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Fathom Analytics vs the competition

news  Paul Jarvis · Jun 22, 2020

When Fathom Analytics launched, we were the only player in the Venn diagram overlap of simple and privacy-focused website analytics. Our first version, the open-source version, was quickly downloaded over 1,000,000 times*.

Fathom is both simple and privacy focused

We launched this current version (the paid, hosted version), shortly thereafter, and we then began seeing competition pop up. They were all selling seemingly similar website analytics products, touting simple and privacy-focused features.

Fathom and our competitors are both simple and privacy focused

Obviously, we are biased here, but still felt it useful to share why we believe Fathom to be the best option to serve businesses who require both simple analytics without hundreds of pages of reports or training required, as well as those who want to honour the privacy of their website visitors and track zero personal data about them.

Before we dive in, if you'd like to watch a video of me talking about the Top 5 reasons to use Fathom Analytics, whilst wearing a Fathom cat hoodie, you are free to do so.

The benchmark for simple, privacy-focused analytics software

Here are the things that all or most competitors and Fathom have as features:

  • A simple dashboard, typically a single page of data
  • Email reports, sent weekly or monthly or both
  • An easy to install, lightweight script
  • Data collected belongs to the customer
  • No tracking of personal details or data (zero PII collected), making us GDPR, ePrivacy, PECR and CCPA compliant
  • No EU visitor data is processed on US servers or by US controlled cloud providers, because Google Analytics was ruled as being illegal.

This is the bare minimum, or the necessity to do in order to be a simple, privacy-first alternative to Google Analytics. And most of our competitors do this to some degree.

And I would also assume that if a competitor is marketing “privacy” they do, in fact, value it as a core tenet of the business, not just as a marketing tactic to capture a growing niche. For example, if you market that your product is privacy-focused, you probably shouldn’t run targeted ads on Google (just saying, Piwik Pro…).

Simple vs complex website analytics

There are companies like Matomo or Google Analytics, who’s software caters to customers who have time to wade through pages of reports, or be trained up on their software. And certainly, both of these software products have far more features than the simpler options.

But with Fathom (and our simple competitors), our focus is on surfacing just the important data, like top content, top referrers and a small handful of other data points.

Fathom Analytics was the first privacy-focused analytics company to create a dashboard that housed everything tracked on a single screen (Mint, in the early 2000s did similar, but has been abandoned for years).

Fathom v1

When I tweeted my vision for an analytics product like this, a few years ago, it was met with enough excitement that led to developing Fathom Analytics. Since then, our interface has become a “standard” in terms of how simple analytics competitors display their data in a similar fashion. We aren’t salty about this, we’re happy we are leaders in this field and hope that our next innovations become industry standards too. Our goal from the start was that simplicity gives our customers what they need quickly, so they can make smart business decisions from their data. They don’t have to love analytics as much as we do, but they need to use that data to run their business, and should be able to do so without having to spend much time on it.

The fundamental differences between Fathom and the competition

If on the surface (or whilst squinting) quite a few website analytics software companies seem similar if they offer simple, privacy-focused analytics, let’s dig into where and how Fathom differs from the competition and pulls ahead.

We’re leading the space

This definitely sounds like a brag, but it’s also true. We were first to market, first to develop and release new features (which eventually show up in competitors), first to hit a revenue milestone that keeps both co founders employed, supporting, and working on Fathom full-time.

Our complex, hash method of tracking analytics changed the way website analytics are collected online without storing personal data about visitors. We altered it again, recently, to be even more privacy-focused and speedy. We didn’t choose the digital privacy space as a marketing gimmick, we wanted to build a privacy-focused company from the onset and it’s baked into every decision we make and will make.

Fathom Analytics is trusted by thousands of small business customers, as well as Fortune 500s, leaders in the open web space and even governments who have digital privacy as a mandate.

We’re small but our architecture is mighty

As a team of two, we can keep costs down for our customers as our overhead is low. But at the same time, we have built our software on enterprise-level, industry-leading architecture that is blazingly fast and highly redundant. Meaning, whether you have 15 page views a day or 150 million page views a day, our cloud servers can not only handle the traffic, but handle it quickly. Your site and your dashboard are never slow, regardless of your visitor volume. Our lightweight script never slows down websites, and actually helps with your SEO.

While most of our competitors use single-computer servers which need to be maintained, hardened and scaled as their own customer bases grow, we outgrew doing things this way years ago. Our current system architecture is built to handle nearly-one-billion page views a month, and automatically scales as it needs to.

Our tracking script is served on a ridiculously-fast, global CDN network, meaning wherever someone is visiting your site around the world, it’ll load quickly and privately track their visit.

Analytics are our full-time job

Both founders (Jack and myself) work on Fathom full-time. That means we can build our software full-time and it’s new features, support our customers full-time, and ensure we have the best product for our customers on the market.

We’ve proven that simple, privacy-focused website analytics can be profitable enough to both cover our margins and expenses, as well as pay us both a reasonable salary. This is important, not only to us, but to our customers, as profitable companies seldom go out of business. We’re in this for the long haul and want to continue making Fathom a great analytics product indefinitely.

From the start, we’ve not been interested in an exit strategy, and we’ve actively rejected Venture Capital. Our company is growing at a healthy pace, our churn is low, and most importantly, the customers that we have are pleased with using our software.

We pioneered EU Isolation (Schrems II compliance)

Too many website analytics companies market that they care about privacy, but not all of them are fully compliant with privacy laws. They can still be breaking the law if they use US servers or servers owned by US companies (this is why Google Analytics violates GDPR). This doesn't just apply to Google Analytics, it applies to any company who has analytics which run on US servers or are owned by US companies.

Our tracking script is both easy and customizable

The embed code we offer to customers is a single line of code, that’s it. And by default it’s as easy as pasting it into any website and it just works. There are also lots of integration options for all popular Content Management Systems and applications.

Our advanced customizations to our tracking code gives you the ability to optionally do quite a bit with it:

  • You can filter out excluded domains (like your local version) or only include specific domains (like your live site, and not your staging site)
  • We support canonical URLs
  • We have great support for SPAs like Next.js
  • You can choose to honor DNT
  • You can block IP addresses and/or countries
  • You can use the same embed code to collect data for multiple domains
  • And much, much more

Compared to server-side analytics

There are products that do server-side analytics (like Netlify and Cloudflare), but they can be problematic. They don’t do a good job of filtering bots, so their stats aren’t very accurate. Sometimes their “page views” shown are 2–10 times more than what actually is accurate. A lot of their marketing circles around “What if javascript isn’t enabled?”. But really, how many people disable Javascript when browsing? This would make it almost impossible to use the internet in this day and age. Do you know who actually disables Javascript when browsing? Bots. Bots don’t need to be tracked (since 1,000s can hit your site at a time).

A quick summary of Netlify vs Fathom, in terms of analytics:

  • Netlify only keeps 30 days of traffic data. Fathom keeps your stats indefinitely
  • Netlify has no real-time tracking, Fathom shows you both pages and referrers for real-time visitors
  • Netlify keep access logs with data about individual visitors for 30 days. Fathom does not store or log personal data for analytics purposes, ever (we’re not confident that Netlify is PECR / GDPR compliant)
  • Netlify analytics only work if you’re a Netlify customer. If you leave (to go to Vercel, for example), you can’t take those stats with you, nor do they stay in your account once you cancel. With Fathom, it doesn’t matter where your site lives, our analytics keep working
  • Netlify is only $9/month, but that’s per site. Fathom is $14/month, for up to 50 sites and unlimited email reports
  • Netlify doesn’t block bots and has no way to block your visits to your site. Fathom only shows real humans who visit your site and makes it easy to not track your own data on your dashboard

These companies also don’t focus on analytics - they offer other software, with analytics as an add-on service. With Fathom, our only focus is analytics.

Server-side analytics also seem to struggle with filtering your traffic in your analytics (because most website owners don’t want to track their own visits to skew their data). With Fathom, we offer filtering on the device + browser level, so there are no IPs to block or browser plugins to install.

Our recommendation here is to use Vercel with Fathom. It’s easy to setup and get running, and Vercel is a brilliant (and fast) platform. Here’s a great comparison article between Fathom and Netlify too.

Reports and sharing

You can keep an eye on your traffic without even logging into our software, once you set up weekly or monthly reports. You can even have these reports sent to other people on your team (or customers), which are site-specific. That way you can look at trends over time, without having to spend a ton of time dissecting your stats.

Fathom also offers the ability to make your site dashboard private, password-protected or fully public. By default your stats are only seen by you, but if you want, you can share them with your team (no need for creating accounts, just share the URL and password). You can also be fully transparent and share your stats publicly, like our demo.

In closing, comparing Fathom Analytics to the competition

Fathom Analytics is simple to use, and fully respects the privacy of your website visitors. Join thousands of people using our software by starting a 30-day free trial. You can even run our tracker alongside Google Analytics or any competition to experience how great our analytics software can be for your and your audience.

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Paul Jarvis

Paul Jarvis, author + designer

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