How We Started a Web Analytics
Alternative to Google Analytics
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is Marko Saric and I’m the co-founder of Plausible Analytics.
Plausible Analytics is a simple, open-source, lightweight (< 1 KB) and privacy-friendly web analytics alternative to Google Analytics.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
My co-founder Uku and I were both users of Google products over many years and we’ve had similar progress in our relationships with and in our thinking about Google.
I used many of their products and happily recommended them to family and friends. Over the last few years I became more aware (and less ignorant) about some of the ways that Google and its dominance hurts the web.
Pretty much every website or mobile app connects to at least one Google-owned product. Be it Google Analytics, Google fonts, DoubleClick advertising and on and on. One company and a company that makes money using surveillance capitalism being in control of the vast majority of the web is not healthy.
So I started looking for better, more independent and more ethical alternatives to use in my personal life and on my website. I also started writing more about issues with Google and about these better alternatives on my website and that’s how Uku found me and we got together to work on Plausible Analytics.
Uku is focused on the design and development while I’m focused on the communication, marketing and content side of things.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Uku did all the development and he documented his journey on the blog.
The biggest challenge he faced was on the marketing and communication side of things. He launched the product, he launched the subscription business and he did some marketing activities too but the company wasn’t growing too fast. There were not too many visitors, few trial signups and subscribers.
I joined earlier this year and we immediately did a big change on our home page in terms of positioning and got started on doing some content marketing. This changed our traction quickly and we’re now growing at a healthy rate.
Who is your target market?
There are different areas that we focus on. Some of our target audience are website owner who:
- Are fed up with Google and its dominance of the web and want to stop sharing the data of their visitors with them
- Think Google Analytics is a messy, ugly and difficult to use product, often slowing down their websites
- Don’t want to bother their visitors with the different cookie and GDPR prompts; and
- Want to give their visitors more privacy.
We don’t really look much into the geographical and demographical characteristics of our audience. We provide a solution to a problem Google has created for some website owners and we do it to whomever wants that solution no matter who they are or where they are from.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We are a bit unconventional in the way we promote our startup, saying no to the majority of best marketing practices. We don’t do any paid advertising, pixels, nor have tracking scripts are installed on our site. Affiliate marketing is not for us either!
We are active on a couple of social media platforms (Twitter and Mastodon) and the majority of our marketing efforts is spent on content. We publish the best possible content that we can think of on our blog and other relevant communities around the web.
Content marketing is what caused our sudden growth in April as we published a post on reasons why you should remove Google Analytics from your site. That post alone has been visited by 65,000 people to date.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
The main thing by far is the product itself. You can have the best marketing team ever, publish the greatest blog posts, spend tons of money on advertising, but without a great product that is serving a need people have none of that will have the best long-term effect.
We don’t do anything special to maintain the relationship other than to continue working on improving the product.
People come to us, enjoy our product and we try not to bother them too much if they decide to become paying subscribers. So there’s pretty much no communication from us at that point.
They can choose to follow us on social media, check out our blog or sign up to get the latest information via email, but we don’t try to “nurture” or in any other way influence them to spend more money, to stay longer or to not leave etc.
We believe that when the product is good and when it’s aligned with the beliefs and needs of people, this is the strongest message you can send.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
We’re a two person team. We’re working remotely and flexibly. Haven’t even met each other in real life yet. So this makes it easy.
We have regular video calls to chat and discuss things that we’re working on. We have a chat room where we share information regularly too. A lot of our other communication is in the public as we’re an open-source startup that has our development roadmap, future feature discussions and our source code in the open on GitHub.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We try to use open source software as much as possible and we keep things as simple as possible by not using too many tools when it’s not necessary. We also try to support independent companies and projects whenever possible.
We use Paddle as our payment processor as they take care of VAT and sales taxes for us. Our internal chat communication tool is Element. We use GitHub for our feature requests, development and product roadmap. We use Fastmail for email.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Clear and upfront positioning of your product is the key if you want to grow. Our product itself didn’t change much back in April when we had that big spike in growth but our product positioning on the home page and in the rest of our communication did change a lot. We put ourselves very directly against Google Analytics and got clear about what we are and what we are not.
You need to tell your story, you need to be clear and upfront about how you compare to the big players in your market. Your audience knows the big players and when they enter your site for the first time, they compare you against them in their heads. So help them make their decision easier by letting them know what you stand for and how you’re different from the products they already know. There’s no reason to pretend that your competitors don’t exist.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I love that we’re helping make a little bit of a difference for many site owners and their visitors. Every website that removes Google Analytics and replaces it with Plausible Analytics removes a little bit of valuable information from the hands of the giant and makes the web a little bit more independent, less reliant on surveillance capitalism and more healthy in general.
Seeing this progress is something that excites me and motivates me to continue working and continue getting to message out to even more website owners.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
This whole process of being a part of and growing a startup is very exciting to me. I love it so much that I cannot stop checking and replying to emails and tweets and other messages. I cannot stop thinking about how to improve certain aspects and what we can do to reach even more people or improve things for our current audience.
This is ok in the short term but I need to be aware that this behavior can lead to burnout so a bit of a healthy disconnect is recommended. I need to learn to relax and disconnect a bit more even though there are many exciting things to think about.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
My favourite startup book is Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson from Basecamp. I love their philosophy and the way they view startups, growth, business and life in general. Most of the lessons they share in the book are very unconventional and completely opposite of what you see and read in your average business or startup or marketing book.
Rather than giving me specific tips that I’ve utilized, it has more helped me have the right mindset needed to do well at startups. It has helped me be more comfortable about looking at common advice critically, judging it and being happy to say no to most of the things.
You don’t really need to follow all the best practices and do all the things every book or blog post recommends. Do what you feel is right for your situation and focus on a few selected things that you believe can make a difference for your startup. These few things then you can try to become very good at instead of spreading yourself too thin trying to tick all the boxes that the books and famous startup founders recommend.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
We’ve grown a lot since April and I hope we can continue growing. I’m hoping to see many more websites being de-Googled and using more independent tools that have nothing to do with surveillance capitalism.
Our mission is to reduce the amount of access Google has on the website traffic and we’re hoping to continue helping more website owners decide to de-Google their websites. This will hopefully make the web more independent and more healthy for everyone.
We don’t have big plans about creating a huge company and all that comes with it. We aim to grow and will do our best to do so but we will also try to keep things as simple as possible while doing so.