In a thread inside The Admin Bar Community recently, I (somewhat embarrassingly) admitted that the new Google Analytics dashboard confuses the hell out of me.
I've struggled with it ever since it was released, but thought it must just be me.
Come to find out — I'm not alone.
I'm sure that with time I'll begin to get used to it... But what about my clients?
These aren't data nerds of computer scientists... They're plumbers, restaurateurs, roofers, and small business owners. If I have trouble understanding the data, how are they ever going to wrap their head around it.
Through years of developing websites for clients, I've come to realize something. The more your client gets invested in their online presence, the more likely they are to continue using my services and the more open they will be to expanding into other services like marketing and SEO.
I believe website analytics are an easy way to get clients invested. It's hard to sell someone on "getting more traffic" when they aren't even really sure what their traffic is currently.
But there's just no way I can send them into the world of Google Analytics and think they are going to be able to extract anything meaningful... Which led me on a quest to find a solution that could.
Microanalytics is a lightweight, privacy-focused alternative to Google Analytics. They do not track IP addresses, are fully compliant with GDPR, PECR, and CCPA, and are completely powered by renewable energy... But most importantly, they offer a clean interface that gives you the most important web analytics data in a format anyone can understand.
Several of these types of platforms have popped up over the past couple of years, but what caught my attention with Microanalytics was their free plan.
It's not a limited trial, or a plan with stripped out features... It's their entire system, for free, with a 10K per month pageview limit.
If your website gets more than 10,000 pageviews per month they have pricing that starts out at $9/mo and moves the limit to 100,000 pageviews.
Where I see this fitting into my agency is being a introduction to analytics for small websites to help clients get invested in their online presence and start to understand how their website is performing.
Though you can install unlimited websites on your Microanalytics account, I've been giving each client their own account. The 10K pageview limit is across all websites in your account, so keeping every website on it's own account helps keep your numbers lower.
Once you have a website installed (which just requires a quick snippet of code on your website) you have access to the most important analytics data on your website. You're able to filter this data by predefined date ranges (like last 7 days, last 30 days, etc.) or by picking your own date range.
The Realtime tab shows you how many people are currently on your website, their location, duration, and the browser being used.
The Overview tab, as you would imagine, gives you an overview of all the metrics of your website, including:
The behavior dropdown gives you both the 'Pages' (pictured above), and 'Landing Pages' reports that show you how many pageviews each individual page is getting and what percentage of visits that makes up.
Under the acquisitions tab, you can find how people are finding your website through top referrers (pictured above), search engines, social networks, and campaigns (which works perfectly with UTM parameters).
The Geographic tab lets you view where your visits are coming from allowing you to drill down to Continents, Countries (pictured above), Cities, and Languages.
The Technology tab lets you drill down to Operating Systems, Browsers (pictured above), Screen Resolutions, and Devices (desktop, tablet, mobile).
One of the reasons I find Microanalytics so well suited for my clients is that you do not have to login to the system in order to view the analytics.
When you install a new website, you're giving the choice between private, public, or password protected.
By choosing public, you are giving a simple link (microanalytics.io/[your url]) and you're able to access the entire dashboard without needing to login to your account. For me, this is one of the biggest advantages of Microanalytics as it lowers the barrier of entry for my clients. They can bookmark this page, visit it anytime, and easily access the data to keep up to date.
Of course you can choose the password protected option and give your dashboard some protection by requiring people to enter a password to access the analytics.
Here's a sample: https://microanalytics.io/kylevandeusen.com use the password: theadminbar
I'm fully aware that the whole point of a system like this is to simplify things and adding more and more data only complicates the system... but there's one feature that I think is really missing...
Date range comparisons.
While accessing your analytics is great, having something to compare those numbers to (like this month v. last month, or this month v this time last year) is vital. Without something to compare your data to, it's hard to quickly understand if things are doing better or worse.
At this time there is no way to compare two date ranges, which is something I'm struggling with. This, for me, is on the edge of being a dealbreaker.
It's important to mention first, that I'm not completely abandoning Google Analytics. For websites with more than 10K /mo pageviews or that need to drilldown to more specific information, I'll still use Google Analytics. Where I see this being useful is for small, local businesses who just need the basics (and for me, that makes up a large percentage of my clients).
To keep this simple for my clients, I'm setting up their account for them. Keep in mind you do have to confirm your email address, so you'll need to have access to your client's email, have them confirm it for you, or (what I do) use a temporary email address to setup the account.
Setting up the account only takes a minute, and once you confirm your email address you can start setting up your first property.
Once my email has been confirmed, click the "New Website" button to add the website to your account.
Enter the URL, select your privacy setting (I'm using Public or Password for most of my clients) choose whether you'd like to receive email notifications/reports, and copy the small snippet of code that you need to install on your website.
With the snippet of code copied to your clipboard, login to your website and paste the script into the <head> of your website. If you haven't done this before, the simplest way is by using the Insert Headers and Footers plugin (free).
Now that your tracking code is installed, open the front end of your website in one tab or window, and return to your Microanalytics dashboard in another. To test and make sure it's working, navigate to the "realtime" tab and you should see at least one visitor (yourself) on the website in realtime.
If everything is working correctly, you can now copy the analytics dashboard URL. It's not obvious at first, but the URL to your dashboard is "https://microanalytics.io/[your domain name]". For example, the URL for kylevandeusen.com is "https://microanalytics.io/kylevandeusen.com", and you should see the URL in your browser when you are viewing your analytics. To be sure you got it correct before you share with your client, open an incognito window and paste the URL in and you should see your analytics or be prompted to enter a password (depending on your privacy setting).
If you created the accounting using a temporary email address, you can change the account email address by going to "Settings" (located in the bottom left corner of the screen), then "Account". On this screen you can transfer the account from your temporary email address over to your client's email address now that everything is setup and working properly.
I don't think Microanalytics is the right solution for every website... Those that need to drilldown to very specific data, or websites that get more than 10K pageviews per month might still be better off using Google Analytics.
However, for small, local businesses I think Microanalytics is a fantastic solution — and it's what I'll be offering to my clients.
Giving your clients access to analytics, and making it accessible and easy to understand is a great way to get them invested in the success of their website. Once they start to understand more about how web traffic works, the more open they are going to be to signing up for other services you offer to improve their metrics.
I did test out some of the other Google Analytics alternatives, but all the options I found didn't have a free tier, or offered only a free trial. Since the benchmark for analytics (Google) is free, it's a hard sell to start paying for these services (even if the usability is much better).
For simplicity, ease of use, and price — I think Microanalytics is tough to beat.