can get up-to-the-minute insights into your website’s performance.
- User Engagement: Piwik shows you how people are engaging with your website content, such as which pages are most popular, which campaigns are driving the most traffic, and how visitors are interacting with your site.
- Security: Piwik is a highly secure platform, allowing you to add multiple layers of authentication for your data, preventing unauthorized access to sensitive information.
Piwik offers a decent free, self-hosted option that is better than other providers on this list. The free plan give you 500k monthly actions, so it should be usable for many websites. The additional server usage might end up costing you more with your web hosting company so you'll need to inquire with them before choosing Piwik.
GA4 vs Matomo
GA4 and Matomo are two popular website analytics solutions, each with strengths and weaknesses.
GA4 provides improved insights into user retention, engagement, and customer journeys. One of the key advantages of GA4 is its machine learning capabilities, which allow for more accurate prediction of user behavior and more effective targeting of relevant content. However, some users have expressed concern about data privacy and lack of control over data ownership.
Matomo, on the other hand, offers a self-hosted analytics platform that provides users with complete control over their data. One of the significant advantages of Matomo is its open-source nature, allowing users to customize the analytics platform to fit their specific needs.
Matomo offers a wide range of features, including real-time analytics, customizable dashboards, and user-friendly reporting. However, Matomo may be more challenging to set up and maintain than GA4, requiring technical knowledge and expertise.
Ultimately, the choice between GA4 and Matomo depends on a user's specific needs, priorities, and technical abilities.
Matomo Key Features
- Open-source platform: Matomo is an open-source platform, meaning that users have full access to the source code, making it a highly customizable and flexible option.
- Privacy-focused: Unlike some analytics platforms that collect and process data from users without their consent, Matomo is committed to user privacy and offers a range of features to ensure GDPR and CCPA compliance.
- Real-time tracking: Matomo provides real-time tracking of website traffic and user behavior, giving users the ability to monitor visitor activity as it happens.
- Customizable dashboards: Matomo’s customizable dashboards allow users to choose the metrics and data that matter most to them, with the ability to create custom reports and visualize data with graphs and charts.
- Extensible platform: Matomo offers a range of plugins and integrations to extend its functionality, making it easy to integrate with other tools and platforms to enhance the power of its analytics capabilities.
Matomo is another free option if you want to self-host on your servers. If you want to use the Matomo cloud solution, the pricing starts at $23/month for up to 50,000 hits. Hits are defined by more than just pageviews so you'll want to round up all the interactions on your website so you know how much the service might cost.
GA4 vs Amplitude
Amplitude Analytics is known for its cross-device tracking and ability to resolve identities, which sets it apart from GA4. Additionally, Amplitude offers advanced features such as sales account tracking and offline event tracking, which GA4 lacks.
While GA4 emphasizes online event tracking, funnel and path exploration features exist in both platforms. One key difference is that Amplitude employs first-party cookies and Google accounts for tracking, whereas GA4 relies solely on first-party cookies.
It is also worth noting that Amplitude has a much broader implementation partner ecosystem, with almost 90 tools available, compared to GA4. Ultimately, the choice between GA4 and Amplitude will depend on your business's specific needs and goals regarding analytics.
Amplitude Key Features
- Behavioral Cohorts: Allows users to track the behavior of specific user groups over time, providing deep insights into how these groups interact with your product or service.
- Behavioral Segmentation: Provides users with the ability to segment data based on specific user behaviors, allowing for more targeted analysis and decision-making.
- Funnel Analysis: Allows users to visualize the steps they take in their interactions with your product, helping to identify points of friction and improve the user experience.
- Retention Analysis: Provides insights into how long users continue to engage with your product or service, helping to identify areas for improvement and opportunities to retain users.
- Custom Dashboards: Allows users to create custom dashboards that display the most important metrics and insights for their business, making it easy to stay on top of performance and track progress over time.
Amplitude does offer a free, Starter version that provides essential tracking features, but the paid plans offer what most businesses will want to fully measure their website's effectively. You can also purchase audience, experiment and customer data tracking as your tracking needs scale.
GA4 vs Heap
Heap is growing in popularity as a complete replacement to GA4 for website analytics. Both offer key features businesses need to measure performance.
GA4 can be difficult for users unfamiliar with the platform, and some of its features may require advanced technical knowledge to use effectively.
Heap is known for its user-friendliness and ease of use. Heap simplifies data collection and analysis by automatically tracking every user interaction on a website, making it easier for businesses to understand how users engage with their website.
Heap offers powerful segmentation and behavioral analysis tools that allow businesses to understand user behavior better and optimize their website. However, Heap's pricing can be prohibitive for some businesses, and it may not offer the same level of customization as GA4.
Heap Key Features
- Automatic tracking: Heap automatically captures every user interaction, allowing you to see a complete picture of user behavior without having to manually track events.
- Retroactive analysis: With Heap, you can go back in time to analyze user data even if you didn't set up specific tracking events beforehand. This makes it easy to get insights even if you didn't anticipate needing them.
- Analysis workspace: Heap offers a customizable workspace that allows you to create reports, visualize data, and drill down into specific user segments.
- Behavior-based segmentation: Heap allows you to group users based on their behavior, rather than static demographic data. This helps you understand why users are behaving the way they are, and allows for more targeted marketing campaigns.
- Data governance: With regulatory compliance being increasingly important, Heap offers strong data governance features that ensure compliance with legal requirements and data protection laws.
Heap offers a free version to get started but it's only free up to 10,000 sessions per month. After that, you'll need to upgrade to the Growth or Pro plans, which will provide you more sessions and features.
It's important to note, the definition of session being used here is different than what you would see in Google Analytics data. A session refers to the duration of a single user being inactive, typically 30 minutes.
GA4 vs Kissmetrics
When it comes to choosing between GA4 and Kissmetrics, it ultimately depends on the needs of your company. GA4 uses anonymous data to track website performance, while Kissmetrics offers user-based data for more personalized analytics.
Kissmetrics is a product and customer data platform that analyzes the entire customer journey, providing more accurate conversion rates for SaaS and e-commerce companies. However, its implementation process can be cumbersome compared to GA4.
GA4 is a free platform that offers general website performance data based on anonymous data tracking. It tends to give less accurate conversion rates than Kissmetrics.
If you're looking for general website performance data, then GA4 may be the right tool for your business. However, if you require more in-depth, user-based data, Kissmetrics could be the better option, despite its higher cost.
Kissmetrics Key Features
- Behavioral tracking: This feature allows you to track users' actions on your website, such as what pages they visit and what buttons they click to help you better understand how users interact with your site.
- Cohort analysis: Cohort analysis allows you to group users together based on certain criteria, such as the date they first visited your site. This helps you identify trends and patterns of site usage over time.
- Funnel analysis: With funnel analysis, you can track how users move through a series of steps on your website, such as signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase. This helps you identify where users are dropping off and where you can improve conversions.
- A/B testing: Kissmetrics offers a robust A/B testing platform that allows you to test different variations of your website to see which performs better.
- Customer lifetime value (CLV) tracking: With CLV tracking, you can see how much revenue each customer is generating over time to help identify your most valuable customers.
Kissmetrics is one of the more expensive options on this list. While it does track users and meaningful website visitors, it goes far above that to also track the user journey and other critical website data that GA4 does not.
We recommend Kissmetrics if your business performance relies on actionable insights or if you have a high-volume eCommerce store or SaaS product you want to measure.
Weighing Up the Pros and Cons of GA4
As GA4 replaces Universal Analytics as the website analytics tool of choice from Google, many marketers and web developers are unaware of the changes. And many of those that don't like it. Regardless of your circumstances, weighing the pros and cons of GA4 and alternative tools is essential to select the best fit for your business needs.
While GA4 is a hot topic in digital marketing news, it’s essential to evaluate other options in the market before fully committing. Understanding the specifics of each Google Analytics alternative will give a better gauge of the best fit.
Exporting historical data from Google Analytics
1. Log in to your Google Analytics account and select the website or property for which you want to export data.
2. Go to the Reports section and select the report you want to export. You can choose from various reports, such as Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions.
3. Set the date range for the data you want to export. Use the calendar tool or input the date range manually.
4. Click the Export button and select the file format you want to use (CSV, TSV, Excel, or Google Sheets).
5. Choose the options you want to include in the export, such as dimensions, metrics, and segments. You can also choose the file type and download location.
6. Click on the Export button to begin the export process. Depending on the amount of data you are exporting, it may take several minutes to complete.
Once the export is complete, remember to carefully review the data and check for any errors or discrepancies before using it for analysis or reporting.
Check out this article for further options:https://www.searchenginejournal.com/ga4-historical-data/
Will I still be able to use Google Tag Manager if I switch to a GA4 alternative?
Yes, you can still use Google Tag Manager (GTM) if you switch to a GA4 (Google Analytics 4) alternative. GTM is a standalone product that allows you to track and collect data from various sources.
What will happen with Google Ads tracking code if I switch my web analytics tool?
If you switch your web analytics tool, such as from Google Analytics to another platform, the Google Ads tracking code will continue to function, as it is independent of the analytics tool being used. However, you may need to update or adjust the tracking settings within the new web analytics tool to ensure that the data is properly integrated and tracked across both platforms.
If we have Google Analytics 360, are we governed by the same changes?
Google Analytics 360 users are not exempt from the changes that come with GA4 and data tracking loss. If you are using GA360, you will need to adapt to these changes if you want to continue tracking user data effectively, but the timeline for updating GA360 users to GA4 was moved back to July 1, 2024.
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GA4 Alternatives Wrap-up
Choosing the right analytics software is vital for business success. If you are considering updating to GA4, now is the time to weigh Google Analytics alternatives to ensure your choice is what is best for your business for the foreseeable future. There is not likely to be this type of shakeup in measurement and tracking in the next 20-plus years.
While GA4 has many benefits, it is not the only analytics software available. Some alternatives offer unique features that may be better suited to your business needs. We suggest you research and choose the analytics platform that aligns with your business goals. At the end of the day, it’s about choosing what works for you.
Have you updated your Google Analytics to GA4 or migrated to a GA4 alternative? We'd love to know what you decided and why in the comments.