Traffic analysis tools for websites


Piwik (Figure 2) is growing in popularity around the world. Users have downloaded the cross-platform independent, open source program, which is written in PHP, almost three million times since 2008. Fans of GA will most likely find the functions they are familiar with from Google in Piwik, Site visitors are offered an opt-out in an IFrame, and Piwik respects the browser's Do Not Track feature.

Figure 2: Piwik is the best known and functionally the most similar open source alternative to Google Analytics.

Piwik collects data with tracking pixels, JavaScript, log analysis, and cookies, and stores these in a MySQL database. Access is via a web interface. The latest version, 3.0.1, introduces a new user interface on the basis of Material Design and Angular 1.4. Piwik is available under the GPLv3, but partly also under the BSD license.

Data Collection

Piwik Web Analytics collects relevant data such as visitor counts, keywords, referrers, and much more. This data tool prepares the data in a graphically appealing way and delivers the results in the form of reports. These include statistics on page views and unique visits. The visitor analysis also provides information on the countries of origin and the browsers and operating systems used. Referrers tell the operator which website sent a visitor to their offering.

The tool relies on plugins to implement its functions; you can add or remove these as needed. Piwik supports real-time updates, shows developments and trends, offers campaign and target tracking for online stores, and is multi-client capable for multiple websites.

Thanks to the configurable dashboard, admins can manage all their sites at a glance. A tool for aliasing the IP addresses is also part of the package and thus ensures data protection. There are also corresponding apps for the iOS and Android platform. Last but not least, users will find a detailed list of features with in-depth explanations [11] on the project website.

Admins can use plugins to extend the already abundant wealth of features that Piwik comes with out the box. A recent addition is the premium plugins, of which the project recently presented three [12]. Admins need to store Piwik software on the server and then install the system in a browser. If needed, you can integrate Piwik via enhancements in WordPress (Figure 3), MediaWiki, Magento, Joomla, vBulletin, and more than 60 other applications.

Figure 3: Piwik can be combined with various web applications, for example, WordPress.

A demo version is available [13] on the project website. Piwik Pro sees the application run in the cloud [14]. Piwik is under active development and has a fairly lively community.

Open Web Analytics

Under development since 2009, Open Web Analytics (OWA) is not as well known as Piwik, but it keeps pace with Piwik and GA in terms of its feature set, even outpacing them in places (Figure 4). For example, it offers integrated heat maps, which competitors need to load as extensions. They help admins analyze mouse movements on web pages.

Figure 4: You can try out Open Web Analytics with the aid of an online demo.

OWA uses a PHP front end with a MySQL back end and collects statistics by integrating a JavaScript into the target site (Figure 5). Admins can evaluate the results using JavaScript, but also directly via PHP or REST-based APIs. OWA supports WordPress or MediaWiki pages, and a third-party extension exists for Drupal.

Figure 5: OWA collects statistics on referrers – as shown here – by integrating JavaScript into the landing page.

The OWA framework is released under the GPLv2 license and is also suitable for campaign and e-commerce tracking. Users can define reports and dashboards that go beyond the standard selection to suit their needs. The application lets you integrate various web pages, which the OWA user can aggregate or view individually. It handles many administrative tasks directly at the command line of the server instead of in the browser.

The integrated event queuing is a unique feature among the applications presented here. If the database cannot process peak visiting times quickly enough, it first writes the data to a simple logfile (Flat File Based Event Queuing, [15]) and then parses it via a PHP call:

/path/to/php5 cli.php cmd=processEventQueue

Piwik offers a similar function in the form of Queued Tracking [16], which was added in the form of a plugin in 2015. But, in this case, the software writes its data to a Redis instance rather than directly to a classic database.

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