Comparing Google Analytics and Plausible Numbers

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Chris Coyier on (Updated on )

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I saw this blog post the other day: 58% of Hacker News, Reddit and tech-savvy audiences block Google Analytics. That’s an enticing title to me. I’ve had Google Analytics on this site literally from the day I launched it. While we tend to see some small growth each year, I’m also aware that the ad-blocking usage (and general third-party script blocking) goes up over time. So maybe we have more growth than we can easily visualize in Google Analytics?

The level of Google Analytics blockage varies by industry, audience, the device used and the individual website. In a previous study, I’ve found that less than 10% of visitors block Google Analytics on foodie and lifestyle sites but more than 25% block it on tech-focused sites.

Marko Saric

Marko looked at three days of data on his own website when he had a post trending on both Hacker News and Reddit, and that’s where the 58% came from. Plausible analytics reported 50.9k unique visitors and Google Analytics reported 21.1k. (Google Analytics calls them “Users.”)

I had to try this myself. If we’re literally getting double the traffic Google Analytics says we are, I’d really like to know that. So for the last week, I’ve had Plausible installed on this site (they have a generous unlimited 30-day free trial).

Here’s the Plausible data:

And here’s the Google Analytics data for the same exact period:

It’ll be easier to digest in a table:

MetricPlausibleGoogle Analytics
Unique Visitors973k841k
Pageviews1.4m1.5m
Bounce Rate82%82%
Visit Duration1m 31s1m 24s

So… the picture isn’t exactly clear. On one hand, Plausible reports 15% more unique visitors than Google Analytics. Definitely not double, but more! But then, as far as raw traffic is concerned (which actually matters more to me as a site that has ads), Plausible reports 5% less traffic. So it’s still fairly unclear to me what the real story is.

I do think Plausible is a pretty nice bit of software. Easy to install. Simple and nice charts. Very affordable.

Plausible is also third-party JavaScript

I’m sure less people block Plausible’s JavaScript, as, basically, it’s less-known and not Google. But it’s still third-party JavaScript and just as easily blockable as anything else. It’s not a fundamentally different way to measure traffic.

What is fundamentally different is something like Netlify Analytics, where the data comes from server logs that are not blockable (we’ve mentioned this before). That has its own issues, like the fact that Netlify counts bots and Google Analytics doesn’t. Maybe the best bet is something like server-side Google Analytics? That’s just way more technical debt than I’m ready for. Certainly a lot harder than slapping a script tag on the page.

Multiple sources

It felt weird to have multiple analytics tracking on the site at the same time. If I was doing things like tracking custom events, that would get even weirder. If I was going to continue to do it all client-side, I’d probably reach for something like Analytics which is designed to abstract that. But I prefer the idea of sending the data from the client once, and then if it has to go multiple places, do that server-side. That’s basically the entire premise of Segment, which is expensive, but you can self-host or probably write your own without terribly too much trouble. Just seems smart to me to keep less data going over the wire, and having it be first-party JavaScript.