Why I chose Matomo over GA4 for an online travel agent

In today’s digital landscape, web analytics is crucial for understanding user behaviour, optimising conversions, and driving business growth. Accurate and insightful analytics are paramount.
Initially transitioning to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) after Google announced the sunset of GA Universal Analytics, I soon discovered that GA4’s e-commerce function wasn’t flexible enough for our diverse range of services. This realisation led me to explore alternative solutions, ultimately leading me to Matomo On-Premises.

Let’s delve into the reasons behind my decision and highlight the advantages that Matomo offers over GA4 in the realm of web analytics for complex and custom e-commerce websites.

Understanding the limitations of GA4 for OTAs

GA4, although designed to provide enhanced tracking and analysis, falls short when it comes to the complex ecosystem of OTA websites. The e-commerce function in GA4 lacks the flexibility required to effectively capture and analyse the diverse range of services offered by OTAs, including flights, accommodations, and transfers. The standard e-commerce setup in GA4 is primarily geared towards traditional retail scenarios and fails to capture the intricacies of the travel industry. This limitation hinders the ability to gain accurate insights and make data-driven decisions crucial for our success.

Similarities between Matomo and GA4

Both Matomo and GA4 share several similarities that make them attractive options for web analytics. One such similarity is their ability to utilise a data layer, a structured data container that holds relevant information about user interactions on the website. Implementing a data layer allows for consistent and accurate data collection, enabling detailed analysis and insights. With the right implementation, both Matomo and GA4 can effectively leverage the data layer to track and measure crucial metrics.

Both shift the focus from session-based analytics to user-centric analytics. They provide insights into individual user behaviour across multiple sessions, giving a more comprehensive understanding of user journeys and segmentation based on user attributes.

GA4 and Matomo support cross-domain tracking, which is crucial when operating across multiple domains or subdomains. This functionality ensures that user interactions and conversions are accurately tracked across different parts of our website, providing a unified view of the customer journey.

Like in GA4, we can integrate Matomo with advertising platforms, such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and other third-party ad networks. This integration lets me track the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns, measure conversions, and optimise their marketing efforts.

Similar to Google Universal Analytics, Matomo allows me to analyse content performance on your website. You can track metrics such as page views, time on page, bounce rates, and exit rates.

Matomo provides detailed information about visitor actions and event-tracking capabilities similar to GA4, letting you monitor and measure specific user interactions on the website. It displays default information about pages, on-site searches, external links, downloads, button clicks, video plays, and more. and events.
Matomo goes beyond the capabilities of Google Analytics though, allowing me to dig deeper into behavior analysis by using the Matomo Tag Manager and triggering various tags such as download pages, paths, URIs, etc. The behavior flow can also be found in Matomo, referred to as “User Flows.”

Integrated tag manager

Tag managers serve as an essential component in the implementation and management of our web analytics solutions.
Both Matomo and GA4 offer tag managers that simplify the process of deploying tracking codes and managing tags across the website.

However, Matomo’s tag manager stands out for seamless integration with the Matomo analytics platform and the multiple environment container feature that simplifies the process of tracking multiple environments such as Staging, Development, or Production websites using a single Tag Manager Container. This streamlined approach significantly reduces the time and effort required for implementing and maintaining tracking tags, providing me and the dev team with a more efficient workflow.

Matomo On-Premise or Matomo Cloud

I should mention that Matomo is available in two versions. The first version is the open-source self-hosted version called Matomo On-Premise. It provides basic functionalities similar to Google Analytics and can be enhanced by adding plugins from the Matomo Marketplace. Some plugins may require a purchase to access features similar to Google Analytics, particularly custom reporting.
The second version is Matomo Cloud, which resembles the Google Analytics experience. It involves creating an account on the Matomo Cloud website, adding users, and enjoying premium features. However, it’s crucial to note that Matomo Cloud operates on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, requiring a subscription fee.

Unveiling the advantages of Matomo

Unlike GA4, Matomo offers unparalleled flexibility in tracking and analysing various components of our website. It allows customisation of tracking parameters and e-commerce events, ensuring accurate measurement of conversions across flights, rooms, transfers, and other travel-related services.

User privacy is prioritised by offering self-hosting capabilities, enabling us to retain full control over our data. This aspect is vital in an era where data privacy and compliance are paramount concerns.

Matomo provides robust customisation options for creating dashboards and reports tailored to the unique requirements of a travel website. This level of customisation enables stakeholders to focus on the specific metrics and insights that matter most to them, facilitating informed decisions and driving growth.

Matomo slightly differs from Google in terms of acquisition reports. After an overview section, you can analyse each channel identified by Matomo, including search engines, referring sites, social networks, and campaigns. This holistic view provides a comprehensive understanding of user behaviour across touchpoints.
However, it’s important to note that tracking Google Ads traffic requires manual configuration as separate campaigns. Unlike the seamless integration of Google’s tools, external solutions like Matomo require this manual setup.

Although they are not directly visible in Matomo, real-time features are available. These features are classified under visitor reports but can be integrated into a customised dashboard to replicate real-time reports similar to Google Analytics. Additionally, Matomo allows me to add visit logs and other significant reports for in-depth analysis.

Its advanced segmentation and cohort analysis features let me dive deeper into their data, uncovering valuable patterns and trends. This granularity allows for targeted marketing campaigns, personalised recommendations, and tailored user experiences, improving customer engagement and loyalty.

Matomo offers a range of advanced features and capabilities that go beyond what is available in GA. By leveraging these additional functionalities, I gain deeper insights into user behaviour. Here are some notable features offered by Matomo:

Heatmaps and session recording to understand user engagement and optimise the website’s layout and content placement. Additionally, session recording help identify usability issues and improve the user experience.

Conversion funnel analysis providing insights into how users move through the different stages of conversion on our website.

Form analysis shows form interactions and gather data on form abandonment, completion rates, and field interactions.

Media analysis let me track embedded videos or audio files (such as MP3) to measure engagement metrics like play rates, time watched, and completion rates.

The A/B testing functionality allows me to run experiments and compare the performance of different variations of web pages or elements.

Customisation options allow the creation of custom dimensions to track additional data points, build advanced segments to filter and analyse specific subsets of our audience, and create custom reports and dashboards.

The integration with external tools such as PowerBI, Tableau, and even Google Looker Studio help me leverage the power of these tools for in-depth analysis and reporting. Additionally, Matomo provides data export options in different formats, including RSS feeds, ensuring flexibility in accessing and using data.

As an open-source solution, Matomo provides a high degree of flexibility. With the help of a developper, we can access the source code and customise Matomo to suit our specific requirements. This level of flexibility allow us to extend Matomo’s capabilities and integrate it with our other systems and platforms.

My decision to choose Matomo over GA4 was driven by the need for flexibility, insightful data analysis, and data ownership. While GA4’s e-commerce function falls short for an OTA website, Matomo offers a powerful and customisable solution that caters specifically to the complexities of the travel industry.
With robust data layer integration, an integrated tag manager, flexibility in tracking various services, and a privacy-focused approach, Matomo gives me accurate and actionable insights for driving the business growth. By using Matomo’s advanced reporting capabilities, real-time analytics, and multi-channel tracking, I can optimise marketing strategies, enhance the customer experience, and increase conversions and revenue.

Embracing Matomo as the web analytics solution proves to be a strategic move in the pursuit of data-driven success in the dynamic landscape of the online travel industry.

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