Stop using Google Analytics is a decision I took when I started Code and Frames. I used Google Analytics in the past for other projects and I love all the information you can get. I still consider it is a great product, but as with any free product, it comes with trade-offs. In this post, I’m going to explain the nerdy alternative that I took to substitute Google Analytics.

Why stop using Google Analytics

These are my main concerns:

  • Google has data about you and your visitors.
  • It uses javascript so it delays page loading and performance. I wanted this site to be as Javascript-free as possible.
  • It stores a cookie so, for GDPR compliance, you have to show a banner telling the user that the site uses cookies. I consider this very annoying as a web visitor.

In the case of Code and Frames, all I wanted to know is the amount of page views and visitors. Mostly to understand which topics perform well and which not. To achieve this I am using GoAccess.

GoAccess: A privacy-concerned alternative to Google Analytics

All the information about page views and visitors is already in the server logs. The only problem is that reading the logs is a pain in the ass. Fortunately, there is a tool that can help you parse the content. The name of this tool is GoAccess. You can easily generate a report from your server logs with this simple command:

goaccess $LOG_PATH/access.log -o report.html --log-format=COMBINED

How do I get visits from my blog logs

The command that I use is the following one. This allows me to see a report for a full month (in the example I get analytics for February 2021)

grep -E Feb/2021 $LOG_PATH/access.log | goaccess -o report.html --log-format=COMBINED

If I get a spike someday and want to know more information, I can filter by a specific date and see which posts performed better this day:

grep -E 03/Feb/2021 $LOG_PATH/access.log | goaccess -o report.html --log-format=COMBINED

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Quick script to update analytics

If I want to get a quick report, I run the following script In this I assume you can access via SSH to your site logs:

scp $MY_USER@$$LOG_PATH/nginx/access.log .
goaccess access.log -o report.html --log-format=COMBINED
rm access.log
open report.html

Trade-Offs of using GoAccess

Of course, this solution lacks a lot of functionality that Google Analytics has. I cannot see information like session time, the average time on a page, and others.

I am still quite a newbie with this tool, but I will be updating the trade-offs when I find more.

Next Steps

  • Configure the script so I can see reports for specific days or months.
  • Use redirection to gather information about clicks.