Wooden property gate with a sign that reads "private."

Inside: About privacy in the digital age, how I approach it on my website, and what you can do about yours.


The word privacy gets thrown about a lot lately. And for a good reason, too. With the advent of social media, the line between the private sphere and the public sphere has blurred to the point of almost disappearing.

Maybe you’ve gotten used to people oversharing stuff that makes you shake your head and think, “TMI, buddy, TMI.”

If that’s the case, good for you, because at least you see that blurry line. (Said buddy, on the other hand, clearly lost the plot a while ago.)

But we’re not talking about oversharing today.

Instead, we’re talking about your privacy on various websites, including this one.

Typically, when you start looking into getting your own website, some kind soul will tell you that you need a privacy policy.

(They’re right. You really should have a privacy policy on your website. It’s a legal requirement, at least in the US.) 

It’s good advice, sort of. 

It’s also incomplete. And it glosses over… well, privacy. 

Not yours, but your visitors’. You know, those people you’re trying to attract so you can help them and serve them.

Is compromising their privacy part of the deal?

It will be if you don’t think it through up front and decide what you really want to do with your visitors’ information.

So, what’s the big deal with privacy?

Some people dismiss the whole privacy thing with a weird argument that goes like this: “if you have nothing to hide, you don’t need to worry about it.”

But… you know, it’s kinda like going to a public restroom.

Your… umm… equipment, shall we say, is the same as everyone else’s, and you have nothing to hide. But you still close the stall door, right?

It’s like that.

In short, your private stuff is no one else’s business. And other people’s private stuff is none of yours.

Simple enough, right?

But large tech companies disagree. They believe everybody’s private stuff is their business. Mostly because it is – they make money by selling people’s private data to advertisers.

Not directly, but that’s the gist of it.

The way they do it is by combining people’s search history, browsing history, location, and all sorts of other data points into detailed profiles to sell to the highest bidder.

So before you turn over your visitors’ info to Google, think about whether you really want to compromise your visitors’ privacy so Google can make more money.

“But I need the analytics!” Yes, I hear you.

Let’s talk about analytics

Traffic, traffic, traffic.

Like location, location, location in real estate, traffic to your website is super important. 

But, notice I said traffic, not users.

There’s a difference.

👉 When you track your traffic, you’re collecting general data such as where your visitors are coming from, which pages they visit, their browser, and their country.

If you get really fancy with UTM parameters, you can even get a really thorough breakdown of which links are delivering the most traffic for you.

👉 When you track users, you’re collecting personal data of your visitors, down to their IP addresses. 

You may be thinking, “but I don’t look at their IP address.”

Okay, you don’t, but you’re still collecting it and sending it to Google. Capisce?

And Google’s going to combine what it gets from you with what it already has and gets from others.

Track your traffic, not your users.

I know Google Analytics gets so much mention, it’s hard to imagine there are other options for website analytics. I used it too, for over a year, before figuring out it’s not the only game in town.

So let’s talk about the alternatives next.

What are your options for analytics?

Well, the default one is Google Analytics, but hopefully, by now, you’re getting my point that it’s not such a good idea.

There’s a whole bunch of other options, like Fathom, Matomo, or Plausible. 

The lovely peeps at Kinsta took a closer look at the top 13 alternatives to Google Analytics.  If you want to see the breakdown and screenshots, it’s worth a read.

I wish I had seen that article before making my decision. It could have saved me some research time.

As it was, I did my own research earlier this year and settled on Plausible.

Why I chose Plausible and how it went

As I looked at the various analytics options, I decided there were three important criteria it would need to meet:

  1. Simple – because I want a dashboard I can understand at a glance.
  2. Lightweight – because I don’t want it slowing down my website.
  3. Focused on privacy – because privacy is important to me.

Plausible Analytics met all these criteria and had easy-to-understand instructions. Plus, it was inexpensive at $6/mo up to 10K pageviews.

Yes, I did say inexpensive, not free.

And yes, I’m aware that Google Analytics is free. Except… it’s not really – you’re paying for it with your people’s privacy. And that’s too high a price.

So, back to how it went.

After the kind souls at Flywheel tech support did some magic on the server, I installed the Plausible script in the back end of my website.

And the Plausible plugin too, because that’s apparently how it knows not to count my own pageviews.

The free trial went well. 

I had a full month of running both the Plausible and the GA script at the same time, which made it easy to compare the data. 

And I could see that I was getting everything that was important to me and nothing that wasn’t.

So I deleted the GA script. 

Soon after that, it was time to update my privacy policy. And that’s when I ran into an unexpected issue.

My privacy policy and Dubsado

You’re supposed to review and update your privacy policy at least yearly. So I hopped to it this fall.

And I read every word of it to make sure it reflected reality.

When I got to the “Use of cookies and pixels” part, I changed the text to read: We do not use cookies or pixels to collect information about how our site is used.

Then I listed my third-party providers, namely Dubsado and ConvertKit.

And that got me wondering, what if they use cookies or pixels? How would I even know? And do I need to know?

And so, after a quick search, I installed Ghostery on one of my browsers. It’s an extension that blocks scripts from running and tells you what scripts it blocked.

Pretty cool, eh?

Homepage – nothing. About page – nothing. Opt-in page for a freebie – also nothing. I was starting to feel pretty good 😄

And then… disaster!

Okay, no, I’m exaggerating… it wasn’t a total disaster.

But somehow, there was a Google Analytics script on the pages with an embedded Dubsado form.

Wait, what?

Dubsado is tracking my visitors on my website? What the actual fudge?

Mind you, I love Dubsado. It helps me a ton in my business, and I wasn’t really keen on switching to a different CRM.

THE DUBSADO QUESTION

So I asked the ever-helpful Dubsado customer service. At first, the guy didn’t think they were tracking anything, but after checking, he came back and said that yes, they do have Google Analytics on the forms.

He wasn’t sure what info they were tracking but would forward my question (including how to turn it off) to the engineers.

And then I waited…

THE DUBSADO SOLUTION

Three weeks later, I had a message that they’d removed the Google Analytics tracker from my form. Yay!

Of course, I checked. And yes, Ghostery confirmed it’s gone from all my Dubsado forms and schedulers. Double yay!

So now, I’m happy to say, Google doesn’t track you on my website. You’re welcome.

(Legally, I’m supposed to tell you that some of the following links may be affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase through them, I might get a small commission. So now you know.)

If you’re interested, you can read my whole privacy policy here. Just be warned that it’s a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo.

BTW, you can get your own free privacy policy template to customize. Or a whole pack with a Disclaimer as well as Terms & Conditions.

Why this stuff even matters

For me, walking my talk is essential. You can call it authenticity, alignment, or congruence. You know, the big words 🙄

But you know, it’s like those big companies that you call, and they repeat every few minutes, “your call is very important to us” – even though you’ve been on hold for upwards of 40 minutes. 

I mean, is it really? So important you can’t actually answer it?

And it’s very similar when a website owner says, “your privacy is important to me,” and then proceeds to give your personally identifiable data to Google.

Once I realized the disconnect, I worked to fix it.

And if you have the same kind of disconnect, well, now you know about it. So you can fix it too.

Don’t just figure that people can install a script blocker. Sure, they can. But they shouldn’t have to when you tell them their privacy is important to you. 

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