When Google Analytics launched in late 2005, it was based on Urchin, a web statistics analysis program that Google acquired in early 2005. What made Google Analytics unique at the time was that it was intuitive and free for any site to use.
That approach worked well for Google because now, according to W3Techs,
Google Analytics is used by 86.4% of all the websites whose traffic analysis tool we know.
The cost of free
Even though most companies consider web analytics private data, most sites analyzing their traffic give their data to Google for free. And what Google does with that data is anyone’s guess. They are the largest digital advertising company globally, and how they process that data, including data that might be affected by GDPR and CCPA compliance, is a mystery.
Aside from privacy and data concerns, Google Analytics has become bloated and complex to use. The side menu has been challenging to navigate for several years, and the app has morphed into a tool that attempts to provide business intelligence for every possible scenario. It has also been plagued with referral spam, requiring users to create complex filters to maintain clean results.
Fathom Analytics provides a solution to the problems Google Analytics has created. Specifically, it:
- provides a minimalist, yet powerful dashboard with all of the important data you need
- is fully GDPR, ePrivacy, PECR and CCPA compliant out of the box
- has a complete view of site traffic because ad-blockers can’t thwart its tracking
- uses an up-to-date spam referral list, so you don’t have to
- has a lightweight script for tracking that loads faster than Google Analytics
I started using Fathom in 2019. After using it with a handful of sites for a few months, I was so impressed that I added Fathom to all of my sites. I also removed the Google Analytics tracking code and deleted all my Google Analytics properties.
Here are all the main features I use daily and why I think Fathom is the best alternative to Google Analytics.
Minimalist user experience
Unlike Google Analytics, Fathom is a single-page app. All the data is on a single screen, and filtering the data is intuitive and fast.
The data that matters
The first thing you’ll notice in Fathom is the traffic summary for the selected timeframe. Clicking on a metric will show or hide it in the graph below it.
Changing the date range is effortless, and the app remembers your choice as you switch to view data for other sites. It also retains the option if you leave Fathom and come back later.
Fathom also comes with real-time reporting. As you would expect, it tells you how many visitors are currently accessing your site, what pages they’re viewing, and their origin. This view is enjoyable when content goes viral, like when my article hit the front page of Reddit last year.
The rest of the single-page dashboard consists of the following data modules:
- Content (Entries, Viewers, and Views)
- Referrers (Visitors and Views)
- Device Types (Visitors)
- Browsers (Visitors)
- Countries (Visitors)
- Events (Unique Completions, Completions, Conversion Rate, and Value)
- UTMs (Campaign, Source, Medium, Content, and Term coupled with Visitors and Views)
Each module uses paging when there’s a significant amount of data. Also, if paging is active, you can search the module to filter its results.
You can add events to track clicks, conversions, and goals. I use them to track affiliate link clicks and email newsletter signups.
You can also track UTMs for campaigns. However, you can’t associate an event with a UTM, which means there are no goal attributions. It’s also missing the option to view the navigation path (aka funnel). While I don’t require those features for my sites, some Google Analytics users that rely on those features may need to wait until Fathom adds them.
Tracking that thwarts ad-blockers and provides data for all visitors
Fathom excels when it comes to accurate visitor data. Unlike Google Analytics and pretty much every other web analytics service, Fathom has figured out how to bypass ad-blockers. They do this by supporting custom domains for tracking code. Fathom co-founder Paul Jarvis explains how it’s done.
In the event our tracker file cannot load using our CDN (due to ad-blocking), then we load our tracker via your custom domain. Your custom domain is pointed to our DNS service, where we have automatic fail-overs at DNS level. We then utilize Caddy to reverse proxy through to our serverless infrastructure. The best thing about our set-up is that, for about 70% of your website visitors, they’ll hit our default CDN, but then we’ll still be able to catch anybody else.Paul Jarvis, Bypass ad-blockers with custom domains
While the mechanisms to make it work are sophisticated, Fathom has made it trivial for users to setup. The steps include naming the subdomain and adding a DNS record.
They’ve also made adding the tracking code to sites simple as adding a line of code or using a plugin. They integrate with most popular CMSes like WordPress, Drupal, Ghost, Webflow, and Vue and Ember frameworks.
One advantage Fathom has over Google Analytics is that its tracking code script is 97% smaller than Google Analytics’ script. Its significantly smaller size and the use of a CDN that loads the script closer to the visitor’s region make serving and executing the tracking code faster. Co-founder Jack Ellis even claims that Fathom has the world’s fastest site analytics.
A privacy-first analytics service
What initially drew me to Fathom is that it’s privacy-first. I looked for a site analytics solution that respected my visitors’ privacy and didn’t force me to display any cookies or personal data disclosures. Fathom checked all of the boxes.
Fathom is full of unexpected and exciting “wow” features that make me love using it even more.
Shareable analytics dashboard
The dashboard for each site can be shared privately with a password or publicly for anyone to view.
Site uptime monitoring
Fathom has uptime monitoring at no extra cost. If and when one of your sites becomes inaccessible, it will notify you via email, SMS, Slack, or Telegram. I have uptime monitoring activated for most of my sites, and I have Fathom setup to send me updates via Slack.
Multi-domain analytics dashboard
Coywolf is a network of sites that use different top-level domains (TLDs). For example, the main navigation for Coywolf Reviews links to coywolf.com, coywolf.pro, and coywolf.news. Thanks to Fathom’s killer multi-domain feature, I now use a single view for my Coywolf TLDs and view them as a single site. I can also filter and drill down by domain. Fathom has an option that enables you to use the same tracking code and analytics dashboard for multiple subdomains and domains.
There are a couple of more things that are worth mentioning. Fathom has email reports that can be sent weekly or monthly and sent to other recipients. Fathom also supports exporting all of your data to CSV. So if you ever want to analyze your data in a different app or move to a new solution, you can.
Fathom keeps its roadmap private. However, the team does listen and respond to customer feedback. After using Fathom for a few years, I’ve observed obsessiveness in making both the front and backend better. Sometimes it’s in the form of better performance, while other times, it’s a redesigned UI, updated feature, or a completely new feature that I end up using daily.
You can keep track of the changes on their changelog.
Fathom Analytics pricing
Since you have 100% ownership of your data, the service doesn’t harvest personal information, and it provides a premium site analytics service, Fathom isn’t free. Fortunately, it’s affordable and grows with your needs. You can pay monthly or for the entire year and get two months free. The pricing is based on the combined number of page views that all sites using the tracking code get per month.
How much does Fathom Analytics cost?
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Fathom Analytics free trial and discount
Fathom has a 7-day trial, and you can get $10 off your first invoice with this link.