Oh, and Google Analytics is easy to set up and provides a ton of data in a reliable web interface, but the cost is really the thing that I think puts it over the top.
I use Google Analytics on this site, and every now and again I take a look to see what I could switch to if I wanted, and every time the answer is that there are alternatives, but they’re super expensive. Here’s a highly-ranked list of Google Analytics alternatives and I think it makes the point very well.
The cost for these have some just insane numbers. $89/month, $500/year, and the dreaded “contact us for pricing” abound! Even the most affordable option costs $9/month, which it already more than I spend on hosting for this site through DigitalOcean! I want to have basic analytics for my site, but the pricing for these solutions are clearly made for businesses and not indie writers like myself.
Now, WordPress has Jetpack analytics which are free and okay as long as you mostly care about page hit numbers, so that could work for folks using WordPress. Honestly, I wish that Ghost, my back end, had some basic analytics built in, but it sadly doesn’t (despite having solid analytics for newsletters).
In my opinion, Mint was the best sort of personal, private blog analytics tool ever made. You ran Mint on your own web server, so all of your analytics were stored on something you operated, not a third party somewhere. The UI was nice as well, as it gave you a very clean look at the sort of info that bloggers cared about (it wasn’t suited for things like e-commerce, though), and it even had a third party plugin ecosystem where a few dozen devs made custom views you could install to get even more out of the package.
This all came in a one-time purchase of $30 paid directly to the developer. That was a lot of money for me to spend at the time, but I loved Mint.
Mint has since been discontinued, and isn’t practical in 2022 for most people. I don’t think it runs correctly on modern versions of PHP, and more websites are moving away from PHP at all (like mine), so it wouldn’t even run on a lot of newer blogging platforms if it were updated.
I think the reality is that if you need basic analytics, most tools have something built in that’s okay (again, not Ghost, though), and everyone else just uses Google Analytics because it’s free, easy to use, and easy to find help for in a pinch. Meanwhile, the third party market has moved towards serving businesses and those who have very specific needs, both groups that are willing to pay large amounts for this functionality. The middle ground for blogging enthusiasts just isn’t there like it was a decade ago, and the options have really just dried up. I wish something like Mint existed today, but I can see why no one has thought it was worth putting the time and effort into building it. If someone ever does fill this niche, then rest assured I’ll be first in line to try it out.
If I had to use something else today, Plausible Analytics is what I’d prefer to use, as they have a really nice UI, and I trialed them before and liked the service, but it would cost me $19/month, which is over 2x what it costs to operate this site today, and I just can’t rationalize the expense. $19/month goes a long way in software I could use to meaningfully improve my work, so spending it on something I literally check once a month to see how I did doesn’t make sense for me.