I’ll explain later why we are dropping Google Analytics for Gauges, but first, here are the highlights of Gauges.
The overview is dead simple, it shows at a glance, how many people went to our website today, what they looked at and where they came from.
See what I mean? It’s simple.
Sharing Gauges with others
Plus we can add as many sites as we want without having to keep creating gmail accounts all the time and we can very quickly and easily invite clients to access their stats on Gauges.
Gauges covers all the essentials
Gauges is an good replacement or in some cases a compliment to Google Analytics.
Business owners usually want to know:
- How many people visited my website and when
- What pages did people go to most and how many times
- Where did people get referred from, website/country
- What keywords did people use to find us in search engines
and that’s pretty much it. A more technically savvy or bigger business might have some other metrics they are interested in but they would probably rely on experts to handle all that anyway.
If a business is doing a lot of Google Adwords and other marketing they might want to have phone call tracking and recording which ReachLocal have a great product for that some of our clients use.
Let’s look at how Gauges solves these 4 questions for us.
How many people visited my website and when?
The overview tab has a great summary of this and the ‘Views and People’ is a log of visitor numbers.
Plus there is the live data view which is interesting but maybe not useful unless you have to see whats happening in real time or have a live event in progress.
What pages did people go to most and how many times?
Knowing which pages on your website people are most interested in can be quite useful. It might mean that the pages people aren’t going to are too hard to find or that you would be better to spend more time improving the popular pages and create new information around those topics for example.
Most of the data we are looking at can be viewed by day, month, year and all time.
Where did people get referred from, website/country
If you notice that a particular website is referring a lot of visitors to you it might be a good idea to find out why. Is it a business directory? A facebook page? Pinterest? How can you do more of whatever it is that generates these referrals?
Gauges gives a summary of the referring websites
and the GeoLocation data shows which countries visitors to the website are from.
And finally there is one more question that is often asked.
What keywords did people use to find us in search engines?
Which Gauges provides some simple to read examples of like this
and we can see which search engines people used. Though in Australia arguably this is not very useful right now because everyone uses Google and occasionally Bing.
Those are the parts of Gauges that I think you will find most useful. Now I’ll explain why we are switching to Gauges and away from Google Analytics.
What’s wrong with Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is complicated, it’s aimed at a technical sophisticated user, like web developers and internet marketers. It’s possible to setup some summaries and reports if you learn how it all works but its far from simple. The terminology is technical, the screen is covered in options and graphs up the wazoo.
Google Analytics is broken
The major problem though is Google Analytics spam and Googles failure to deal with the spam. Google Analytics is failing to be useful for the purpose which it was designed, its a joke how bad it has become. If Google analytics was a TV you bought you’d be taking it back to the store for a refund because it is not fit for purpose.
Google Analytics wasn’t always this useless and seems to be getting worse, which is a pity because the price is good, free, and it can be useful if you know what you are doing and can weed out the junk.
A non-technical website owner can not make sense of Google Analytics
The data on real people visiting a website is hidden among a flood of spam bot visits.
You can see on this screenshot all the seo spam referrers, a lot of which purport to be from Russia.
For reasons I cannot fathom Google seem indifferent to the deluge of spam that causes website visitor statistics to vastly inflate with junk data.
As Jared of Red Door Interactive described it:
A few months back, my agency started seeing a referral traffic spike in our Google Analytics account. At first, I got excited. Someone is linking to us and people are clicking. Hooray!
Wrong! How very, very wrong. As I dug deeper, I saw that most of this referral traffic was sent from spammers.
It really does make Google Analytics completely useless.
With all their resources, talent and reach you would think Google could do something about this but no.
We tried to filter out the Google Analytics spam
We’ve tried creating extra Google Analytics ID numbers to confuse the spammers, blocking countries from servers, creating filtered reports that exclude the spam referrers and it’s just a losing battle. Like blocking spam email the jerks that do this sort of Google Analytics spamming keep on wasting our time.
So here we are, finding an alternative to Google Analytics
What alternatives are there which are reasonably priced, easy to setup and don’t slow down our web servers or create enormous data tables in WordPress?
We’ve tried Piwik and spent a few weeks trialling it, I really liked that we could host our own analytics servers but it wasn’t going to be economical and created a lot of extra issues to deal with and configure. Piwik it’s good but more complicated than we needed.
There are a bunch of WordPress plugins and I’ve tried most of the popular ones. There is Jetpack and Statpress and all sorts of alternatives but I really do not believe it is a good use of our web server resources to be tracking visitors. Website statistics is a task easily managed by an external service.
Gauges ticked the most boxes though and at a price that is very reasonable.
Gauges is a website statistics system that greatly simplifies providing this information to our clients.
Plus it has some other data which maybe our clients aren’t all that interested in but can be handy for us.
Other data and graphs you will find in Gauges
Find out which web browsers people use to access a website.
The coding we use on a website doesn’t always work in older browsers, it’s good to know that just about everyone will be seeing the website as we intended.
With platforms we can see which operating systems people are using.
We usually assume that people are using devices with 1200px or wider screens and in the case of our website at least that seems to be the case.
This gives us an idea of how much of the homepage people are seeing when they first arrive.
Different to browser width. The screen width is an overall size of a screen whereas the browser window might be sized down to less than the full screen width.
As you might have guessed its a range from mobile devices, tablets, laptops and desktops.
Support and Feedback from Gauges
Gauges get A++ for this part of their service. James has been my main point of contact and he has been patient and very helpful.
What has been truly delightful though is the interaction we have had with the developers at Gauges. They have answered every question, taken on feedback and helped to reduce the load time of the tracking code for Australian hosted sites.
I’ll outline a few of the questions I had which helped satisfy my concerns.
Q. How will you filter out spam bot visitors?
A. We log spammers and filter them out as users report them. Generally speaking, there’s not that many of them so a manual approach has worked thus far.
Q. How can i improve the speed of the tracker loading in the browser?
A. Try adding this to your header:
<link rel=”dns-prefetch” href=”//track.gaug.es”>
<link rel=”preconnect” href=”//track.gaug.es”>
The connection is the slow(est) part of that process. Those commands will preconnect to the server in parallel with your other connections, which should (in theory) greatly speed up the overall time.
We have also moved the tracking script to a CDN if you want to try that instead:
The script is setup to not affect user performance in any way. It loads very last and loads asynchronously.
Something else that might help you bit is to remove the https from the tracking GIF. I notice that the SSL connection is very slow for you. Try this:
That might speed things up a little bit.
Note from Jeremy: The CDN version of the tracker was ready in a matter of weeks since I initially asked about it. Google Analytics still doesn’t use a CDN, every time you load the tracker on a page with Google Analytics it pulls the files from servers in the USA.
Q. Can i see bounce rates and page exits in Gauges?
A. No, we don’t support those features. Our focus is on the core metrics and making those are easy as possible to access in real time. Google Analytics would provide those features and more, the tradeoff being additional complexity.
Q. Do you have any plans for some kind of dashboard widgets in WordPress that summarise traffic?
A. That’s an interesting idea. I’ll talk it over with the team but I can tell you it’s not on the road map yet! If you end up writing something we’d be happy to promote it.
Q. I can see its going to get a bit clumsy for us grouping or sorting lists of sites after a while, we have added maybe 20 and its going to get confusing or hard to find them when we have hundreds.
A. Right now we don’t have a great answer for that. Historically. most of our users with over 20 sites mostly use the API. We’ve talked about a few improvements here, like adding a search for users with more than a few sites.
It’s worth noting that invited users only have access to specific sites. Perhaps you could have 1 user that is the account owner and therefore has access to all sites, but for daily use you have other user accounts with limited access.
Any further questions about Gauges?
There are official FAQ on the Gauges site: get.gaug.es/documentation/tracking/faq
You can signup for a new account here: get.gaug.es
Why use Gauges?
- Gauges is simple. Really simple. You don’t need to be a marketing expert. We just give you the stats you care most about.
- Gauges is real time. Unlike Google Analytics, which is normally delayed several hours, in Gauges all your stats will be automatically updated in mere seconds without needing to hit the refresh button.
- Gauges is fast. No more staring at your computer for five seconds waiting for a Google Analytics report to run.
- Gauges isn’t owned by Google. Many people think Google has enough data about you and your website.
There are a few more thoughts by the team at Gauges here.
Still not convinced? Read this article by Patrick Garman
I’ve been using Gaug.es for quite some time now and have really enjoyed the simplicity of it. I’m not missing anything I would have wanted from Google Analytics for things like my personal blog, and I can check my analytics quite a bit faster too.
Mobile devices can view Gauges really nicely, for example
Gauges is low cost
If you’re still not convinced that you should give Gauges a trial then probably nothing will. They do have a free, no obligation week and the plans start at $6/mo.
All Jezweb hosted website clients will be getting access to Gauges for their websites at no extra charge. We provide fast, secure, managed WordPress web hosting.