11 differences between Matomo and Google Analytics

The goal of this piece of content is to clearly explain what are the differences between Matomo and Google Analytics. Note though, that even if we are mentioning some differences in terms of features this content is mostly based on the fundamentals. We tried to be as exhaustive as possible.

  1. History
  2. Free software vs proprietary solution
  3. Responsibility
  4. Assets
  5. Cost
  6. Privacy
  7. Customization
  8. Features
  9. Data collection limits
  10. Expertise
  11. Market shares

1. History

Matomo (formerly named phpmyvisites) has been created in 2006 because its creator (Matthieu AUBRY) couldn’t find any alternative to Google Analytics (created in 2005) as a Free software.
As you can imagine Google Analytics has been then used as an inspiration in order to build Matomo. A bit like you will find similarities between Microsoft Office and Libre Office.
So to say Matomo is probably the best software you can find in order to help people migrate from Google Analytics to another analytics platform. The vocabulary used is closely the same so as the UI.

2. A Free software, the fundamental difference

When you sign up for Google Analytics, you are tied to their conditions of use.  You can find them here:: https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/analytics/terms/us/.
Interesting points in Google’s Terms are :

  • “10 million Hits per month” limit.
  • “outstanding balance becomes immediately due [...] including attorneys' fees […] may be charged to the credit card or other billing mechanism associated with Your AdWords account.”
  • “Google grants You a limited, revocable, non-exclusive, non-sublicensable licence. “
  • “You will not (and You will not allow any third party to) copy, modify, adapt, translate or otherwise create derivative works of the Software or the Documentation”
  • “Google and its wholly owned subsidiaries may retain and use, subject to the terms of its privacy policy [...], information collected in Your use of the Service”
  • “You will indemnify, hold harmless and defend Google and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, at Your expense, from any and all third-party claims, actions, proceedings, and suits brought against Google or any of its officers, directors, employees, agents or affiliates, and all related liabilities, damages, settlements, penalties, fines, costs or expenses”



So to say, unless you pay a lot of money you won’t get access to all your data (data sampling), you are taking a lot of responsibility by accepting those conditions of use, you have no possibility to edit the software, your data will be used and Google Analytics is a copyrighted solution, so no possibility to make business out of it.
With Matomo, this is the opposite, it is a Free software released under the GPLv3 license so you are free to :

  • Commercial use : so to say, make money out of it.
  • Modification : so to say create your own version of Matomo, adding features.
  • Distribution : share Matomo with others.
  • Patent use : reuse all of it.
  • Private use : even close the source code.

Let’s now see a little bit more into details how those differences look like in Matomo compared to Google Analytics.

3. Transfer of responsibility

With Matomo, you are responsible for everything (security of your infrastructure, access to others, location of your data, the data you are collecting…). With Google Analytics it is different, you cannot be 100 % sure about the data which are collected, the security of the infrastructure mostly rely on Google, data seems to be located in the United States…
The important thing to understand here is that with Matomo, you are internalizing your infrastructure.

4. Matomo is a digital asset

Your website is probably running on a popular Open Source technology such as Drupal or WordPress. Both are Free software, so you own your website and as a result, there is no question that this asset belongs to your organization. If you are using Google Analytics, you do not own it, the technology belong to Google. Even if you would like to export the data that Google Analytics collected, you will be surprise that you cannot export all of it, so you cannot do much with the data you exported.
Matomo on the opposite is a software you own, once you download it. As a result, this is part of your company exactly like your Drupal or WordPress website.

5. Cost

Every file hosted on a server has a cost, no exception for Matomo, no exception for Google Analytics. With Google Analytics, there is no direct fee you can directly observe on your bank account as the GA business model is somewhere else, but for sure there is a cost. With Matomo Analytics, the cost is directly the one of your server. The calculation of this cost is based, most of the time, on the traffic you are receiving. The more data you collect, the more space and the stronger your server has to be. It is clearly like an e-commerce website, the more customers you have, the more time your system administrators will have to work. 150,000 $ per year.

6. Privacy

This part is really important and probably the one that most people do not really understand. When a visitor comes and visit your website, it expects to only visit your website. That’s not the case when they use Google Analytics. They are visiting the website + visiting a website owned by Google too. That’s why, when it deals with privacy, people should know that by visiting a given website they are also visiting another and they need to give their explicit consent for that.
This means that Google can profile individuals and their behaviour based on their actions on web sites that are not owned by Google.
The second point dealing with privacy is that Google Analytics data is stored on many different locations outside of the European Union and you will never be able to answer the question: Who might have had access to you data?

7. Customization

With Google Analytics, it is clear, you cannot customize anything, even if a feature has no sense, you cannot expect anything here. Just to give you one example. Google Analytics considers that a goal can be achieved only once per visit, even if it makes sense in most cases, in some scenarios it doesn’t. With Matomo, this possibility is offered because you got those interactions between the community and the developers behind Matomo.
In fact all the features suggest and improvements are all visible publicly on Github : https://github.com/matomo-org/matomo/issues
Matomo relies on PHP/MySQL/JavaScript technologies, so as far as you know those programming langages, you can start build your own features and add them to Matomo. This is really great because you don’t have to rely on the Matomo community software, you can also have your own version of Matomo. This is typically the case with the translation of Matomo, if you don’t want to rely on the translation offered by the community, you can create and upload your own tables.

8. Features

The way Matomo and Google Analytics works to collect the data is slightly the same. So in terms of data collection you will have the same data. However the differences lies into : how much R&D each solution invested to develop a specific data visualization. In this area Google Analytics is ahead of Matomo. Google also integrates greatly with services like Google Ads, Google Search Console and Google Data Studio. The number of plug and play 3rd party integrations available for Google Analytics is higher than for Matomo.
The big thing to understand is that sooner or later both solutions will probably provide the same base experience in terms of features.  Go here for a detailed comparison : https://matomo.org/matomo-vs-google-analytics-comparison/

9. Data collection limits

Either you are using Matomo or Google Analytics, the limit is the price you are ready to pay. With Google Analytics it is straightforward, no sampling until you cross the 10 million hits limit, when you cross it you need to pay the high price. With Matomo it is simple, the answer is, as far as your server and database can handle it.

10. Expertise

Do you know why developers and system administrators are not that excited about Google Analytics? The answer is that they do not have a control over the technology. With Matomo they can easily capitalize on what they have learned so far. They can easily see the big picture and see how this information system will interact with the other existing one. With Matomo your team is internalizing their asset so as their knowledge. The biggest effort has to come from your communication/marketing team. They need now to train themselves on a software on which they do not have their habit on.
To have a clearer idea of the two world which separate Matomo from Google Analytics, have a look at the forums and you will see that the concerns between the two solutions are totally different :

  • Matomo forums will mostly be about technical issues.
  • Google Analytics questions will mostly be about the measurement.

11. Market shares

Google Analytics is credited of 85 % of market shares compared to 1,7 % for Matomo, source : W3tech. One of the big consequences to that is that there is less documentation about Matomo Analytics compared to Google Analytics. Another thing to note is that Matomo is one of the first solution webmasters are considering when a budget is defined.


Conclusion

Let’s conclude. People are often asking the differences between Matomo and Google Analytics in order to make a final choice between the two solutions. But in fact, and as you understood it by reading this page, you are not looking at the same value proposal. Whatever situation you are facing in all cases, you need to have a Matomo as it belong to you, this is an asset. The only thing you may lose by installing Matomo is if you are not analyzing its data which is more like an analytics culture to develop nothing else. So the final question is really more like « Do you really need to have Google Analytics on your website ? »

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