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Best Free Digital Analytics Tools in 2019

Jasmine Lee
Jasmine Lee  |  November 23, 2016

One key to success for small businesses is understanding your customers well enough to anticipate the products and experience they’re looking for, and then providing it for them in both your retail and digital storefronts.

How can you reach that point of understanding your customers without spending hours and hours sorting through receipts and feedback? By utilizing digital analytics software.

Digital analytics tools help small-business owners better understand their current and future customers. By implementing the software, users can track digital traffic and customer interactions.

Small-business owners can understand where their customers are coming from, how often customers visit certain pages on the site, what pages successfully hold a visitor’s interest and what pages don’t. All this data creates a profile of the customers, which helps influence existing or future business strategy.

There are many different digital analytics software out there that any sized business can utilize to understand what’s happening on their site. However, for small businesses especially, ease of use and a low price point are at the top of the list when it comes to purchasing software.

Small-business owners have an all-hands-on-deck mentality and cannot afford expensive software that may gobble up already scarce time and resources to implement. Additionally, as a small-business owner, you probably do not have the resources or access to marketing teams and analysts who can break down the data you receive from digital analytics tools.

Free digital analytics tools cater to small and local businesses that have low advertising budgets by offering a slew of metrics and data that the users can leverage.

Free digital analytics software

Before jumping into your free software tool options, let's understand a little bit more about digital analytics tools as a whole. What do they do? What benefits could you gain from using one? How can you make the most of the tool you eventually choose? 

What Do Digital Analytics Tools Do?

  • Track website and social channels through code—that either you or a developer set up on any part of the website you want the digital analytics tool to collect relevant data—so the tool knows what to track and what not to track
  • Create dashboards that display all the tracked metrics
  • Allow user access to recorded data
  • Generate a variety of reports that users can customize to format a website’s raw performance data into meaningful perspective
  • Set goals/gains to be “completed” (e.g. a conversion)
  • Inform future business strategy by equipping users with the knowledge of how campaigns, online marketing strategies and website are performing

Benefits of Free Digital Analytics Apps

  • Understand the source of traffic and customer conversions through multiple channels (e.g. what keywords led new visitors to the site).
  • Better comprehend visitor behavior—that is, time spent on specific pages—which will tell you which pages work, which pages need work and which pages need expansion, all to diminish bounce rates and hone in on target audiences to help small businesses build their brands.
  • Optimize website performance by establishing key performance indicators.
  • Automate the manual process of configuration and analytics.

Things to Keep in Mind to Get the Most Use Out of Digital Analytics Software

  • Identify goals and objectives, which will help you come up with specific questions that you want the software to answer.
  • Know the different functionalities that the software offers and how to access and use them to the business’ benefit—focus on the most important functions.
  • Understand the difference between actionable and non-actionable intelligence:
  • Actionable data are things like organic search, sources of traffic and referral or destination landing pages.
  • Non-actionable data are things like page views and unique visits.

What Do Users Say?

There are two major players in the free digital analytics software realm: the open-source Piwik and the nearly exhaustive Google Analytics. What do users have to say about each product?

Daniel Kwok, a project manager, said that,It's great that it's open sourced and doesn't require an expensive $$ outlay. That's great for startups where there's not a lot of money to go around. It's also excellent that you can host your own servers, in that, the analytics data collected remains owned and managed by you. There's no third party or other possible privacy breach. The UI is well designed and fairly easy to navigate and find what you're looking for.

James Logan, a freelance web developer, wrote that, Piwik is easy to configure, set up and use in environments where you are unable to use Google Analytics. The user interface is intuitive and end users love the data visualizations available out of the box. Developers find it easy to use and setup. Piwik has made it much easier for us to allow tracking and run a self-service analytics platform within our organization.

Anna Fox, a freelance writer, explained that, “I like to own the data I manage. Most free analytics solutions don't offer that. With Piwik you host your data analytics on your own server, not sharing it with third-party services (like ads). I like some features of Piwik too (like Piwik Overlay Maps which show how many clicks each on-page link has triggered). It's a nice visualization of how users interact with my pages. If you get a lot of traffic, you'll find real-time map feature very addictive too. The dashboard view is very easy to customize which I loved.

Charles P, a full-stack developer, explained that, “Piwik has a plethora of features, and is an excellent free and open-source alternative for site analytics and reporting that lets you generate custom reports in a beautiful UI, and ensure that you own the data that you collect.

Kristin Hertko, a web producer, wrote that, “Google Analytics is the gold standard for free web analytics. As clean as it is comprehensive, this tool allows you to track, organize, and report information relatively easily.

Sam Montoya, a CSM, explained that, “Google Analytics provides insights and that's really the main benefits [sic]. You can test whether a page is doing well or if it is missing with clients. Another main benefit is that you can find out, not only what clients are doing on your site, but also where they are coming from and who sent them.

Whether it was from organic search or something referred them, you have access to that information. That can be powerful. The main thing I'd say I dislike is the sheer amount of options provided. There are reasons there are training solutions for Google Analytics and that's because there are so many options that it can be overwhelming. This is a good thing, but also a bad thing for beginners. Beginners will typically be the audience doing the research.

Jeff Shrearer, a director of marketing automation, said, “There are a lot of paid analytics tools out there, but beyond click tracking functionality, it's hard to think of anything Google Analytics is missing. In a world where businesses pay tens of thousands of dollars for individual tools, it's a welcome relief to have such a feature rich, fantastic tool like Google Analytics, completely free.

Cate Conroy, a content marketer, said, “Google Analytics is a free tool with incredible flexibility. It is a great option for startups or other groups looking to bootstrap their analytics. It also integrates with a number of different systems including solutions like Wordpress, RebelMouse, and MailChimp.

Other Free Offerings

The following list is of other free digital analytics tools that have smaller market share.

Jasmine Lee
Author

Jasmine Lee

Jasmine is G2's senior research analyst for a slew of vertical categories, currently focusing on the trends, impact, and evolution of the healthtech, medtech, agtech, propertytech, and construction spaces. Prior to joining G2, she worked in the nonprofit sector in a copywriting and customer service capacity, and contributed to a handful of online entertainment and pop culture publications. G2 allows her to continue investing in her passion for digging into the nuances of consumer-focused, legacy industries to offer digestible, relatable insight to those same consumers.