Next Availability: August 2024

How to Choose A Website Analytics Tool

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Being able to get a sense of how many people are on your website, what they’re doing there, and how this changes over time is invaluable. Even if you don’t need to know these things right now, you may want to know in the future, and most website analytics tools start gathering data once you set them up.

If you decide to do marketing or SEO work down the line, most providers will want to start by taking a look at your current website traffic data. If you don’t have any initial data to go on, it’s hard to see what’s working and what’s not.

There are dozens of website analytics tools out there, and your website designer or marketing pro can guide you in choosing the best one for you, but here’s a basic overview of the options.

Google Analytics is the industry standard. But do you need it?

Google Analytics has long been the industry standard in website analytics. It’s completely free to use and gives you tons of data about your website visitors. As they say, if you’re not paying for a product with money, you pay for it in other ways — in this case your “payment” to Google is sharing data about the people who are using your website with Google. So it’s free, but there’s still an exchange/benefit going on.

Many website designers/devs still use and recommend Google Analytics, but I’ve seen an increasing segment of the web design community moving away from Google Analytics to more privacy-friendly and user-friendly tools that have emerged in recent years.

Google also recently released GA4, a new tool that replaces their old Universal Analytics (UA) tool. I loved UA and find the new GA4 to be really difficult and confusing to use. What was simple to find in UA is now buried or must be manually created in GA4. The good news about GA4 is it’s a more privacy-friendly solution, but other than that I find that most people I talk to are frustrated by this tool.

What other analytics tools are out there?

A ton thankfully! The free ones come and go and often have traffic limits, so they may not work for you if your site gets a ton of traffic. My current favorite free option is Piwik Pro. My favorite paid option is Fathom Analytics ($14/month). Fathom is much more user-friendly and simple, but I find the data it gathers gives plenty of insight for most of my clients.

Built-in analytics tools on Squarespace and Wix

Squarespace and Wix (and most SAAS website platforms) run their own analytics that you can access through your website dashboard. I find Wix’s analytics a bit more comprehensive and helpful than Squarespace’s, but both are decent.

Running multiple analytics tools at once

There’s no harm in running multiple analytics tools at once. For my site, I use GA4 and PiwikPro simultaneously. On many Squarespace or Wix sites, I also recommend setting up GA4 and/or PiwikPro, especially if there’s info you need that your Wix or Squarespace built-in analytics doesn’t give you.

Using tools like HotJar or Microsoft Clarity

HotJar and Microsoft Clarity are really cool, powerful tools that let you see more granularly what people are doing on your site. They offer things like heatmaps, session recordings, more specific click data, etc. They can also have privacy implications and can slow down your site load time a bit, so I don’t recommend keeping these running. If you’re working with a website or marketing pro, it could be worth installing one of these to gather some data for a month or two or three then removing it.

What about Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a wonderful free tool that I use on every site I build. While this is an analytics tool, Google Search Console (GSC) doesn’t have the same privacy issues that other analytics tools can have. Rather than tracking what people are doing on your site, GSC just tracks what search queries people are using on Google to get to your site, how many impressions your site is getting, and what pages are getting the most traffic via search. It’s a much narrower analytics tool than the rest I’ve discussed.

Google Search Console, unlike other web analytics tools, gathers past data too. So if you set up GSC on your website now, it’ll probably pull the last few months of data even though you haven’t been running it. Still, it’s a useful tool to have set up from the get-go so it’s a must in all of my website builds. If you want to learn more about Google Search Console, I have a $49 course to get you up to speed.

Don’t forget about privacy.

Using website analytics tools, even the built-in ones from Squarespace or Wix, can have privacy implications. The world of privacy and website analytics is forever evolving so we’ll see how things change in the future, but I feel really good about using analytics tools as long as I or my client has a really good privacy policy on their website. My privacy policy recommendation is Termageddon, a paid privacy policy provider that keeps you legally covered as laws change across the country.

If you have questions about website analytics, I’m happy to chat and recommend one for your website/business!


About the author

Jessica Kennedy

Jessica builds websites and optimizes sites for SEO for small business owners who'd rather be outside. Learn more about Jessica.

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