Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

Are you interested in a WordPress analytics solution that’s not named Google Analytics?

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

Matomo, formerly known as Piwik, just released a dedicated WordPress analytics plugin that provides an open-source alternative for website analytics.

Matomo aims to give you similar depth and functionality as Google Analytics, while also letting you retain 100% control and ownership over your data. That is, your data stays on your WordPress site’s server and no one else can view or sell your data.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, keep reading our hands-on Matomo Analytics for WordPress review to learn how this free plugin can help you set up data privacy-friendly web analytics.

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: The Feature List

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

Before I get to the features, let me give you a quick background on Matomo.

Originally known as Piwik, Matomo has been the most popular open-source alternative to Google Analytics since its launch all the way back in 2007.

Essentially, it’s open-source analytics software that you can install on your own web server.

We actually wrote a tutorial on how to use Piwik, and also included Piwik on our list of Google Analytics alternatives for WordPress.

In 2018, Piwik rebranded to Matomo. Now, in 2020, Matomo released its own dedicated WordPress analytics plugin – called Matomo Analytics for WordPress.

The advantage of the plugin is that, while you still retain 100% ownership over your data, you don’t have to manually install the Matomo software on your server like you would with the implementation that we wrote about in our Piwik tutorial.

Basically, you install the plugin and you’re ready to start collecting analytics – no technical setup required.

So how about the analytics? There’s really no beating around the bush – Matomo Analytics for WordPress mostly tries to give you all the same features from Google Analytics…just in a package where you maintain control over your data.

For example, you’ll still get dashboards for:

  • Visitors – learn more about who your visitors are, like their devices and locations.
  • Behavior – learn what visitors do on your site, like your most popular content.
  • Acquisition – learn where visitors come from, like search engines vs referral traffic.
  • Goals – set up your own goals to track user actions on your site.

These are, for the most part, the same high-level dashboards that you get with Google Analytics.

With the premium version, Matomo Analytics for WordPress also adds additional features, some of which are not available in Google Analytics.

You’ll get:

  • Heatmaps and session recordings
  • Form analytics
  • Media analytics
  • Funnels
  • SEO keyword performance
  • Custom reports
  • Cohorts
  • User flow
  • Multi-channel conversion attribution

However, in our Matomo Analytics for WordPress review, we’re focusing exclusively on the free version that’s available at WordPress.org (more on pricing later).

Hands-On With Matomo Analytics for WordPress

Now that you know what the plugin has to offer, let’s go hands-on and I’ll show you how it works.

Once you install and activate the free plugin from WordPress.org, you’ll get a new Matomo Analytics tab in your WordPress dashboard.

By default, tracking is disabled. To enable it, all you need to do is go to the Get Started tab and click the Enable tracking now button:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

Configure Tracking Code

Once you enable tracking, you can go to Matomo Analytics → Settings to configure how the tracking code functions.

For example, you can set up download tracking for certain file types, move the code snippet around, etc.

One unique, WordPress-specific feature here is the ability to add annotations when you make a certain change in WordPress. An annotation basically marks a specific action in time so that you can see how it affects your analytics.

For example, you can automatically add annotations whenever you publish a new blog post or revise a blog post.

One use case? You could automatically see whether updating old content makes a meaningful change in your analytics by adding annotations for post revisions:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

Set Up Exclusions and Access

From the settings, you can also set up some role-based rules and other exclusions.

For example, you can limit who can access your analytics data by user role:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

You can also exclude specific user roles or other qualifiers from being tracked:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

Viewing Analytics

To view analytics, you can open the Matomo admin panel. The interface “feels” like it’s separate from your WordPress dashboard, but it’s still 100% self-hosted and you access it from your WordPress dashboard. It also includes a link back to your dashboard if you want to go back:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

I like this approach because trying to fit the dashboard inside the WordPress admin (with the regular sidebar menu) would make it a lot tougher to browse your analytics data. But at the same time, it’s always easily accessible from your WordPress dashboard and is still self-hosted.

To move between reports, you can use the menu on the left. The broad menu categories are very similar to what you get in Google Analytics, so you should feel right at home if you’re making the switch.

Here are the reports listed under each category:

Visitors:

  • Overview
  • Visits log
  • Real-time
  • Real-time map
  • Locations
  • Devices
  • Software
  • Times
  • User IDs
  • Custom Variables

Behavior:

  • Pages
  • Entry pages
  • Exit pages
  • Page titles
  • Site Search
  • Outlinks
  • Downloads
  • Events
  • Contents
  • Engagement
  • Transitions

Acquisition:

  • Overview
  • All channels
  • Search engines & keywords
  • Websites
  • Social networks
  • Campaigns
  • Campaign URL Builder

Ecommerce:

  • Overview
  • Ecommerce log
  • Products
  • Sales

Goals:

You need to set up goals first.

Overall, you get more than enough data for most sites and I personally find the presentation to be much cleaner than Google Analytics, too.

For example, here’s what the Acquisition overview looks like:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

And here’s what the Page titles report under Behavior looks like – it helps you find your most popular content:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

You can see how it’s definitely a lot cleaner than the reports in Google Analytics.

Tag Manager

Matomo Tag Manager works a lot like Google Tag Manager, if you’re familiar with that tool (which we detailed here).

Essentially, it helps you insert scripts from other tools via the existing Matomo script, rather than needing to add each script manually.

You can set up containers and tags from the Tag Manager tab of your Matomo dashboard:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

Exploring Some of the Premium Features

As I mentioned earlier, Matomo offers nine premium add-ons for:

  1. Heatmaps and session recordings
  2. Form analytics
  3. Media analytics
  4. Funnels
  5. SEO keyword performance
  6. Custom reports
  7. Cohorts
  8. User flow
  9. Multi-channel conversion attribution

To see how they worked, I installed a few of them on my test site. Let’s take a look…

Heatmaps & Session Recordings

Heatmaps and session recordings are two useful tools that help you dig deeper into user behavior on your site.

First off, heatmaps help you see which specific parts of your site engage visitors. For example, you can see the spots that users are most likely to click on your site or how deeply they scroll on average.

Matomo lets you see three types of heatmaps:

Session recordings let you go further and see how an individual visitor interacts with your site. You don’t get as many data points as heatmaps, but you can visualize the entire visit (even if they click to another page).

Once you install the premium Heatmap & Session Recording add-on, you’ll get two new settings in the Matomo dashboard for Heatmaps and Session Recordings.

To create a heatmap, you go to Heatmaps → Create New Heatmap. There, you’ll be able to choose the target page where you want to collect heatmap data, as well as some other settings like:

  • Sample Rate – if you have a high-traffic, you might want to limit the sample rate.
  • Exclude Elements – exclude certain elements using CSS selectors, like a popup that you don’t want to include.
  • Breakpoints – set up your own custom responsive breakpoints for cleaner data.

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

Once you create a heatmap, you’ll see that test listed in the Heatmaps section of your Matomo dashboard.

If you click on that, you’ll see the data for your test. You can use the options at the top to switch between different types of heatmaps and devices:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

Setting up session recordings is similar.

First, you’ll need to set up a new session recording and configure some options.

One nice configuration option is the ability to decide whether or not to capture keystrokes. Capturing keystrokes can have privacy issues (especially on sensitive pages), so you’ll want to be careful about enabling this feature:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

Once you set up a session recording, you can view it from its own dedicated tab.

You’ll be able to see some basic details for each recording, like the visitor’s:

  • Time on site
  • Geographic location
  • Device
  • Operating system
  • Web browser

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

Then, if you click the Play button, you’ll be able to watch playback of the session, along with useful lines to track mouse movement:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

You can also use the options at the top to change the playback speed (like slowing it down) and move between a visitor’s page views.

Heatmaps and session recordings are both useful, well-established tools for helping you dig into user behavior on your site. With Matomo, it’s super easy to set them up – no technical knowledge required.

Form Analytics

The Form Analytics extension is another helpful tool that lets you see how your visitors interact with your forms.

Forms play an important role on most WordPress sites, so understanding which fields cause people to abandon your forms can help you generate more leads, sales, etc.

The Form Analytics extension should work with pretty much any WordPress form plugin (I’m using WPForms for my example, if you’re curious).

Once you install and activate the extension, you’ll get a new Forms tab in your Matomo dashboard. To get started, you can go to Forms → Manage Forms → Create New Form to start tracking a form (Matomo also seems to also automatically detect existing forms, so you don’t need to do this if Matomo finds your forms by itself).

In this interface, you can also enter a conversion page (like your form confirmation page) to track conversions:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

From there, you can get a real-time look at all of your forms:

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Review: Free Google Analytics Alternative

You can also dig into individual forms to find data like:

  • Conversion rate
  • Form timing, like how long it takes them from start to finish or even how long it takes to fill out specific fields
  • Fields that cause visitors to stop submitting a form
  • Most and least used fields
  • Fields that are commonly corrected (this might be a sign that the field is confusing)

Media Analytics

The Media Analytics extension adds a similar level of depth to media on your site, including audio and video players.

For example, you can track how your visitors interact with YouTube videos.

The extension will track commonly used players right out of the box, but you can add custom players as well if you’re willing to get your hands dirty.

Once you install and activate the extension, it should automatically start working if you’re using a common player.

From there, you can use the Media tab in your Matomo dashboard to access reports like:

  • Popular videos and videos viewed per hour
  • Popular audio files and audio played per hour
  • Most common media players
  • Media audience maps and logs

Matomo Analytics for WordPress Pricing

The core Matomo Analytics for WordPress plugin is available for free at WordPress.org. Again, I reviewed the free version in this post, so everything that you saw above is available in the free version.

You only need to pay if you want access to the premium features. Each feature is a separate add-on, which lets you pick and choose. The prices vary depending on the feature:

  • Heatmaps and session recordings – $119
  • Form analytics – $89
  • Media analytics – $89
  • Funnels – $99
  • SEO keyword performance – $79
  • Custom reports – $119
  • Cohorts – $59
  • User flow – $39
  • Multi-channel conversion attribution – $39

You can also purchase a bundle of all the premium extensions for $529, which saves you $152 vs purchasing the add-ons individually.

All those prices are for a single site license – prices go up for more sites.

Final Thoughts on Matomo Analytics for WordPress

I think whether or not Matomo Analytics for WordPress is right for you depends on how you feel about Google Analytics. If you’ve never had a second thought about feeding your information into the Google data machine, Google Analytics might be all that you need.

But I know that a lot of webmasters don’t like the idea of handing everything over to Google, and that’s where Matomo Analytics for WordPress comes in.

Matomo Analytics for WordPress lets you achieve similar reporting depth without giving up control of your data, which is an enticing value proposition if you’re privacy-conscious.

I also just plain find it more streamlined than Google Analytics. So if you’re just a casual analytics user, I think you might prefer Matomo’s interface to Google Analytics (even if you have no qualms about giving your data to Google).

While it does get a little pricey if you want access to all of the add-ons, the free version provides all the analytics that most sites need, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much.

Additionally, if you only need a few premium features, you can just pick those specific extensions, which makes it a lot more affordable.

All in all, if you’re looking for a Google Analytics alternative for WordPress, definitely give Matomo Analytics for WordPress a look.

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