Are you a small business owner who finds Google Analytics/GA-4 to be overkill for your website statistics needs? Here's my review of another option I think you'll like.
Are you a blogger, digital course creator, or coach who just needs basic statistics about your website visitors, sales, etc.
If YES, then stick around. I'm going to share my recent journey from having always used Google Analytics to attempting GA-4 to finally deciding on a different option: Fathom Analytics.
Hopefully, you'll find this Fathom Analytics review helpful in deciding whether you should continue with the (frustrating) GA-4 or try something else that's much cleaner and easier.
Why People Are Leaving Google/GA-4 for Other Options
Many small business owners these day are switching away from Google tools as a whole and from Google analytics/GA-4 specifically. This is due to the issues mentioned above PLUS a growing concern over customers' personal data, user privacy, complying with various laws, and the amount of personal information on individual users being collected by Google on your behalf.
Note: Many non-EU small business owners kind of glaze over when we talk about GDPR. "I'm not in the EU so all that stuff doesn't apply to me." That's a myth, actually. GDPR applies to anyone with TRAFFIC from the EU. You don't have to be targeting EU folks. So unless you specifically have EU visitors blocked, I can't imagine any site which doesn't have at least some traffic from GDPR-covered EU citizens. Therefore, GDPR compliance does apply to you. (Not a lawyer; verify this for yourself and/or consult a GDPR attorney).
Google Analytics has always been the industry standard for as long as I can remember and sometimes it's hard to think about changing from "the way it's always been." However, it's a smart thing to consider as data privacy laws are being enacted and enforced, and site owners look for a more privacy-friendly alternative.
My view is that even IF privacy laws don't apply to us (yet), 1. they probably do, lol, 2. why not get on board early and set a good example?, and 3. it's the right thing to do. As consumers, we want our privacy rights protected so as ethical business owners, let's provide that to our users. Yeah? Yeah 👍🏼
My Frustrating Experience with Google Analytics
If you have a website using GA, you likely know that as of July 1, 2023, the "Google Analytics" or "UA" or "Universal Analytics" that we've always used to track statistics for our websites sunsetted. The new version is now in effect is called "GA-4".
Google gave us tons of warning; we all knew this was happening and when. Google and Google experts urged us to set up our new properties in GA-4 so we could start learning it, and so there would be overlap in data once GA-4 started.
Google also told us that if we didn't set up a new GA-4, sometime after May 1, 2023, they would set it up for us by transferring what we already had in UA.
Well, even though they were just being helpful (yeah, right), I didn't want this to happen. Why? Because my UA was a hot mess.
I didn't know what I was doing when I set it up years ago and I tried to just make do with it, jumping in quickly here and there, mostly to look at Pageviews, and then close it before I got too upset and overwhelmed, lol.
Regarding GA-4, I'll admit, I dragged my feet on really taking action until early May 2023. And that was only because I wanted to set up my own "new" GA-4 vs Google doing it for me, if I could only figure out how.
You can see the official news and deadlines straight from Google in this article: "Google Analytics 4 has replaced Universal Analytics"
On June 1, 2023 I got the last email warning: Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new data on July 1.
Finally, on August 22, I was informed that my UA property had stopped processing data. I meannnnnn ... good riddance?? 😆
The Google Analytics 4 deadline has now passed. Your Universal Analytics property UA-xxxxxxxx-x has now stopped processing new data. All remaining Universal Analytics standard properties will soon stop processing new data. If you haven't yet, we encourage you to complete your transition to Google Analytics 4.
If you were using UA, I assume you've received (or should soon receive) a similar email. So, now it's OFFICIAL official:
UA is dead to me. Gone. Dunzo. No longer with us. Bye-bye. Celebration of Life held and attended 🪦💐
So we're moving on to GA-4!!! Or are weeeee???? Dun-dun-DUN!! Let the suspense commence.
My Even More Frustrating Experience with GA-4
I tried. y'all. I really tried.
But I could just NOT make sense of the Google Analytics tool, not in the old UA form and especially not the new GA-4 version. I'm not a quitter and it was NOT for lack of trying. I attended a few webinars, read countless articles (I even took notes, people!), and took a paid course.
I asked for advice in Facebook groups from super smartie website owners and bloggers - those anomalous creatures who actually seemed to understand everything about GA-4.
Although to my main question, I received conflicting responses: "I have a main site and some niche sites or secondary sites. Should I have them all under my main account/business or separate accounts?"
Someone said one account, someone said separate accounts. And the word wasn't even accounts, it was some other mumbo-jumbo vocab you have to learn in Google-land. I didn't have time to learn a whole foreign language, jeez.
Why It Was So Hard to Leave Google/GA-4
Kinda' like that manipulative boyfriend ... it was hard to leave you, Google/GA-4!
I'll be honest: I was afraid to let go of Google/GA-4. It's why I hadn't done it sooner. I already had other reasons for wanting to leave (#1 was the privacy of my users). But I kept second-guessing if that would be smart.
Here were some of my objections to leaving GA-4/Google:
"Everyone uses it. I'll end up regretting it if I switch."
"The other options don't have an direct integration with Kajabi like GA-4 does."
"What if someday I want to join Mediavine or some other 'thing' and they only take GA-4 stats?"
"Why should I have to add another business expense when I can just keep using GA-4 for free?"
As you can see, these were valid arguments ... I was having ... with myself 😂
But the more I thought about it, researched it, and asked my smart friends, the more I realized that none of those reasons were strong enough, or in some cases even valid, and should not keep me from leaving Google/GA-4 and trying something like Fathom Analytics instead.
After the Break-Up: Where Do We Go From Here?
I'd looked into other website analytics options many times before this. So I kinda knew what was out there and that Fathom Analytics was at the top of my list.
Other Options I Considered Before Choosing Fathom
As per Erika usual, I went down a dark and twisty rabbit hole. I uncovered a plethora of analytics options. For instance:
Matomo (formerly Piwik)
For various reasons, Fathom was my first choice and Plausible was my second. I decided to start with Fathom now, Plausible in a while. They both have 30-day free trials, so that's super cool.
Now that I had it narrowed down, I did the usual Pros and Cons list to ensure I was making the right decision to leave Google/GA-4 and move to Fathom Analytics.
Pro and Cons to Google Analytics/GA-4
To save you the trouble and time to research the exact same thing I just did, I thought I'd list some pros and cons of both choices.
PROS to Google Analytics/GA-4
- Save money - It's free
- Familiarity - You already have a Google account and are familiar with their tools and interface
- Ubiquitous - "Everyone uses it"; if you want to be accepted by ad networks, get sponsorships, or anything else based on vanity metrics, you may want to stick with GA unless you clarify they'll take Fathom stats instead
- GDPR issue is manageable - Use a cookie disclaimer app and wording in your terms to deal as best you can with it's GDPR issues
CONS to Google Analytics/GA-4
- Invasive - As they say, "If it's free, YOU are the product" and Google mines all your, your visitors', and your customers' data for their own purposes (and most of us don't know what those purposes are)
- Increases your site load time - This can lead to a bad customer experience and can also be bad for SEO which favors fast page speeds
- Cookie Consent aka Cookie Script required - Some cookie scripts cost extra and, as with any widget or plugin add-on, can potentially mess with your site
- Bad user experience - I know I'm not the only one who gets ticked off at the cookie disclaimer bars and boxes all over sites these days; they block the info you want to easily see, you click them off and they come right back, etc. Annoying. (And most laypeople don't even know what they mean or what they're clicking to agree too 💔).
- Stats aren't truly accurate - Google Analytics stats include bot traffic which makes it harder to see the forest for the trees; we need REAL-LIFE data to make data-driven decisions about our blog and business
- No customer service - You can't talk to anyone at Google if you need help; may have to hire a GA expert (1 time doing that could likely cover a year or more of just paying for Fathom)
- Questionable GDPR compliance - If you have time to read and understand all this, find a compliant cookie script, and keep it functioning 24/7/365, more power to ya!
PROS to Fathom Analytics
- Low-cost - Although there is an expense, it's minimal (and I can save you $10 to get started with my referral link)
- Ease of use - It's easy to learn and get all your sites set up in less than an hour
- Import your old stats (?) - This is a service Fathom offers but now that I've gotten that 2nd email, I don't think I could transfer my GA-4 stats even if I wanted to (I don't)
- GDPR-compliant - Seems we no longer need a cookie disclaimer app nor language on our legal page (other than to cover other tools you may use that cookie your visitors, like Hotjar, etc)*
- Lightweight - It doesn't slow down your site speed like GA-4 does
- Doesn't include bot traffic - So stats are more realistic
- At-a-glance site stats - It's much easier to take a quick glance at your stats; it only shows what you need to see
- Great support - You can email a real person and get a real answer (I did!)
- Small company - It's growing slowly (as per their wishes) by word of mouth from happy customers; they are bootstrapped and take no outside money so they're beholden to no one
- Founded by digital privacy advocates - I'm one as well so this is important to me
- EU isolation - Here's why that's important
- Negates ad blockers - Up to 50% of GA traffic can be blocked by people using ad blockers (I'm one of them) but Fathom isn't blocked so, again, your statistics are more accurate
CONS to Fathom Analytics
- Ongoing biz expense - It's not free and there's no LTD (lifetime deal), only monthly or annual
- Tracks a lot fewer stats than GA-4 - This is a con only if you need those other stats, ha
- Not well-known - It's not a new company (founded in 2018) but it's impossible to win a popularity contest against Google, amiright?? 😂
According to Fathom, "Google Analytics has their tracking code on 85% of websites on the internet. They don't charge customers for their software because mining our private habits and targeting us with ads is so darn profitable." EIGHTY-FIVE PERCENT. So yeah, Google wins the popularity contest, hands down. Does that mean they're better? Some may think so but I don't.
*Nothing in this post is legal advice. I'm not an attorney or in the legal profession in any way.
Fathom - A Pro or a Con?
Depending on how you market your business, do ads, use funnels, and feel about marketing and privacy in general, this could be a Pro or a Con
- Run by privacy advocates; may not align with your purpose for using analytics software
Let's dig a little deeper on that, okay? One of the main reasons - other than simplicity - of switching away from Google/GA-4 to something like Fathom Analytics is that the ways in which they capture and use your data is fundamentally different.
Google/GA-4 is free of charge to use but "what's in it for them?" is that they then can use your data for their own purposes. Their product also allows you to be more invasive into what YOUR traffic, clients, customers, subscribers, etc. are doing to use for your own purposes.
I'm talking about things like targeting them in ads, getting really specific and granular about how they interact with your site, etc.
Fathom Analytics on the other hand was founded by digital privacy advocates who believe this:
Fathom is a Google Analytics alternative that doesn’t compromise visitor privacy for data. We revolutionized website analytics by making them easy to use and respectful of privacy laws (like GDPR and more).
"... we charge a fair price for our software (instead of giving it away for free, then selling your data to generate revenue)."
Should YOU Switch from Google/GA-4 to Fathom?
I always that that the great thing about owning a business is that you get to decide which road to travel, and I'm certainly not Judgey McJudgerson about it. Until recently, I used Google UA and had a cookie disclaimer so who am I to talk? It's only now, in 2023, that I'm going another direction.
Initially, I was just highly annoyed that Google made such a drastic change and we had to deal with it. Even though it was for good reasons and to try and become privacy-compliant ...
In the end, I'm HAPPY that Google forced my hand into investigating and ultimately choosing other options - vastly better options, imho - like Fathom Analytics. There's always a silver lining 🌦️🌈✨
How It's Going So Far with Fathom Analytics
I think I'll ask some questions I imagine you'll be having now and share my honest feedback.
Was it easy to transfer my Google/GA-4 stats to Fathom?
That's a great one to start with because I can't answer it, ha! I chose to just start fresh with my analytics. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it but it works for me and my situation.
I'm mainly a blogger, I'm not in nor want to be in an ad network as of now, I only sell 1 product currently, and I don't have funnels that need tracking beyond what Kajabi already does. So for me, it makes sense to start fresh on Fathom with my site stats.
I have big plans for next year when I'll need to set up some deeper tracking in Fathom and also have some history to look at, so that's why I'm trying out Fathom (and soon another option, Plausible) now and building up some stats that I can base my 2024 decisions on.
All of that said, here's Fathom's page on their Google Analytics Importer, where they say, "Our quick-to-use and straightforward import tool allows you to save your Google Analytics data forever into our easy-to-use dashboard. We don’t even charge for historical data imports (regardless of the amount of data)." That's very generous of them, isn't it?
Was Fathom Analytics easy to set up?
Yes, it was and took hardly any time at all. I won't go in-depth with instructions because you can get them firsthand here on Fathom's website.
How much does Fathom cost?
Wish I'd known about using someone's affiliate link as I would've gotten $10 off. Don't be me! Here's my affiliate link for YOUR $10 off (or click the image, woo hoo!)
You can use that link to sign up for your 30-day free trial. A credit card is required so put 30 days out on your calendar in case you want to cancel before you get charged.
Start with a 30-day free trial of Fathom and then pay a fair and sustainable monthly price based on your average monthly page views.
Unlike some other software, they don't hold back the good features until you pay for the highest pricing tiers. We all get the same features no matter what tier we're on. The only thing that differs is the average monthly page views.
All plans include:
- Up to 50 sites included
- 100% Data ownership
- Uptime monitoring
- No cookie banners required
- Unlimited email reports
- Forever data retention
- Unlimited CSV data exports
- Privacy law compliance
- Enterprise-grade infrastructure
As of August 2023, here's the monthly pricing
And here's the annual pricing (which makes it $12, $20, and $37 per month)
I'm under 100K monthly page views with all my sites combined (especially now that bots aren't being counted). I did the Annual plan so it's only 12 bucks a month. That's the same thing I pay for Canva and I'd wager that this is more important, if I had to choose one.
Is it easy to find the stats I need in Fathom?
It literally couldn't be easier. Here's an example of your Fathom dashboard.
*No, those are not my stats. I wish 😆
On the top left, you can switch which of your sites you're looking at. My favorite view is All Sites where I get a snapshot of each site, all on one screen. SUPER USEFUL! I keep this tab open in the browser 365 👀 📈
On the top right, you select the date range (today, this month, this year, custom range, etc).
Then simple, easy-to-read stats on People on Your Site, Visitors, Views, Average Time on Site, Bounce Rate, and Event Completions.
If you don't want all of them included on the graph, click the ones you do want to see. You can even drag a portion of the graphic and it'll zero in on just that timeframe. Snazzy!
Under the graph you can see specifics on Pages, Referrers, Device Types, Browsers, and Countries.
Below that, manage Events and UTMs (which I haven't delved into yet, but there are full instructions on the site).
Want specifics on what these stats are tracking and how they help you? Check out this Fathom article: Website analytics that matter (and why they matter)
Did my page speed improve from Google/GA-4 to Fathom Analytics?
Dang, I wish I would've checked my page speed before I switched but I didn't think of it.
I did have a little page speed project I did on this site ErikaFriday.com about 1 year ago so i dug up those stats. When comparing them to today with Fathom, here are the results from GTMetrix:
Performance up 3%
Structure up 4%
TBT down 166ms (down is good)
I can't say for sure that those improvements are due to switching out GA-4 for Fathom but I haven't done anything else in the past year to purposely improve my page speed either. Hmm. #grainofsalt
Am I going to stick with Fathom Analytics myself?
As of now, I plan to. I'm doing a free trial of Plausible Analytics as well, just to see if there's anything it does better or different that's valuable to me, or if it adds to what Fathom already does. Both Fathom and Plausible are so reasonably priced that I'd be fine paying for both.
Once I learn and use Plausible a bit, I'll write a comparison blog post for you. Please let me know if there are any particulars you'd like me to cover in the comparison and I'll include 'em! Just leave a comment or email me [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you!
Bonus: A hidden benefit of Fathom Analytics is their Uptime Monitoring
An additional cool feature I took advantage of with Fathom is their free/included Uptime Monitoring.
What that means is they'll let you know when your website is offline or your SSL certificate isn’t functioning! Just set it up how you like in your account - decide how often your site gets checked and how long after to notify you if there's an issue.
You can elect to get notification via Email, Text, Slack, or Telegram.
Some final thoughts, from the people at Fathom:
By supporting a company like ours, you are taking a step towards a shared vision of the internet that aligns with ours: away from the watchful eyes of big tech, based on trust and privacy, and all without compromising reliability, speed or quality of support.
If that's a vision you'd like to get on board with, check out Fathom Analytics.
Remember, use my referral link and receive $10 off 🎉
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