As I’ve said before in my previous blog posts, tracking visitors is a must for anyone looking to take their website and online business seriously.
For years the go to tool has been Google Analytics, but lately things have been going a bit wrong for them.
You may have noticed a load of traffic spikes every few weeks from some really random sources. Many of the sources referring to “sharing buttons”.
Unfortunately this is called referrer spam and it has slowly been skewing your data for the last few months, yet Google don’t seem to be doing too much about it.
This is totally an attack on Google Analytics accounts, as these spam visits directly target your analytics ID, normally “UA-#######”, within your analytics code. This is an ID unique to you, but there’s not much difference between all the different analytics user accounts.
All this bot has to do, is change the number and register a visit directly into Analytics itself, without ever even having to reach your server, so no amount of blocking via .htaccess is going to help you here.
I have used Piwik before on another website, but it wasn’t something I investigated too much after installing as Google Analytics was still functioning perfectly for my needs at the time.
Things have changed and I have found myself revisiting Piwik. I have also found myself pleasantly surprised.
After setting up Piwik on our servers, as the version we use is self-hosted*, I started tracking data and after a few days of checking there’s still no spammy visits ruining my stats. JACKPOT
Not only this, but there are some really nice little features within Piwik that for someone like me are extremely handy.
My favourite little tweak so far has to be the display of your ranking within the search results for any visits that come through from Google.
With Google withholding your keyword data, this little snippet can help you reverse engineer and dig a little deeper into what keywords are bringing you traffic.
It tracks downloads without any click tracking needed. Google needs you to add in snippets of click tracking codes or goals, to at least capture any interactions with downloads, Piwik doesn’t. It just does it for you.
Now that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be goal tracking. Goal tracking will keep track of all these downloads instead of you having to manually go back through all visits to count how many downloads it has received.
So far I’m still getting to grips with Piwik, but it’s definitely looking promising. I won’t be removing my Google analytics tracking on these sites for a while though.
Perhaps in a month I will do a comparison of both tracking systems, to see just how skewed the data is and the differences between the two.
Stay tuned for more updates.
*Piwik also offer a paid hosted version of their software for those who aren’t too comfortable with setting up the self-hosted version.
About Bob Gentle
I'm the MD at NEC. I work with clients on strategy and digital marketing and lead research and development in this quickly evolving area.