A Practical Guide to Ethical Website Analytics – Top Solutions Reviewed

Discover how your small business can grow using ethical website analytics. Plus, the 11 best ethical website analytics providers.

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As technology evolves, so does the power of digital surveillance. One area in which this has become particularly prominent is web analytics. A website that isn’t using ethical website analytics will collect data on where you are, how you use the site, and how often. If the website uses Google Analytics, for example, that data will then be sold to other businesses.

Why All the Fuss About Ethical Website Analytics?

Consumers aren’t happy. 75% of internet users in the US are more concerned with their online privacy than they’ve ever been. And government legislation is finally catching up. In January 2022, the Austrian Data Protection Authority decided that Google Analytics violates the GDPR. In February, the French DPA did the same. It’s expected other EU member states will follow.

As a business owner, you need to find the balance between gathering data to support your business, complying with the law, aligning with your moral values, and respecting your customers’ privacy.

The good news is switching to an ethical web analytics provider is a golden opportunity to stand out from your competitors, earn your customers’ trust and streamline your business operations.

Find out everything you need to know to make the switch here.

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Why Should You Switch to Ethical Web Analytics?

If you use Google Analytics and you’re wondering if changing is right for you, here are some reasons to switch to ethical website analytics:

Inaccurate Data

For your business to succeed, you need to make informed decisions based on accurate data. Google Analytics is not the best tool for this.

Website visitors who use Firefox, ad-blockers, or don’t consent to be tracked will not show up in your data, missing between 15 and 25% of users. This data gap is only going to increase as people become more aware of tracking and take steps to avoid it.

Compliance

To Claudia Kozeny-Pelling, digital marketer and owner of Translate Digital Marketing, compliance was a huge factor in her decision to switch. She says, “I installed a GDPR-compliant cookie banner on my website and realized that Google Analytics cookies and Facebook marketing cookies were non-compliant, which worried me. I didn't want to risk being fined.”

If your website is correctly set up to be GDPR compliant, it will not track users until they’ve consented. Few websites are doing this correctly, putting them at risk of fines. To check your website is compliant, use a scanner such as Fathom’s Illegal Analytics Scanner or Blacklight.

Ethics

But there’s an even bigger reason to switch to ethical web analytics: “We shouldn’t stop tracking users because it’s inaccurate. We should stop tracking users because it’s wrong,” says Jeremy Keith, web developer and author at Adactio.

As Paul Jarvis, co-founder of Fathom, the original ethical web analytics platform explains: “Google Analytics offers ‘free’ analytics because they make billions of dollars from our collective data. Website owners who use Google Analytics aren’t even really the true customers. The true customers are the folks who buy ads from Google.

“In contrast, Fathom Analytics, sells software. We charge a fair price to our customers and listen to their needs. There’s no reason for us to sell data and offer our product for free because we are fully sustainable selling software. It feels like a more honest business model because it’s far easier to see how the money and revenue flows.”

There’s a growing movement of small businesses looking to move away from big tech and their unethical practices. Communities like Below Radar are a great place to start for support and guidance.

Jessica Kats, ecommerce and retail expert at Soxy, explains her stance: “As an ecommerce business, we run significant data analysis. As a result, ethical issues are prone to happen. Therefore, to make decisions in line with our company’s ethical and moral code, we decided to switch.” 

Dave Smyth, web developer at scruples.studio, is dedicated to building privacy-focused websites for his clients. “We had ethical concerns about Google and their use of data. Privacy-focused analytics made it easy to switch to something that aligned better with our – and our clients’ – values.”

Customer Opinion

As a business, nothing matters more than customer opinion. And customers are making it clear they don’t like being watched.

Since Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, app tracking has only had a 13% opt-in rate globally. This drops to 5% in the US. Meanwhile, in France and Germany, 75% of people don’t want ads targeted at them based on behavioral data.

“Ethical analytics, like Fathom, take customers into account by fully protecting their privacy. We don’t follow them around the web and use their habits or browsing history against them. We go to great lengths to anonymize any personal data,” says Paul from Fathom.

H2: What should you consider before switching to ethical web analytics?

You’re convinced, it’s time to make the switch to an ethical website analytics provider. Asking yourself these essential questions before you get started will help you guarantee a smooth and efficient migration and a result that’s fit for purpose.

How Much Data Do You Need?

Are you overwhelmed by the data Google Analytics currently offers you? Which metrics do you actually use? Which are helpful to your business?

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What do You Value?

What matters most to you as a business? What matters to your customers? Are you most worried about privacy? Compliance?

Where Are You?

Your location will determine the providers you can choose from. European companies should choose a provider with an EU server to be GDPR compliant.

What’s Your Budget?

How much can you afford to spend? Unlike Google Analytics, most ethical web analytics providers don’t sell your data, so they need to cover the cost of running the platform. In most cases, that means a subscription model.

Prices range from $9/month to $79. There are a couple of free options which tend to demand a bit more tech savvy to get going.

How Many Site Visitors Do You Get Per Month?

Most services have a sliding scale of payment options based on how many visitors your site welcomes every month. The fewer visits you have the more affordable your plan, meaning it can scale with you as your business grows.

How Much Technical Support Do You Need?

There’s a range of options out there from plug and play to open-source options you customize yourself. Be realistic about how much time, skill, and enthusiasm you have to spare.

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Which is the best ethical web analytics provider?

You’re ready to choose your new ethical website analytics provider. Here are some of the most popular to help you decide.

1. Fathom

fathom - ethical website analytics

Fathom is considered the original ethical web analytics tool. The co-founders set out to achieve two main goals: privacy for visitors and ease of use for customers. That means an easy setup with no downtime and a foolproof dashboard or email report.

“Fathom has fewer features than Google Analytics,” says Paul, one of the co-founders. “This is intentional. We aren’t interested in creating bloated software that takes weeks to learn. We built Fathom so that folks can quickly find the data they need and go back to running their business.”

Fathom is 100% transparent about how it processes and stores data. “Our customers don’t need to worry about privacy law compliance. And they also don’t need those annoying (and ugly) cookie banners since we don’t collect personal data.”

The lightweight script (just 1.6 KB vs. 45.7 KB for Google Analytics) means faster website loading and a better user experience. Faster page loading also boosts search engine ranking.

Best of all, Fathom is a small independent business still run by the two founders. “We’re fully bootstrapped: meaning we didn’t take funding, nor do we have to answer to investors. We answer to our customers and put them first,” says Paul.

Price: From $14/month for up to 100,000 page views

Summary

The original ethical analytics tool

GDPR compliant

PECR and CCPA compliant

Simple dashboard

Email reports

No cookies

Lightweight script

Small indie business

7-day free trial

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2. Plausible

plausible - ethical website analytics

Plausible is another service that promises easy setup with no downtime. You’ll be joining lots of major companies drawn to the simple metrics and lightweight scripts. Check out this Twitter wall of praise to read what others have to say.

Plausible has German servers, making it truly GDPR, PECR, and CCPA compliant. Just like Fathom, you won’t find cookies or privacy-invading tools so you can ditch the cookies banner on your site.

Again, Plausible is an independent business run by a small team.

Price: From £19/month for 100,000 page views

Summary

GDPR compliant

PECR and CCPA compliant

Simple dashboard

No cookies

Lightweight script (17x lighter than GA)

Small indie business

30-day free trial

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3. Matomo

matomo - ethical website analytics

According to Matomo, 71% of customers would stop doing business with a company for giving sensitive data away. And with one million users in 190 countries, Matomo is a great option to protect your customers’ data. Claudia from Translate Digital Marketing says, “Matomo was the one I opted for—mainly because it's also used by the European Commission!”

Slightly more complex than Fathom and Plausible, Matomo gives you more options to customize your own solution and even create your own plugins and themes.

Thanks to server locations, it’s truly GDPR compliant. And any data you gather belongs entirely to you.

Price: From $39 for 100,000 visitors

Summary

1 million users in 190 countries

Used by the European Commission

GDPR compliant

Customizable

Free with your own server

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4. Clicky

clicky - best ethical website analytics

Clicky is used by more than one million websites around the world. It’s privacy-friendly, GDPR compliant, and cookie-free by default.

The website boasts that it’s been around since the first iPhone.

Price: Available on request, free community edition available

Summary

Used by more than 1 million websites

GDPR compliant

No cookies

Free version available

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5. Koko

koko analytics - best ethical website analytics

Koko is a WordPress plugin that respects visitor privacy. It’s GDPR compliant, doesn’t store personal information, and won’t send the data it collects to anyone else. There’s the option to turn off cookies and bin your cookie pop-up.

One standout feature of this plug and play option is that it will automatically delete historical data to reduce your e-footprint.

Price: Free

Summary

WordPress plugin

GDPR compliant

Free

No cookies option

Automatic data deletion

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6. Umami

unami - best ethical website analytics

Umami is a technical self-host, privacy-focused alternative to Google Analytics and a free open-source alternative to paid solutions.

You can pick out the metrics that matter to you, and know Umami is gathering all your data without being hampered by ad-blockers. Of course, any data you do gather belongs to you and will never be passed on.

Umami’s dashboard allows you to share data with your team via a unique URL. This is ideal if you work with freelance teams. The dashboard is also mobile-friendly for analytics on the go.

Price: Free

Summary

Self-hosted and open-sourced

GDPR compliant

Choose your own metrics

Lightweight script (2 KB)

Free

Share data via unique URL

Mobile-friendly dashboard

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7. Pirsch

pirsch - best ethical website analytics

Pirsch is an entry price analytics tool with public dashboards, ideal for sharing with teams. It’s privacy-friendly and cookie-free. As an open-source option, it’s lightweight and easy to integrate into your existing setup. You can customize metrics according to your business goals.

Price: From $12/month for 100,000 visitors

Summary

GDPR compliant

No cookies

Open-source

Easy integration

Customizable dashboard

Lightweight

Share data via unique URL

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8. Simple Analytics

simple analytics - best ethical website analytics

Simple Analytics describes itself as privacy first. That means no cookies, no personal data storage, and GDPR, CCPA, and PECR compliance.

The Europe-based company offers an easy to use dashboard or email of essential data. When it comes to pricing, Simple Analytics explains: “When the service is free, you are the product. We won’t ever sell your data. As a result, we need to charge.”

Price: From €19/month for 100,000 views

Summary

GDPR compliant

PECR and CCPA compliant

No cookies

European servers

Email updates

Easy to use dashboard

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9. Panelbear

Panelbar - best ethical website analytics

Panelbear offers a free plan for hobby projects or those just starting out. Its simple dashboard and live alerts for traffic spikes or performance degradation are clearly a hit with its 2500+ users.

PanelBear promises to speed up your website thanks to its lightweight script.

Price: From $29/month for 100,000 views

Summary

2500+ users

Simple dashboard

Live alerts

Lightweight script

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10. SEAL Metrics

seal metrics - best ethical website analytics

SEAL Metrics is designed for ecommerce and SaaS businesses. It tracks over 300 million page views per month and clients include Decathlon and Intersport. After a five-minute installation, it will track 100% of conversions and sources without cookies.

Your analytics will be GDPR, CCPA, and PECR compliant. The platform does not store personal data and the service is audited every six months.

Price: From $79/month – unlimited page views

Summary

Clients include Decathlon and Intersport

GDPR compliant

PECR and CCPA compliant

5-minute installation

Designed for ecommerce and SaaS

Audits every 6 months

7-day free trial

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11. Airbloc

airblock - best ethical website analytics

Airbloc is a slightly different model. It offers data alliance, for insights without invading customer privacy. That means you share data with a select community of businesses.

Jessica Kats from Soxy says, “We’re using Airbloc as this is the best data exchange platform that allows us to safely commercialize, distribute, share and obtain data. It contains all the ethical data collection principles which are in line with our company’s moral code. It is also highly recommended as it ensures privacy of data issuers and participants while complying with regulations.”

Price: Free

Summary

Data alliance community

Free service

No invasion of customer privacy

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How to Switch to Ethical Website Analytics: a Step by Step Guide

You’ve chosen your ethical web analytics provider and it’s time to make the switch. Here, fellow small businesses share their tips.

Claudia from Translate Digital Marketing says, “Switching was pretty easy. Matomo offers helpful user guides and FAQs. To be fully GDPR compliant, I needed to manually configure Matomo. However, that was also quite easy. Once I had set up everything, I deleted my Google Analytics account. I recommend Matomo to my clients.”

Dave from scruples studio agrees that switching needn’t be a headache. “We’ve generally found switching is fairly painless. It’s possible to run privacy-focused analytics alongside existing tools, like Google Analytics, which will give you a decent comparison of how the stats track.”

Of course, specifics will vary depending on the provider you use, but these are the steps you will take.

  1. Sign up with your new provider
  2. Paste their Javascript into the header or footer of your website’s code
  3. Run both in tandem to compare data for a week
  4. Quit the old service

Remember, depending on who your site is built with, you may need to switch off their tracking too. Use recommended analytics scanners to make sure you’re fully compliant.

The results

You’ve switched to an ethical web analytics provider, you’re getting to know your new dashboard. Here are some other amazing benefits.

Better data

Dave from scruples studio has no complaints when it comes to the data. “We get exactly the level of detail we need.” Simpler data means you use it more, gain more insights, and grow your business with more ease.

The data is also more accurate. As SEAL Metrics explains, around 35% of users who only accept cookies on the second page get classed as direct traffic, even though they might not be. That means if you’re seeing great results from a particular social post or ad, Google Analytics may miss it.

Privacy respected

One of the most important outcomes of switching to an ethical web analytics provider is keeping your customer data safe. As Dave from scruples studio says, “It lets us track conversions in a privacy-respecting manner.”

Jessica from Soxy agrees. “It has eliminated the risk of privacy violations which cost a lot of money. Most of all, it helped us gain consumer trust.”

Better UX

With no cookies and lightweight code, your site runs faster and delivers a smoother experience for your customer.

Dave explains, “Aside from the scripts being lighter – meaning faster page loads – one of the big UX improvements is removing a cookie banner.”

Faster page load speed is also good for SEO, helping you rank higher and reach more people.

And any Downsides?

Claudia at Translate Digital Marketing says, “The data I get on Matomo isn't as detailed as on Google Analytics, but it's fine for my purposes.”

Time to Switch to Ethical Website Analytics

Now you know why to switch to an ethical website analytics provider, how to do it and who to switch to. Dave at scruples studio suggests you “give it a try! Paying for analytics can seem steep when we’ve been given the data for ‘free’ for so long, but the trend is increasingly towards privacy-focused alternatives: both in law and in user preference. It’s definitely worth giving these a go to see if they meet your needs.”

Sally Fox

Sally is a freelance copywriter specialising in content, copy and brand voice for ethical and sustainable businesses. She’s written about the nomadic sea dwellers of Borneo, how to use emojis in emails and everything in between. Sally lives in between Spain and the UK, and always waves at the end of Zoom calls.

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