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The Comparison That Absolutely Nobody Asked for: Jetpack Stats vs Fathom Analytics

turned on monitoring screen

Yeah, that featured image isn’t from either Jetpack Stats or Fathom Analytics.

I’ve been sitting on this article for a minute. Did I waste my time with this? Yes. Are you going to find this article useless? Also yes. Look, I’m not going to lie to you; this is 1700+ words of utter BS. You’ve been warned…

When we relaunched the website for this agency, I thought about stats, upgrading to GA4, and whatnot. I began looking at other options to track stats for a website. How much am I concerned about privacy and storing data in a black hole that requires me to declare how I handle information our website tabulates from visitors and the like? Certainly, it matters; I think about privacy a lot more than I used to. I think about a lot more things than I used to. These are the times we live in, people.

Regardless of the click-bait title, this article isn’t meant to tell you to pick one service over the other—it’s about my observations from using both.

Jetpack Stats

Jetpack. So much has been said about Jetpack.

Twitter never misses with the commentary, y’all.

Some loathe it; some love it. I’ve been on both ends of the love/hate for it. It’s matured as a tool and serves as a great platform that Automattic gobble (acquire) more and more customers. However, while Jetpack provides plenty of tools, we’re only concerned with Site Stats.

A bullshit image of Jetpack Stats' uninspired UI.
Rawr! Jetpack!! The UI is meh but our stats are even more meh.

What it is

Jetpack site stats is a simple module that collects stats from your website’s visitors. It contains page views, visits, referrers, outbound/inbound clicks, tells you about your most visited content, and tells you that you’re a very sweet child (mm, not accurate, but my mom thinks you’re all swell). Then, you can summarize that data by a few different date ranges such as seven days (the amount of time it takes before that girl from The Ring crawls through your TV and ends yo day!), 30 days, etc.

The data is stored via wordpress.com, Automattic’s SaaS-hosted flavor of WordPress. You can also view enhanced stats on WordPress.com with your WP account. The enhanced stats is bs, honestly. There’s no additional insights or data to be seen there—it does provide you one place to view stats from all sites you manage.

How it does it

How does Jetpack get its stats for your websites? Magic. I dunno. It’s able to track the data usage of your website in the aggregate and push it to your dashboard for you to see.

According to Automattic’s Privacy Policy, they only display anonymized data, so you don’t see data about your visitors except for the pages they visit. So, for example, you may be able to see some search terms they used to arrive at your website. But Automattic stores the data on their servers, and who knows where it goes or who gets access to it. So, on the one hand, yes, they protect privacy a little bit. But they’re not transparent about how that data is stored or where it goes (if anywhere).

What’s useful

I like the quick breakdown of visits; pages visited, referrers, etc. It is valuable information. It’s not a lot of data, but it is something. It’ll tell you if you should make another post about organic cow milk or not (don’t ask, but I had this conversation with a colleague not long ago). There’s no game-changing info here, however. You could probably do without it.

Is it even accurate?

Accurate-ish? After making daily comparisons for thirty days, Jetpack Stats were surprisingly in line with what Fathom reported. Jetpack was a good hype-man for a couple of days and showed significantly higher visits and pageviews than good ol’ Fathom. Was there a glitch in the matrix? I dunno.

What do I wish it did more of

What does any marketer want? For their clients to do what we tell them, of course! Second that it would be great if I could see data that told me how people got to my website so I could keyword stuff the shit out of all my content pages ad nauseam.

I wish you could track conversions in Jetpack stats, but you can’t, and I have no idea if it’s on the roadmap or not.

You can’t plot a strong strategy based on what data Jetpack stats provide.

What stands out vs. Fathom

It’s well integrated with WordPress, so that’s nice. It’s nice to have but not helpful. Jetpack stats are useful for someone who doesn’t want to let Google spy on their data and usage and can’t stand GA4 and would instead use anything else. I feel you.

Also, it’s free. I mean, you and I are the product. They’re giving us a free product in hopes we’ll install it on client websites and signup for a premium paid-for offering. Is it free? Not really. They’re trying to getcha on the back-end.

Fathom Stats

In Fathom’s own words

Fathom is a Google Analytics alternative that doesn’t compromise visitor privacy for data. We revolutionized website analytics by making them easy to use and respectful of privacy laws (like GDPR and more).

From the Fathom website 👆

Their value proposition is ethical website stat gathering for people who value privacy and dislike Google.

There’s a need for this product, especially when considering the discussion and increasing awareness around data privacy and what salacious info is out there about any of us for nosey marketers to parse through. So it’s a valid concern.

Because of how and where your statistical data/stats are stored, you don’t have to do that whole GDPR cookie consent banner thing (which I hate so much).

A gorgeous chart of Fathom stats. Give those front end designers a raise!
Behold our mighty stats for digisavvy.com!

What it does

It collects website data, silly. Duh! It provides information about how many visits and page views a given website has received. It also provides data about visitor geolocation and website referrers and includes info about conversions.

I do like the fact that you can configure conversion events relatively easily. So that’s a super helpful bit of intelligence your website provides you.

Speaking of intelligence, a great plugin tied in with Google Analytics is called IntelligenceWP. It was superb. Sure, you had to rely on GA, but it did a great job of providing real insights into your website’s traffic and what was valuable vs. what wasn’t. /aside

The screencap above shows that Fathom also provides a beautiful and elegant, well-designed interface to view your website data.

They also purport to serve more data from browsers using ad blockers. I don’t know how much more data you get due to that. Although, it does seem to counter the whole respecting users’ privacy a smidge. Perhaps I’m being too nit-picky; this isn’t a hill I’m willing to die on. No, I’d rather die on the Legend of Korra being better than The Last Air Bender hill, personally. I’m just here doing the thing, people!

I’m using Brave Browser on the above claim, and lemme tell ya; Fathom don’t pick up nada from my browser, which is a good thing because I don’t need fathom picking up my site usage stats. And that reminds me, there’s no way to exclude yourself from Fathom (or Jetpack Stats).

So is Fathom giving me the best, most complete data? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Maybe? Kinda?

How it does it

Again, from Fathom’s website

Our entire company is built on putting digital privacy first. Your EU traffic is automatically routed through European-owned infrastructure, and our Canadian company has GDPR adequacy ruling. Plus, we’re GDPR, CCPA, ePrivacy, PECR (and more) compliant.

Great! That’s a quick bit about how they handle your data differently than providers like Google.

What’s useful

You get the same basic data that Jetpack stats provide. Additionally, you get events and conversions, which is a big deal for any marketer. Fathom gets a nice ✅ from this ol’ guy right here.

What I wish it did more of

I alluded to it above when I mentioned IntelligenceWP. Beyond simple stats gathering, it would be great to see more insights regarding my site users. However, that would likely run counter to Fathom’s ethos (and entire marketing strategy) to include that. Specifically, scoring specific types of events or sequences of events would be great. Seeing it in a report or having a notification would be an excellent nice-to-have feature. Certainly, understanding more about my audience would be great such as demographic data. But, again, that’s something Fathom doesn’t provide.

It would be great to see data regarding search terms that led to a visitor coming to DS or knowing the specific URL someone came from instead of just the referring domain. It’s better than nothing, but I want better than something.

Publish a product roadmap. Like, please n’ shit.

What stands out vs. Jetpack Stats

Fathom doesn’t provide data about potential search phrases or keywords that result in a site visit, yet Jetpack Statusoes!!? It’s true 🤯. Don’t get me wrong, Jetpack Status is pretty useless for that for mostly obvious reasons.

Fathom isn’t free; the low-tier plan is $14 smackers per month, USD. I think that’s reasonable, and I’m OK running with it for the time being, I appreciate their mission and the product and believe they’ll do more with it down the road.

Final Thoughts

Look, yo’ azz is probably using Google Analytics/Tag Manager or Optimizely or some shit like that, so it doesn’t matter what I write here. So instead, I’ve decided to summarize my thoughts in two phrases that can be used for each product’s respective marketing campaigns.

Jetpack Stats

Jetpack Stats is the tool that’s just there to get a C in the class. So it’s passing, but you know better…

or

I lay in my bed at 3 am some mornings wondering if I should get up and use the restroom or see if I can sleep it out until I wake up or questioning whether I’m using Jetpack Stats for another day. Jetpack FTW!

Fathom

Our charts are f*ckn gorgeous! Privacy!!! F*ck yeah! Fathom

I was definitely high when I wrote this… Sorry, Mom!

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