I note often in our weekly newsletters and month-in-review posts that we use a free and open source plugin called Koko Analytics to learn how many people visit our site. In those mentions, I usually link back to my very preliminary review of Koko Analytics from July 16, 2020. Now that we have been relying on Koko Analytics about a year and a half, I thought that it was well-past time to revisit my very preliminary review and offer a full review of the small, privacy-friendly, analytics plugin.
(Note: This is an entirely unsolicited review.)
Below, you will find several official links for the Koko Analytics plugin and project.
Finally, you can also read a 2019 blog post by the main developer of Koko Analytics, Mr. Danny van Kooten, on why he decided to start the project.
What Is Koko Analytics
The purpose of Koko Analytics is to provide information about how many visitors visit a site, how many views each page on the site receives from those visitors, and where the visitors come from. The first two terms are defined on the project’s WordPress plugin page.
A visitor represents the number of sessions during which your website or a specific page was viewed one or more times.
A pageview is defined as a view of a page on your site. If a user clicks reload after reaching the page, this is counted as an additional pageview. If a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, a second pageview is recorded as well.
Regarding referrers, the plugin shows how many visitors and page views come from different sources online. For example, The New Leaf Journal’s largest referrer is usually Google search. Koko Analytics records the number of visitors and pageviews that come from Google. It does not capture other information about visitors. Notably, Koko Analytics does not record session duration of visitors.
What Sets Koko Analytics Apart?
While I do not have the precise statistics, Google Analytics is overwhelmingly the most popular analytics solution for websites. On WordPress, it is very easy to configure Google Analytics and there are numerous plugins to assist with the process and show data. I noted in my first Koko Analytics review that we used Google Analytics from May to early July in 2020. Google Analytics’ free plan also provides much more information about visitors and how they interact with a site than does Koko Analytics, including information about where visitors are located, how long they remain on the site, and how they navigate the site once they are there.
Why then would one opt for Koko Analytics or a similarly less robust and analytics solution? From the outset, I will note that there is no doubt that Google Analytics and similar solutions like Clicky Analytics and Yandex Metrica provide more complete information about visitors than Koko Analytics.
Koko Analytics touts itself as being “privacy-friendly” for visitors to a site on which it is installed. The WordPress plugin page offers several points in support of its assertion.
Firstly, Koko Analytics does not use or rely on any external services. All data collected on Koko Analytics stays on the server hosting the site to which it is attached. By way of comparison, data collected by Google Analytics is stored on servers run by Google. It is worth noting that several other privacy-friendly alternatives to Google Analytics also store data on external servers – albeit with different terms of service and privacy policies.
Secondly, the Koko Analytics plugin page explains that “no visitor specific data is collected and visitors can easily opt-out of tracking by enabling ‘Do Not Track’ in their browser settings.” As I explained above, Koko Analytics collects data about events rather than information identifying individual visitors. That it respects “Do Not Track” headers, which can be enabled in most modern browsers, is notable, as some analytics solutions (including ones with a privacy focus) do not support “Do Not Track” headers.
Koko Analytics’ case for being privacy friendly centers on its being entirely self-hosted, not relying on third-party resources, and collecting no personal information or specific information about who visits a site. The WordPress plugin page also notes that Koko Analytics is free and open source, which has the effect of exposing the source code for anyone to study and evaluate.
While Koko Analytics’ documentation focuses primarily on its being a privacy-friendly analytics solution, its simplicity may appeal to owners of small websites, blogs, and hobby projects that only want a general idea of how many visitors they have and what their visitors are interested in.
Koko Analytics can be installed with one click from the WordPress plugin repository, and it is ready to work upon activation. It provides very clean graphs and charts for visitor statistics and, as I will describe later in the post, it has only a few options to manage.
There are many quality WordPress plugins that make setting Google Analytics up accessible for site administrators with very little WordPress experience. However, Koko Analytics is even simpler to use since it starts working immediately after being activated with no additional steps needed.
Koko Analytics in Practice
Below, you will find some screenshots of Koko Analytics at work at The New Leaf Journal. Number of visitors and pageviews are obscured, however. While The New Leaf Journal enjoys its free and open source analytics solution, our number of visitors and pageviews shall remain proprietary.
When installed, Koko Analytics places a widget on the WordPress admin dashboard showing a graph of site visits over the previous two weeks.
Below, you will find the a screenshot of the full statistics page.
As I explained earlier, Koko Analytics only collects information about the number of visitors to and pageviews on a particular site and information about from where the visitors were referred to the site (if available).
Koko Analytics is a terrific choice for WordPress admins who are tired of configuring options and dealing with choices.
The top setting allows for excluding certain members of the site from pageview counts. I have it set to not count logged in pageviews by me or my New Leaf Journal colleague, Victor V. Gurbo. It is moot for me, however, because all my browsers send “Do Not Track” headers.
The second option is the most significant. Webmasters may set a cookie to detect returning pageviews. As you can see, we do not use this option at The New Leaf Journal, although we did use it for parts of 2020 and 2021. Those who are bound by GDPR regulations should consult applicable guidance about the proper protocol for setting cookies.
Finally, Koko Analytics can delete data after a certain period – which can be configured in the menu. However, its database size is tiny (see our DB size at the bottom), so I do not think most webmasters will need to delete data often if at all.
How I Ended Up With Koko Analytics
When we first launched The New Leaf Journal, I knew next to nothing about running a WordPress site. I was not a big fan of Google (note I started using DuckDuckGo in 2015), but it was the only analytics solution I knew about, so I configured it for The New Leaf Journal on launch.
After we overcame some caching-related unpleasantness in June 2020, I started looking to make some changes to the site. At that time, our visitor counts were modest to say the least. Even if I had no qualms about having people submit to Google tracking as a condition of visiting The New Leaf Journal, I cannot say that we really needed all the information that Google Analytics provided.
I looked on WordPress for a reasonable replacement. My search had three requirements. First, I wanted something that would respect user privacy. Second, I wanted something that would not slow down our site. Third, I wanted a plugin that we would not have to pay for in the event of unexpected success.
My search came down to Koko Analytics and another free local analytics plugin called Statify. I went with Koko Analytics after my evaluation at the time and I have stuck with it because it works well. I never ended up trying Statify – but feel free to use our Contact Form to send your opinion of it if you have used it.
My Review of Koko Analytics
Below, I will detail my positive impressions of Koko Analytics along with some caveats.
What I Like
For my purposes, Koko Analytics provides most of the information that I need. I can set it and forget it. To the best of my knowledge, it has no effect on the performance of the site. Moreover, its graphs are very easy to look through and manipulate in order for me to collect page view statistics for our newsletters, monthly review, and annual review content.
I genuinely appreciate that Koko Analytics is privacy-friendly. All information collected stays on The New Leaf Journal, and the information that is collected is very minimal. In the event that I opt for a more robust analytics solution somewhere down the road (assuming Koko Analytics itself does not gain new features), my experience with Koko Analytics has inspired me to look for a self-hosted solution or one with very good terms of service and privacy policies.
In July 2020, I could not evaluate Koko Analytics in depth for two reasons. Firstly, I had only just started using it. Secondly, The New Leaf Journal only had a tiny number of pageviews to study. While we are still a long way from challenging those Buzzfeed lists for attention, we garner many times more views than we did when I first looked at Koko Analytics that July. There have been many two-day periods of late where we have surpassed our monthly view totals from May-September 2020. With more information to evaluate, including statistics from Google about how many times people click on a New Leaf Journal link in Google’s Search Engine, I can speak a bit more about the data provided by Koko Analytics.
Using Google to Evaluate Koko Analytics
To avoid confusion from the onset, I note that we have not used Google Analytics or had Google’s tracking code on our site since July 2020. I do, however, have a Google Webmaster Tools account (see my related article on Yandex Webmaster Tools). As the verified owner of The New Leaf Journal, I can see Google’s own statistics about how many times someone clicks a New Leaf Journal link in Google Search. Koko Analytics generally identifies Google as The New Leaf Journal’s most common referrer.
To study the comparison, I will compare what Google counts as “clicks” (when someone clicks on a New Leaf Journal link on Google search) to referrer visitors from Google see discussion later in the essay of visitors and pageviews) as tallied by Koko Analytics.
- July 21, 2021 to January 10, 2022: 99% similar (over-count by Koko)
- October 11, 2021 to January 10, 2022: 98% similar (over-count by Koko)
- December 14, 2021 to January 10, 2022: 98% similar (under-count by Koko)
- January 4, 2021 to January 10, 2022: 98% similar (under-count by Koko)
I had never compared the statistics before today, but I am very impressed. Google and Koko were closest over the six month time frames and most divergent over two 7 day periods, but even then the “most divergent” result was still 97.8% similar. An additional note that I included is that Koko slightly over-counted in the two larger samples and under-counted in the smaller samples.
I have noticed a few minor weaknesses of Koko Analytics.
Counting Things That Should Not Be Counted
Firstly, while it does have a built in blacklist to block referrer spam, it does count certain things as traffic that I would rather it did not. For example, I noted in my July 2020 review that it counted speed tests from GTmetrix as a pageview. The last time I checked in the autumn, it still did.
In the past, Koko Analytics would occasionally show a number of page views referred from Baidu, China’s largest search engine. The views were not huge in number or enough to distort our overall statistics greatly, but I do not think those views were genuine pageviews if for no other reason than we normally only see sporadic hits from Baidu. The general lack of hits from Baidu, despite the fact that we are in its search index, makes sense in light of the fact that Baidu has little presence outside of China.
A couple users reported nonsensical spikes in their Koko Analytics statistics on GitHub. However, I have never seen a noticeable spike in views at The New Leaf Journal that defied explanation – and I consider the pageview statistics to likely be accurate for those who do not configure their browsers to not be counted.
I had Koko Analytics’ cookie enabled through about June 2021. Even with the cookie enabled, I did not think that Koko Analytics had effectively kept track of returning visitors. I was able to come to this conclusion once we began to receive enough views overall and enough hits from Google that I could piece information together from different sources and determine that Koko Analytics likely over-counts unique visitors while providing a fair count of pageviews.
With that being said, I will note one example where I think that Koko Analytics did catch returning visitors – my 18,000+ word essay on the Roman Emperor Otho. That article had its best month in May 2021, and its showing more pageviews (which count refreshes) than visitors made sense in light of its length.
With that being said, I disabled cookies in either late May or June, 2021, both because I did not like setting cookies and I did not think enabling it was providing me useful information. Our visitor counts and pageviews are a bit more closely matched now than before I stopped setting cookies. While this does suggest that setting cookies does something, I do not think that the returning visitor counts are reliable even with cookies.
Updated: Homepage Counting
September 20, 2022: In my original Koko Analytics review, I noted in a minor critique that the plugin did not include homepage hits on its page-view list. I considered this to be a slight flaw. However, Koko Analytics now counts homepage visits for sites that do not have static homepages (such as our’s). I discussed the improvement in a Leaflet. Below, you can see what I wrote in January.
Outdated Content From Original Review: Koko Analytics does not include hits on the homepage in its pageview list. That is, my understanding is that homepage visits are counted as pageviews, but they are not shown with regular posts and pages. I would recommend at least giving webmasters the option to see homepage numbers. This would be especially useful for websites with static homepages.
Finally, it is important to reiterate that while Koko Analytics does what it sets out to do well, it does have limitations (by design) compared to the ubiquitous Google Analyics. In addition to not reliably tracking returning visitors, Koko Analytics does not provide individualized information about users or session information. Koko Analytics users will not know where their users are coming from geographically or whether they visit on computers, phones, or tablets.
For these reasons, I do not think of Koko Analytics as a full alternative to Google Analytics or Yandex Metrica. For many small website owners, it may be a full replacement in light of the fact that Google Analytics provides far more robust information than what these owners actually use. But Koko Analytics is, by design, not a one-to-one replacement for webmasters and administrators who actually make use of detailed statistics.
For webmasters who need more detailed statistics than what Koko Analytics or other free and open source local plugins like Statify provide, there are privacy-friendly and GDPR-compliant options that are more amenable to commercial projects. You can find a list of alternatives on AlternativeTo. Some of these alternatives are or can be self-hosted while others are services that store data externally.
Hacker News Puts Koko Analytics to the Test
In his 2019 blog post introducing Koko Analytics, Mr. van Kooten assured potential users that the small plugin could handle large surges of traffic:
In my tests it was able to handle well over 15.000 requests per second, meaning you don’t have to worry about being on the first page of Hacker News.Danny van Kooten
When I first started using Koko Analytis, I am not sure that I knew what Hacker News was. Little did I know that I would be one of the few Koko Analytics users to put Mr. van Kooten’s bold proclamation to the test.
In March 2021, my article on RSS as a Facebook alternative was shared on Hacker News. It reached page one. In so doing, it received more views in several hours than The New Leaf Journal had in 10 months. The surge is quite visible in our full Koko Analytics graph:
I did not notice any sign of Koko Analytics cracking under the unexpected avalanche of Hacker News coders crashing The New Leaf Journal.
Mr. van Kooten told us that Koko Analytics users do not have to worry about being on page one of Hacker News. That statement is confirmed by The New Leaf Journal.
Final Thoughts On Koko Analytics
The New Leaf Journal has been happily using Koko Analytics for a year-and-a-half. It has provided very useful information showing the growth of The New Leaf Journal over that time, and I have concluded that its pageview statistics are generally accurate enough for all normal purposes.
I intend to use Koko Analytics for the immediately foreseeable future, and any change would be to a similarly privacy-friendly solution after we upgrade our hosting in the future. I thank Mr. van Kooten and Ibericode for the well-functioning plugin that helps administrators of WordPress websites keep track of their pageviews in a privacy-respecting manner.