Website Analytics With Fathom

Google Analytics is the de facto standard for web site analytics. Rightfully so too. Google Analytics can harvest a massive amount of information about visitors and behavior on a web page. This however, comes with a privacy cost. Google tracks users everywhere on the Internet and uses it for profit. It is Google’s pervasiveness that drives me to use other services. When I started I installed Google Analytics tracking to get started. I always had an eye to move off Google Analytics, but never was sure to what.

Jeff Geerling does great blog posts and community contributions around Ansible so I follow his RSS feed. Jeff recently moved his website from Google Analytics to Fathom. (Fathom)[] is an open source, privacy focused web tracker. Fathom shows information about website visit frequency, most visited pages, and top referrers. IP addresses, web browser details, installed focus, etc. are not tracked. Not only are these details not traceable back to a user, but Fathom can be self-hosted so they never see the data.

Installing Fathom was quite simple. At first I was going to use Jeff Geerling’s Ansible roles but saw Fathom was available on Digital Ocean Marketplace so creating a Droplet was trivial. I added the tracking code to the website template and pushed to my development environment. I found out Fathom honors Do Not Track preferences so my hits weren’t being tracked. When I disabled Do Not Track for the website, it started working as I expected. Visits don’t display immediately, but seem to show up within an hour.

Both Google Analytics and Fathom are in use today until I decide I want to stay with Fathom. My goal isn’t to learn who is using the website and how I can market to them (what would I even market?) but to know how many people are visiting it and how they’re getting to it. As suming Fathom continues work well, I will remove the Google Analytics tracking code and make Fathom the exclusive tracker on my site.