Just about every organization has a website to promote their products, services, and capabilities. Like any other digital interaction, visits to a website generate data which can be analyzed to better understand how visitors are brought to the site and what they do while there. Organizations often try to capture and operationalize this data to make it useful for business improvements using website analytics.
Website analytics includes utilizing website visitation data to learn the effectiveness of campaigns and convert visitors into engaged customers. This data can be especially useful when combined with other data sources to create a unified view of customer data across the organization and across channels.
In addition to the analytical options available in various website analytics platforms, ensuring the tools and technology are providing the appropriate level of compliance with data security regulations is critical. A new concern for companies subject to GDPR relates to the recent strike down of the EU-US Privacy Shield framework due to lack of safeguards it provides for data transferred from the EU to the U.S. Now, the best bet for U.S. based companies collecting data from EU data subjects is to maintain data residency within the EU. where it cannot be subject to U.S. surveillance laws.
Though there may be some confusion around choosing and deploying the right software to analyze website traffic, the most common options include Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, and Piwik PRO, and we provide a comparison of the three, below.
Google Analytics: Free basic website analytics solution
Google Analytics is used by over half of all websites that collect analytics data, and its popularity comes as no surprise as it is developed by one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The basic version is free and is easy to set up and use – simply sign up for an account or connect an existing Google account to the website’s URL to receive a tracking code. This code gives you access to a basic suite of Google-gathered analytics of your site such as page visits, user geographical locations, and the sites users were directed from for up to 10 million hits per month.
Google Analytics reports are updated with up to a 24 to 48 hour lag, and it reports on a sampling of visitation data rather than full visitation data over 500K sessions. Raw data is not available in the free version. The paid version, Google Analytics 360, allows raw data access but is still subject to the same security and privacy concerns, and comes with a six-figure price tag.
Google Analytics is free because Google uses the gathered information to improve targeting and personalization of its ads. Because the data collected is used by Google for its own purposes, this can be in conflict with some organizations’ data security requirements. Google Analytics is, however, audited regularly against international standards, including ISO standards and SSAE18/ISAE 3402.
To comply with the privacy requirements of CCPA, GDPR, and other security regulations, Google explicitly prohibits customers from sending Personally Identifiable Information to Google Analytics, and for companies that require web metrics on a user level this isn’t possible. Building opt-in or opt-out mechanisms could solve the problem, but in Google Analytics this requires technical expertise and regular auditing. Google Analytics can be configured to adhere to such regulations if their restricted data processing parameter is enabled to enforce anonymization of data. But, Google Analytics’ data storage is currently distributed across various global locations (including the U.S.), and Google had previously relied on the Privacy Shield framework to maintain its compliance with GDPR, which is no longer deemed adequate protection by the EU.
Google Analytics may be a good option for businesses that are:
- Looking for a free and easy solution without the need for real-time or exact reporting
- Processing only anonymized data or do not need to comply with security regulations such as HIPAA, CCPA, or GDPR
- Satisfied without access to advanced reporting capabilities such as heatmaps or access to raw data
Adobe Analytics: Part of an enterprise marketing solution
Adobe Analytics offers multiple ways to capture data from virtually any source (i.e. web, email, mobile devices, client-server), and works with the full Adobe ecosystem to provide an enterprise-wide marketing and analytics platform. Implementation is far more advanced than Google Analytics and is best installed by experts, but Adobe offers strong customer support.
The basic “Select” version comes with an analytic workspace to build customized reports with a drag-and-drop interface, rule-based attribution, and the ability to integrate up to 3 offline data sources. The “Prime” and “Ultimate” versions are more feature-rich, and offer add-ons such as segmentation capabilities, data anomaly detection, extended storage, and the ability to create more data source connections. Pricing generally runs over $100K.
Within their suite of products, Adobe offers integration with other products for a 360-degree view of visitors and campaign responses. It integrates with Adobe Audience Manager and Adobe Advertising Cloud to build up a robust profiling of website visitors to better understand behavioral patterns, and is even more powerful when combined with Adobe Target for A/B testing as well as Adobe Campaign to create, execute, and accurately measure marketing campaigns across platforms.
Adobe’s European data collection is controlled by its Irish affiliate Adobe Systems Software Ireland Limited (Adobe Ireland), keeping it in compliance with GDPR even with the strike down of Privacy Shield. For U.S. data collection, Adobe’s policies are subject to the laws of California and are CCPA compliant. Additionally, their Common Controls Framework (CCF) ensures a set of security activities and compliance controls over Adobe’s products, infrastructure, and applications which quickly adapts to new and changing standards and regulations as they emerge.
Adobe Analytics may be a good fit for those looking for:
- An enterprise solution that integrates with other Adobe products, regardless of price
- Easy-to-build custom reports instead of relying on prebuilt standard reports
- The ability to join offline data to the website data and integrate analytics such as data anomaly detection and segmentation
Piwik PRO: Cost effective, HIPAA-compliant, and flexible hosting options
Piwik PRO is the most cost-effective of these three platforms, in that it is more feature-rich than Google Analytics at a fraction of the cost of Adobe Analytics. Installation is simple enough to be performed without involving an IT department, and is specifically designed to easily transition from Google Analytics to Piwik PRO tags. It provides flexible dashboards, filterable standard reports, and the easy creation of custom reports. Raw or processed data can be exported from Piwik PRO unlike Google Analytics, giving users maximum flexibility for analysis and CRM efficiency.
Piwik PRO can be hosted on-premises within an organization’s own environment, or within AWS or Azure via an instance setup by Piwik PRO. Of the aforementioned platforms, Piwik PRO is the only one that can be hosted on-premises. Piwik PRO provides user organizations innovative and unique opt-in and anonymization tools to maintain compliance with security regulations such as CCPA, GDPR, and HIPAA. In fact, it is the only analytics suite ensuring full compliance with HIPAA. Additionally, the data is encrypted, and 100% ownership of the data remains with the client organization. It maintains compliance with GDPR because data residency is customizable – if not on-premises in the E.U., it can be configured with an E.U. instance in AWS or Azure.
Piwik PRO is different from its competitors in that its method of tracking allows visitors to remain anonymous without creating holes in data reporting; 100% of traffic is tracked without reliance on third-party cookies, while ensuring visitation cannot be related back to an individual without their consent. It does this in part through its Consent Manager, where visitors consent and can opt-in to the level of data that can be tracked.
Where personally identifying information is permitted by visitors, Piwik PRO enables the tracking of activity across devices/platforms and the importing from other databases for a unified view of the customer within the Piwik PRO reporting environment.
Piwik PRO is good choice for companies that:
- Are looking for an easy to install self-hosted web analytics platform
- Need their system to be compliant with security regulations, including HIPAA
- Want a feature-rich solution without the price tag of an enterprise solution
Fulcrum Analytics and Website Analytics
Fulcrum Analytics helps organizations evaluate, plan for, and implement website analytics in the context of an overall data strategy. While Fulcrum Analytics is software-agnostic, we have chosen to become an Agency Partner of Piwik PRO which enables us to perform installations of the highly secure and flexible Piwik PRO software with maximum support and insight at the lowest cost to clients.
Through the implementation of the right website analytics platform, businesses can reduce the labor associated with analysis, generate revenue through increasing conversion, optimize advertising and marketing campaigns, streamline the user experience, and manage security risks. To learn more about how Fulcrum can set your business up for long-term success, contact us today.