De-Google-ify Your Website [A How-To Guide]

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@metmarkoMarko Saric

On a mission to help you share what you love and get discovered.

Did you know that 94% of sites include at least one third-party resource while the median page requests content from 9 different domains? These third-party resources represent 35% of the total network activity and 7 of the 10 most used resources are owned by Google.
Third-party resources slow down the web and are a concern for the privacy of people who visit these sites. Google themselves will point the finger at their analytics and ads when you use their speed tests. They provide guides on making third-party resources less slow too.
Here’s how you can de-Google-ify your site, get fully independent and in control while having faster loading time, being more eco-friendly and more compliant with the privacy regulations such as GDPR and CCPA.

Google Fonts

Third-party fonts stand for 72% of all fonts loaded on the web. Domains
fonts.gstatic.com and fonts.googleapis.com combined stand for almost 4%
of all network requests.

Alternatives to Google Fonts

Use web safe fonts (fonts that are usually pre-installed on most devices) or download and self-host whatever font you want to use. Here’s a hassle-free way to self-host Google fonts.
For WordPress users, pick a theme that doesn’t use Google fonts such as the default Twenty Twenty or a theme that allows you to select the font you want to use such as GeneratePress.
Some plugins such as Autoptimize allow you to disable Google fonts in case that the theme you like uses them.

Google Analytics

76% of all sites include analytics scripts from third-party domains. The
most popular analytics provider is Google Analytics. It is used on 68% of the top one million websites.
I used Google Analytics and for years it was one of the first things I
integrated on a newly launched site. This is a habit developers should
try to get rid of. For most people, the data Google Analytics collects
is overkill. We only ever use a small share of it.
Alternatives to Google Analytics
Use Google Analytics alternatives that collect and process a minimal amount of personal data or those that can be self-hosted and that don’t send any of your visitor and customer data to third-parties. For more simple needs, you can even use your server logs. Many solutions do exist.
Matomo (formerly known as Piwik) is one of the big players in the ethical
analytics market. It’s an open-source analytics software that you can
either self-host on your domain name for free or you can pay them to
host it in the cloud.
There are several other newer players in this field including Fathom, Simple Analytics, GoatCounter and Plausible Analytics. Countly and Ackee are options for open-source product analytics. If you’re running a
WordPress site, there are also great native solutions such as Koko Analytics and Matomo.
And for those who want to understand their search engine visibility and traffic they get from Google, there’s Search Console which is the most accurate way of doing that. And you don’t need to add any scripts to your site to use it. It’s the Google tool I use the most these days.

If you really must use Google Analytics…

If you really must use Google Analytics, these are the settings to make it a little bit better:
  • Remove the “Data collection for advertising features” which includes the remarketing ability, audience demographics and interest reporting under “Tracking info” and “Data collection” in the Google Analytics admin section.
  • Disable the user-ID feature which associates visitor engagement data from different devices and multiple sessions. This setting can be found under “Tracking info” and “User-ID” in your Google Analytics admin section.
  • Anonymize the IP addresses of your customers and visitors by adding this piece of code to your Google Analytics embed code.

Google Maps

Domain maps.googleapis.com stands for 0.75% of all the network requests across the web. It’s used on 10% of the top one million websites.

Alternatives to Google Maps

OpenStreetMap is a great alternative if you’re simply embedding a map or directions on your site. It’s open-source and community-driven.
Some of the alternatives for developers are Leaflet and Mapbox that both use OpenStreetMap as one of their data sources.

YouTube

YouTube stands for 0.99% of all the network requests across the web. YouTube video embeds are used on 15% of the top one million websites. YouTube is one of the largest and most popular websites on the web and it's a key platform if you want to start a video blog, but there are alternatives to consider.

Alternatives to YouTube

Vimeo is one of the most popular alternatives to YouTube when you want to embed a video on your site.
PeerTube is another interesting alternative. It’s a free, open-source, federated and decentralized video platform that uses peer-to-peer technology.
A federated platform allows you to join one of the existing instances or
create your own which then syncs with the rest of the network. Here’s a video intro on how PeerTube works.

If you really must use YouTube…

If you really must embed a YouTube video, there’s the no-cookie option.
It’s something Google created as a response to the GDPR. According to Google:
“Privacy Enhanced Mode allows you to embed YouTube videos without using cookies that track viewing behavior. This means no activity is collected to personalize the viewing experience. Instead, video recommendations are
contextual and related to the current video. Videos playing in Privacy
Enhanced Mode won’t influence the viewer’s browsing experience on YouTube.”
In “Embed options” of a YouTube video, tick the “enable privacy-enhanced mode”. Or simply change the domain in the embed code from https://www.youtube.com to https://www.youtube-nocookie.com.

Google Adsense

Google Adsense allows publishers and other site owners to monetize their sites using targeted advertising based on the profiling of their visitors.
Adsense scripts, DoubleClick scripts (also Google-owned) and other ad scripts are found on 57% of all sites and account for 25% of all third-party
requests.

Alternatives to Google Adsense

Adsense and its competitors normally pay per impression, need a lot of data collection and profiling, load tons of third-party resources that slow down your site and require a lot of page views to make money.
They are one of the main reasons for all the clickbait articles. It’s all about
getting as many views as possible to boost the number of ad impressions. I would suggest you explore different monetization opportunities
instead:
Try affiliate marketing where you refer your audience to relevant products that help them achieve what they’re trying to do. Instead of chasing page views, you’ll need to help people.
Sell products, courses and services that educate, inform and entertain your audience. Work with relevant brands directly and accept sponsorships from companies. Sell subscriptions and accept donations from your loyal fans using services such as Patreon. If you want to use digital advertising, you may consider blockchain-based Basic Attention Token by the company behind the Brave browser.

Google AMP

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is Google’s way to try and amend some of the ways that they themselves have caused the web to become slow and bloated.
Websites are bloated thanks to the overuse of third-party requests such as
Google Analytics and Adsense advertising scripts so Google has created a new way to speed the web.

Alternatives to Google AMP

Rather than using these workarounds, I suggest you tackle the problem of a slow website head on. It’s possible to make your site just as fast as an AMP site without using Google AMP. Here’s how:
  • Restrict unnecessary elements.
    Understand every request your site is making and consider how useful
    they are. Do those flashing and distracting calls-to-action make a
    difference to the goals you have or are they simply annoying 99% of
    people that visit your site? Do you really need auto-playing videos?
  • Restrict third-party connections and scripts.
    Do you need Google fonts? Do you need to collect all that behavioral
    data that you may never look at? Do you need the official social media
    share buttons? There are better and lighter solutions for each of these.
  • Lazy load images and videos.
    There’s simply no reason to load your full page and everything on it as soon as a visitor enters your site. Lazy loading only loads images in
    the browser’s view and the rest only as the visitor scrolls down the
    page. If you have a WordPress site, I’ve published details on the steps I took to speed up WordPress and get top scores on the different webpage speed tests while using a shared hosting platform.

Google reCAPTCHA

Many site owners use Google’s reCAPTCHA to sort out bots and verify real
human visitors. They may use it to secure their login form or to protect their comments area from spam. You may know them as those “I’m not a
robot” checks that make you verify different objects such as crosswalks.
It’s not a perfect technology as it affects many normal users too such as
those using a VPN, those using alternative browsers or those who use
browser extensions that block certain elements.

Alternatives to Google reCAPTCHA

There are many alternatives to reCAPTCHA. Explore those such as the image based VisualCaptcha which allows you to configure your own options, Honeypot which features an invisible field that users don’t see and hCaptcha which is like reCAPTCHA but a bit more transparent.
For WordPress users, the best alternative is Akismet which is created by the team behind WordPress.com. It protects everything on your site from the contact form to the comments area. And it does so without affecting real users and without forcing them to do different tests.

If you really must use Google reCAPTCHA…

There’s the Invisible reCAPTCHA. It works pretty much the same as the regular reCAPTCHA but there are no checkboxes and no tests for visitors by default. Only “the most suspicious traffic” will be shown the test so some real visitors may still be affected.

Google Blogger

Google’s Blogger (aka Blogspot) hosts just under 1% of all the sites on the web. The thing is, Google doesn’t seem to care much about it. There’s a lack of development efforts and resources. Google seems to just patch things up to keep it from completely breaking down.
Look at this list of updates. Since the start of 2015, the only significant update was the introduction of HTTPS. Everyone has seen the fate of Google Reader, Google+, Google Inbox and other services Google decides to neglect.

Alternatives to Google Blogger

There are many interesting options. The most popular one is WordPress which hosts more than 35% of the web. I use it to run this site. It’s free and open-source, you can download it, do whatever you want with it and host it wherever you want.
The passionate community behind the project has created tens of thousands of free design themes and plugins that you can use to create any website that you want. It also allows you to easily export any of the content you create in case you ever decide to leave.
Other Blogger alternatives are Ghost, Hugo, Jekyll and Plume. So many options are available that I have published a full list of the best blogging platforms.
Are you looking to de-Google-ify your laptop and mobile too? I have a list of great apps that are alternatives to the surveillance capitalism defaults.

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