James Panther

I switched from Google Analytics to Fathom Analytics

·7 mins
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I run a few different websites and one thing that’s always been a constant is Google Analytics. For better or worse, it’s become the ubiquitous way for website owners to track visitor statistics and gain a heap of useful insights. Don’t get me wrong, the insights are great, but the problem is the amount of information you have to give up to get that data.

It’s a hot mess of privacy and ethical red flags that need real attention.

The problem #

The privacy tradeoff with Google Analytics is something I’ve never been comforatble with - you are essentially giving Google unfettered access to a wealth information about your visitors. And that’s the most important fact… they are your visitors!

It’s hard to believe but Google Analytics has become so pervasive that it’s used on more than 80% of websites. That means out of the last five websites you’ve visited, four of them were probably using Google’s tracker to log your visit. Aren’t you relieved you ended up here?

Analytics market share

The main reason so many people turn to Google for their analytics is because the product is marketed as ‘free’. And on the surface it is. But what most people don’t take into consideration is that the service might cost nothing, but Google Analytics isn’t the product at all - you are. Google are taking all the information they can get about your website traffic and using it to feed their own advertising and search algorighms. They are essentially profiting off your website without giving you a cent.

It’s a bit like how Facebook crunches all their users' data only to then use it to market ads right back at those same users. It’s highway robbery, but there is something you can do about it!

Enter Fathom Analytics.

The solution #

If you’ve tried looking for Google Analytics alternatives before, you’ll probably have found there’s now quite a few services that promise to protect your users' privacy while still offering you the analytics data you need. Fathom Analytics is one of these, and it’s the one I’ve chosen to move all my web properties to.

Let me explain why.

Not only is the analytics data useful, it’s also beautiful. Clearly Fathom have put a lot of thought into making the interface simple. It’s not surprising to see that there’s been lots of copies of their design but Fathom is the original and the best.

No longer will you get lost in a labyrinth of menu options. It’s all pulled together in a single dashboard. Everything you need is there - top pages, top referrers, device, country and browser statistics. Along with easy to understand totals that give a high-level summary of all the website activity.

Fathom Analytics dashboard

Fathom Analytics dashboard

Fathom charge a small monthly fee that’s based on the number of visits you receive but you can spread it out across unlimited websites. It’s a completely reasonable business model and you’ll be able to sleep easy knowing that your data is private, your user’s data is private, and Google won’t be able to track you anymore.

If you’ve already heard enough and want to give it a try, they offer a seven day free trial. I honestly signed up using the trial and within five days I knew I wouldn’t go back. If you need more time than that, I’ve got a special referral code that will give you a $10 discount off your first invoice so you can try for a full month and only spend $4. An amazing deal if you ask me.

Head over to Fathom Analytics to get started. 🎉

Why Fathom Analytics? #

If you’re still not convinced. Let me explain why I decided to make the switch…

Simple, private and secure #

The Fathom Analytics dashboard is a single page display of all the most important information. There’s definitely a lot less detail here than on Google Analytics but I doubt you’ll miss it. Ask yourself if you really need to know every detail about every page visit. If you’re like me, you’ll probably conclude that you don’t.

Check out the screenshot below from one of my analytics properties. Do you think your visitors would appreciate that you’re assigning identifiers to them and logging everything they do? Do you even realise Google Analytics does this?

Google Analytics Client IDs

Google Analytics Client IDs

It’s real Big Brother and 1984 type stuff. And it’s completely useless data. The most important information to me is which pages are the most popular, where my visitors are coming from and a high level count of how many unique people stopped by. And that’s what Fathom provides. Simple.

Lightweight #

Fathom Analytics will speed up your website. The total script is under 2KB. When I dropped Google Analytics at Southside Kitchen I managed to knock a full 2 seconds off the page loading time. Check out these GTMetrix reports to see for yourself…

GTMetrix page timings graph

GTMetrix Page Timings

GTMetrix PageSpeed and YSlow graph

GTMetrix PageSpeed and YSlow

My PageSpeed score went from 72% to 90%. That’s huge! That sort of page sluggishness can cost you visitors entirely. It seems ridiculous that the analytics package you use to track visitors might actually be turning them away entirely, but that’s exactly what’s happening. And don’t expect Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to tell you this either. It conveniently avoids dobbing on Google Analytics even if it’s one of the factors making your site sluggish.

Bypasses ad-blockers #

As if the speed wasn’t convincing enough, I also noticed a big uptick in visitor numbers when I moved over to Fathom Analytics. Why? Well a large number of people use ad-blockers in their browsers and these often block Google Analytics.

Up to 30% of visits can be lost to this alone. You can opt to run Fathom Analytics on your own custom domain and it will allow you to avoid this whole situation. It’s exactly what I do here. And because the data collected is anonymous, these users have nothing to worry about.

No cookies #

I hate cookie notices. I think it’s one of the worst things to happen to the internet. Well with Fathom Analytics there’s no cookies. And they’re fully GDPR and CCPA compliant. That means you don’t need to display any annoying cookie notices or write detailed privacy policy clauses.

Track custom referrals #

You don’t have to give up on your campaign tracking. With Fathom Analytics you can pass custom referrers in the URL using ?ref= and these will be called out in the dashboard. I use this to track visitors from my email and Instagram campaigns.

Fathom Analytics custom referrers

Custom referrers

It’s so much easier than trying to keep track of UTM variables and juggling all the complicated URLs that go with it. Can you believe I used to use an Excel spreadsheet to try to construct those URLs. What a waste of time.

Your data is yours #

Fathom Analytics wont share your data with advertising companies. They don’t analyse it for demographic or behavioural trends. It’s never monetised at all. And that’s the way it should be. These days data privacy is becoming mainstream and users increasingly expect their data to be handled in a private manner. Meet these expectations and you’ll proudly be able to tell your users that you value their privacy too.

There’s a whole lot more that you can do too, but these were my main reasons for making the switch. As I mentioned above, if you use this link you can start a 7 day free trial as well as a $10 credit towards your first invoice.

So give Fathom Analytics a try. You won’t look back.