On July 2023, Google will be sunsetting Universal Analytics (UA), the previous generation of Google Analytics, in favor of Google Analytics 4 (GA4). UA will no longer process new hits from July onward, and — to the dismay of many — historic UA data won’t roll over into GA4.
However, GA4 didn’t kill Google Analytics—it just made it different. So before you scramble around like many marketers are doing, read on.
You don’t need to panic, you’ll get better data, and (most importantly) you have Google Analytics alternatives to maintain your historic data.
Google Analytics 3 vs. Google Analytics 4
Google Analytics 3 (GA3), a.k.a. Universal Tracking, relies on third-party cookies to track user behavior based on pageviews and sessions.GA4, on the other hand, measures data based on events — almost all the metrics you track in GA3 becomes an “event” in GA4.
In fact, Google explained that GA 4 will still track most metrics that GA 3 did, but the data will be collected and presented in a different way.
This change allows Google to move away from third-party cookies and focus on website data and first-party data instead. It also means you get better insights into what the user journey looks on a whole.
Should I install Google Analytics 4 today?
The short answer is: Yes.
GA3 stops working on July 1, 2023, and your data will follow six months later. Since you can’t port your data from GA3 to GA4, you should install GA 4 now and come back to this article later if you want to get a year-over-year report.
The longer answer is that we recommend installing GA3 and GA4 side by side, and using a Google Analytics alternative on top of that.
Having data tracked in more than one place will give you more historic data, and although attribution models are never exactly the same (so you won’t get the exact same numbers from say, Heap and Google Analytics), they are still valuable for viewing trends.
Using GA3 and GA4 simultaneously will give you time to get used to the new system and draw up new metrics (if needed) while still collecting the data that you need to prove the value of your content and marketing efforts.
You can check if you are on GA4 or GA3 by looking at your property string. If you see “UA,” it’s Universal Analytics (GA3).
If you need some resources, Google’s ads product liaison Ginny Marvin shared some resources on Twitter.
3/3 Yes, Google Analytics 4 can take some getting used to. Here are resources to get up to speed:
How to migrate https://t.co/qA0sEdzpJT
How to set up & use https://t.co/YiRiGvzBGz
Explore the demo account https://t.co/Udsym0ngiP
— AdsLiaison (@adsliaison) March 16, 2022
Tip: While you’re at it, don’t forget to set up and connect BigQuery to GA4 as well. BigQuery will only start collecting data once you connect it, and you want as much historic data as possible to monitor trends.
9 Google Analytics alternatives
So there’s no need to abandon ship when it comes to Google Analytics. However, if you have been thinking of making a switch anyway, and this was the push you needed, below are 9 Google Analytics alternatives you can test out.
Tip: Even if you don’t plan to switch away from Google Analytics, I suggest setting up a secondary data analytics tool to start tracking your metrics.
Heap is a data tool that labels itself as the better alternative to Google Analytics—and their claim is not entirely unfounded. Their Autocapture feature automatically tracks events on your website (e.g., add to cart, check out, etc.) so that you can save engineering hours. In comparison, GA requires manual tagging per event to collect data.
Heap is the tool I personally use for my own website as well as clients’ projects to summarize acquisition channels and conversion rates. Their event visualizer allows you to show the tool exactly what behavior you want to track on your website by mimicking it to create a new definition.
Heap also supports customizable reports, and searchable dashboards that allow you to sift through your historical data quickly and easily. And when you find what you’re looking for, you can share those data points with your team or colleagues.
The tool also lets you segment your users so that you can track user behavior based on cohorts and then customize the user experience.
Heap pricing page: Heap is free up to 10K sessions/month, their paid plans start at $3,600 annually
Dreamdata extracts, loads, transforms, models, and activates your data so that you get a single source of truth for all of your marketing and website data. Their dashboard is user friendly and customizable so that you can easily find out which of your projects, pages, and platforms are performing well and drawing in customers.
Dreamdata pricing page: Dreamdata pricing is free up to 5K visitors/month, paid plans start at $749/month for annual plans.
Hubspot marketing analytics doesn’t replace Google Analytics. Rather, it pulls data to supplement the data you capture with Google Analytics so that you can get insights into the full user journey.
While GA3 and Hubspot Marketing Analytics are very similar, Hubspot’s data tool doesn’t track as much from a marketing perspective. For example, it doesn’t track micro-conversions (e.g., video plays) or what device your visitors clicked from.
What it does have is an easy tracking system and a simple user interface that all of your team members will be able to use. HubSpot also shines as a customer relationship management system (CRM), and can help you see exactly which leads came from which sources.
HubSpot Marketing Hub pricing page: HubSpot Marketing Hub starts at $50/month
Kissmetrics is a conversion-focused data tool that helps you determine where your revenue is coming from.
It tracks the entire user journey and attributes actions to users. That means that Kissmetrics can tell you what a user clicked, how they accessed your site (mobile, desktop, or both), and what other actions they took on your website.
Kissmetrics plans start at $299/month when paid annually. They have different pages for SaaS and eCommerce.
Matomo is the only open source data tool on this list. And like Clicky, it was built for a privacy-first world.
Matomo Analytics protects your users’ and website visitors’ privacy by not sharing data with third-party websites. It also lets you store data within your own servers instead of in the cloud like most tools do. Because the tool is open source, you can import data from other tools into the Matomo Analytics system and create custom plugins specifically for your company.
The only downside to Matomo Analytics is that you need to ask your engineering team to help you out as the system isn’t as user-friendly as the other tools on this list. But if you can set everything up, it’s a powerful tool that doesn’t limit the amount of data you can collect and process.
Matomo pricing page: Matomo is free when you host on your own servers, and starts at $23/month when you use their cloud servers.
Mixpanel, similar to GA 4, measures behavior using an event-based tracking model.
Mixpanel doesn’t only track the behavior of website visitors. It also tracks the behavior of existing users so that you can identify your loyal followers, find upsell opportunities, and pre-empt churn, making it the perfect tool for SaaS companies with online products.
With Mixpanel, you can also run A/B test on your website based on user segments so that you can optimize your pages based on what your target audience is more receptive to.
Mixpanel pricing page: Mixpanel is free for up to 100K tracked users/month, with paid pricing starting at $25/month
Amplitude also touts itself as the better alternative to Google Analytics because it allows you to choose what metrics to track, build different dashboards for different projects, and it was built specifically for product teams.
Unlike GA 3, but similar to GA 4, Amplitude lets you sit in the passenger seat as your website visitor or customers drive through your website. It also lets you run experiments and validate conclusions through tracking:
In addition to that, it also gather specific data on each user that visits your tool or site:
While Google Analytics was originally built to track content and landing page results, Amplitude was built to track your product as a whole. And you’ll see that in the data they present and the dashboards you can build.
Amplitude pricing page: Amplitude is free for up to 10 million actions/month, paid plans don’t have published pricing
Chartbeat, similar to Google Analytics, was built for content websites and publishers. While it works for SaaS products, you can skip this one if you’re more interested in tracking conversions.
Chartbeat tracks your content pages and tells you which of your stories your readers enjoy and can relate to the most. They differentiate themselves with their real-time tracking dashboard that shows you how many users are currently on your site and what pages they are interacting with. The real-time dashboard also includes historical data so that you know if you’re receiving more or less traffic than usual.
They also have other dashboards like the daily content perspective, weekly content perspective, and historical data information.
Chartbeat pricing page: Chartbeat does not publish pricing publicly
While Clicky’s data dashboard isn’t as pretty as some of the other alternatives on this list, it has all the data you’ll ever need about your website visitors, including their location, pages visited, and more. Similar to GA 3, it presents real-time data and compares it with historical data so that you know if your site is doing better or worse than it usually is.
Clicky pricing page: Clicky is free up to 3K daily page views and their paid plans start at $9.99
Wrapping up — Don’t be afraid of GA4, prepare with these Google Analytics alternatives
The introduction of GA4 not only forces marketers to rethink important metrics, but also prepares us to focus more on gathering first-party data instead of relying on third-party cookies. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
With most major companies (like Apple and Google) limiting the power of cookies, focusing on data from your existing customers and website will help you prepare for a cookie-less future.
The sooner you launch GA4, the sooner you can begin collecting data. And to cover all of your bases, you can use any of the Google Analytics alternatives above to serve as your secondary (or new primary) data source. Tracking data with more than one tool helps spread your reliance across different data sources, so you can rest assured you’ll have historic data for comparisons and monitoring.