Why I chose Matomo over GA4 for an Online Travel Agent website

In today’s digital landscape, web analytics is crucial for understanding user behaviour, optimising conversions, and driving business growth. As a web analyst in an online travel agency (OTA), accurate and insightful analytics are paramount. Initially transitioning to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) after 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 OTAs.

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 OTA’s ability to gain accurate insights and make data-driven decisions crucial for their 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 for an OTA website.

They both offer event-tracking capabilities, letting web analysts monitor and measure specific user interactions on the website. Events can include button clicks, form submissions, video plays, and more. This enables a deeper understanding of user engagement and behaviour beyond standard pageviews.

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 for OTAs that operate across multiple domains or subdomains. This functionality ensures that user interactions and conversions are accurately tracked across different parts of the 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.

Tag managers

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 (Live) 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.

Unveiling the advantages of Matomo

Unlike GA4, Matomo offers unparalleled flexibility in tracking and analysing various components of an OTA 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 an OTA. This level of customisation enables stakeholders to focus on the specific metrics and insights that matter most to the business, facilitating informed decisions and driving growth.

The platform goes beyond traditional website analytics by offering multi-channel tracking capabilities. This holistic view provides a comprehensive understanding of user behaviour across touchpoints such as mobile apps and email campaigns, optimising the entire customer journey.

Real-time analytics help me monitor and respond to user activity as it happens. This immediate feedback empowers timely adjustments to marketing strategies, website content, and user experience, resulting in improved conversion rates and customer satisfaction.

The integrated A/B testing plugin lets me conduct experiments directly within the analytics platform. This streamlines the testing and optimisation process, eliminating the need for external tools or platforms.

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.

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 empowers me to gain accurate and actionable insights for driving 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.

A step-by-step guide to installing Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

In October 2020, Google launched GA4, the latest version of Google Analytics. It has now become the default analytics property for new accounts, replacing Universal Analytics (UA). To ensure you stay up to date with future improvements, it is recommended to use GA4 alongside your existing UA properties. This guide will walk you through the installation process if you already have a GA UA installation.

Update: As a web analyst, I’m deeply disappointed with GA4 and its limitations for implementing e-commerce tracking on our custom website with multiple suppliers and no stock. Despite investing weeks of effort into the implementation, it became increasingly clear that GA4 lacked the necessary flexibility and failed to provide the insights for our complex e-commerce setup.
Exploring other analytics platforms became a priority in order to overcome the limitations we faced with GA4.

Create a new Google Analytics 4 property

  • Click on “Admin” and select an existing account.
  • Click on “Create Property.”
  • Enter the name of your new property, choose the reporting time zone and currency, and click “Next.”
  • Answer the business-related question and click “Create.”

Configure your Data Stream

After creating the property, set up a data stream to collect data. A GA4 property can have up to 50 data streams, including app and web data streams. For this guide, we will focus on the web data stream:

  • Enter your website URL and provide a name for the stream.
  • Select the features you want to activate, such as enhanced measurement for events.
  • Click “Create Stream.”

Install the tracking code on your website

To send data to the newly created data stream, you can configure your website using the following methods:

Method 1: New on-page tag with Global Site Tags (gtag.js): The Global Site Tag (gtag.js) is a JavaScript library that simplifies tag management for various Google products, including Google Analytics. Follow these steps:

  • Copy and paste the gtag.js code into the section of every web page you want to measure.
  • Replace “G-XXXXXXXXXX” with your GA4 property’s MEASUREMENT ID.

Method 2: Installation with Google Tag Manager (GTM): If you’re using Google Tag Manager, follow these steps:

  • In your GTM container, go to “Tags” > “New” and select “Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration.”
  • Name your Tag as GA4.
  • Enter the measurement ID from your GA4 property.
  • Select “All pages – pageviews” as the firing trigger and save your settings.

Installation with an existing on-page tag with Google Analytics

If you already have gtag.js for another Google Analytics property on your page, follow these steps to turn on tagging for the new stream:

  • Open the Google Analytics property controlling your on-page tag.
  • Go to “Admin” > “Tracking Info” > “Tracking Code.”
  • Under “Global Site Tag (gtag.js),” click on “Connected Site Tags.”
  • Connect your new Measurement ID.

Verify the implementation

To ensure that the new implementation is functioning correctly, access the real-time report:

  • In the Google Analytics user interface, choose your GA4 property from the drop-down list.
  • Go to “Real-time” reporting in the left sidebar menu.
  • Check the events and activity on your website in real time.

By following these steps, you can successfully install Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and start collecting data for improved analytics insights. Stay up to date with the latest advancements in Google Analytics by using GA4 alongside your existing properties.