Taking on Google
Marko Saric on how Plausible Analytics is taking a stand against Google and making an impact.
Uku Taht and Marko Saric
Remote, but based in the EU
$15,000 US MRR
Marko Saric is a different breed of marketer than most. He spent ten years in marketing for venture-funded and large companies before he joined Plausible as co-founder in 2020—and then promptly abandoned conventional marketing tactics. Paid advertising? Nope. Annoying website popups? Not a chance. Facebook spy pixels? Get out of here!
It seems to be working. The company has grown from $400 monthly recurring revenue (MRR) to $15,000 MRR in the past year, an incredible rate of growth for this two-person team.
Co-founders Uku and Marko started with one key idea—a privacy-focused web analytics tool—and their impact and business have grown from there. By focusing on privacy, they were able to build a lightweight tool that ends up being better for the environment. By taking a stand against Google, they also chose to market their business in a way that fits their ethics and values.
This focus on privacy and ethics has helped them create a strong business and now as their income grows, so does their impact—they recently announced they’ll be giving 5% of annual revenue to charitable causes they believe in.
Let’s dive into the interview with Marko to learn more about how Plausible is taking on Google and making an impact:
On big ideas
We started Plausible as a response to surveillance capitalism, the recent data privacy scandals, and new privacy regulations such as the GDPR.
Like many other people, we don’t like what’s happening on the web today, with Google and Facebook pretty much controlling everything. Plausible is our way of creating a web analytics tool that’s modern and compliant to this new world that we’re living in where privacy is so important, and that could be part of a more independent, sustainable, and healthier web in the long run.
We’ve always had some kind of a bigger idea behind Plausible. It’s never been about making as much money as we can. In our small way we’re trying to create a better web and that shows up in different ways, such as us being more privacy focused or us being more lightweight and environmentally focused and so on.
We are very firm and clear about what we believe in. Just by looking at our homepage, you can see we take a very strong stand against Google and we’re very upfront and honest about that.
On making an impact
With Plausible everything starts from privacy and so our core impact comes from building an ethical and privacy-focused tool.
About 80% of websites use Google Analytics, which gives you the insights you need, but it’s also connected to Google’s business model of advertising and collecting as much personal data as possible in order to sell those insights. We are completely disconnected from that, with no connection to Google or advertising or surveillance capitalism. We’ve built something that’s completely opposite from a privacy perspective.
In terms of the environment, our servers are 100% powered by renewable energy and because we don’t collect personal data and track people across the web, we can create a very lightweight product. To use Plausible, site owners insert a small 1 KB file on their website, which is 45 times smaller than Google’s tool. Plausible helps you reduce your page size and reduce your electricity usage.
For a website that has 10,000 visitors per month, in one year you could save about 4.5 kilograms of CO2 emissions just by replacing Google analytics with Plausible. Considering that right now, we are installed on more than 10,000 websites and we’re tracking hundreds of millions of visitors per month, you can see that this small one kilobyte number and 4.5 kilograms in terms of CO2 emissions savings adds up to a lot over a whole year.
Even two guys like us, a small team, by having 10,000 different websites that trust us to use our product instead of Google Analytics, it adds up to quite a significant difference.
We recently got to $15,000 MRR, which means we can pay our rent and bills from the revenue we make through Plausible. Because we’re not here to maximize our profits, we’ve decided to give 5% of our revenue back to causes we believe in. We don’t have shareholders or investors that we need to maximize income for and we ourselves are happy that we can pay our own bills, so now if we can do a bit for some of these other causes, then that’s even better.
On ethical marketing
Our philosophy and the beliefs we have about Google and privacy all show in our marketing. We try to be as ethical as we can, wherever we can. We’ve spent zero dollars on advertising and we’ve achieved what we have so far without funding Google or Facebook, which is the typical step you take as a marketer.
Spending money on Facebook or Google advertising would be an easy way to go, but it would be inauthentic and would not fit with what we’re trying to achieve. We can’t say we’re against all of the privacy violations from Facebook and Google and then start paying them to promote us. That’s not something we believe in.
From the start, we’ve said no to all of these unethical practices. It’s what we believe is the right thing to do.
I don’t think it has hurt us in any way. I think it’s possible to grow a business by being ethical. By saying planet first or privacy first, or whatever the cause is, you’re doing it differently than the traditional ways, but that doesn’t mean that it will affect you negatively.
Even though we said no to those traditional marketing tactics, I don’t feel we could have done it any better. And it is such a better way for us to go—business wise, but also from the perspective of what makes us feel better about waking up and doing the work we’re doing.
On challenges that might actually be benefits
You can say that to do business ethically, at least to do marketing ethically, is a challenge on its own. We aren’t buying ads so we need to actually go out there and do something to deserve the attention of people. That kind of marketing, such as writing blog posts, takes longer to do and the results may take a longer time to see.
It’s just a different way to do marketing, which brings different challenges compared to ads where you need to have a lot of money. And then you’re reliant on them rather than growing organically. Organic search is now our top source of traffic. I could stop writing blog posts and that traffic will continue coming. But with ads, if you stop paying for them, then the traffic stops as well.
So I would say early on, maybe it’s more of a challenge because it takes more effort, takes more time. But in the long run, I think the challenges we’re taking on because we’re doing ethical marketing will actually help us and make us stronger than if we just turned on paid ads.
On the future
Our growth so far has been a dream come true but as a two-person startup we take it one step at a time.
We’re building a better product in order to become an even better competitor to Google Analytics, which means that even more websites and business owners would have a reason to use us instead. That means more electricity saved and a bigger impact for us. It also means more revenue so we can make a bigger donation to the different causes we want to support.
Hopefully, by the end of this year, we will have 10,000 plus dollars that we will put into a few causes that we believe in. One of our next steps will be to sit down and research the different projects that we like and want to donate to—maybe $1,000 each to 10 different projects. That’s exciting for us.
Parting thoughts from Marko
“I find it very inspirational what a single person or a single idea can do and what kind of difference it can make, over a long run.”
Good tools and resources
“It’s a benefit these days for founders to have something they believe in and to be about more than just profit. If you believe in something or have a strong opinion, take a stand and be upfront and honest about it.”
“There’s always somebody that’s going to be sharing something online that looks better than what you’ve achieved. But that’s something you can’t control so don’t let it affect you. Stay focused on your own project and run your own race.”
Build a better business
Better for the environment, better for people and—yup—better for your pocket.
Every week, I put together a collection of practical and thought-provoking resources designed to help us grow our impact as small and solo business owners.
Interested? Subscribe here to get it in your inbox every Tuesday: