A Closer Look at Using Piwik With WordPress: The Open Source Alternative to Google Analytics

Google Analytics seems to be the default web analytics solution for WordPress users. Have you ever considered that there might be other options available? We’d like to introduce you to Piwik, an open source alternative, equally robust as Google Analytics and infinitely more private.

We’ve actually been using Piwik with Edublogs for some time as a large scale custom multisite implementation. Piwik provides stats for users on Edublogs.org as well as all 200+ of our Campus sites. We host a separate Piwik install on a VPS and utilize a custom plugin very similar to WP-Piwik that tracks and displays stats for supporter sites in Edublogs. This gives each blog it’s own distinct stats. Our users really appreciate having stats at their fingertips without having to sign up for a third party service or configure any settings.

Interview with Matthieu Aubry, Founder and Lead Developer of Piwik:

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Matthieu Aubry, the founder of Piwik, who now works with a large team to make open source analytics possible for hundreds of thousands of users. Here’s what he had to say about the project:

What inspired you to create Piwik?
We created Piwik in 2007, because there was not at the time modern open source web analytics software, and there was a big need for it. With the rise of Google Analytics, many users were looking at using a quality web analytics software yet reluctant to give away their sensitive web analytics data to the search giant. Most other analytics tools at the time were very costly. Piwik was created to fill in this huge gap and allow webmaters/business owners to keep control of their data on their own servers while enjoying pretty reports and advanced analytics functionnality.

What are the main advantages of using open source software for analytics?

  • Your web data will not be used or looked at by other entities.
  • If you are a developer, you can take advantage of the plugin architecture and create custom functionality.
  • The software being open source, it is easy to give feedback to the team and even contribute changes.
  • Be part of an active community of more than 100k active users.

What key features distinguish Piwik from Google Analytics?

How does Piwik perform in heavy load environments?

Piwik works well in high load environments. It scales really well with thousands of websites and we have a few users tracking more than 20,000 sites in Piwik. A few Piwik power users are tracking up to 250,000 pages per day with success (on a dedicated server). The main requirement is database size, which can grow to few dozens or hundreds of megabytes if your websites has more than hundreds of page views per day.

What kinds of things can advanced users do with the Piwik API?

Piwik API has 3 main uses:

1- Tracking data in Piwik: there is an advanced Javascript Tracking API but also a REST API to track any visit, pages, downloads, goal conversions, etc. It is very powerful and lets you track visits from any devices or app.

2- Fetching any reports out of Piwik: the Analytics API lets you download any report generated by Piwik (best keywords, visits per hour) and for each report (for example, for each Referrer keyword) will include many metrics such as: visits, pages, conversions, revenue generated, conversion rate, time on site, etc. You can also specify custom segments via the API, to show the reports only for “visits from Germany AND coming from Search Engine” for example. Check out the Analytics API reference for the documentation.

3- Administrate Piwik: the API also allows you to manage your websites, users, permissions, etc. For example, you can create websites and users automatically from another application (eg. wordpress) very easily. You can also create Goals automatically, setup scheduled Email reports, etc. If you start using Piwik on an existing application, you can use the API to import all your existings websites and users.

The WP-Piwik plugin has been downloaded over 33,000 times. With thousands of WordPress users making use of Piwik, would you say that ensuring compatibility with Open Source CMS’s is a top priority for your team?

Ensuring compatibility & ease of use with all CMS is a top priority for us. We have already more than 30 plugins that make it easy to integrate with CMS, frameworks and programming languages. In fact, we are working to communicate better with them in the future, and also improve the Piwik websites to better advertise the fantastic work they are doing!

What developments and features can Piwik users look forward to in the future?
The roadmap for Piwik 2.0 is our vision for the next major release of Piwik. we are currently working on many exciting things, thanks to the support of our sponsors and Piwik professional services:

– Precise geo location will be integrated in Piwik core (currently there is a plugin for GeoIP) and we are going to add few features in it
– the World Map will show Regions & Cities stats for all countries. This is a unique development since Piwik team member works on building the only Open Source map with such advanced
– Visits & actions displayed in real time view (ie. automatically refreshed) in the Mobile App so you can track your Live visits on the go!
– Advanced Ecommerce tracking & Reporting: lets you track products, orders and cart abandonment. This will be the first time that such powerful Ecommerce features are available in an open source solution
– Performance improvements for high traffic websites, in particular, allow easy clustering of the Tracking servers and remove dependancy to the database for tracking (requests will be queued and then loaded in the DB at regular interval)
– and more…

In a day and age where privacy is rapidly losing value, any option that allows you to own your own data simply makes sense. If you’re wanting to get out from under the watchful eye of Google and jump on board with a solid open source solution, then Piwik should be at the top of your list for consideration.