It is the information age, and those without data are left in the dark. WordPress analytics is perhaps the best free way to gather the information on how visitors interact with websites, and this can be used to shed light on the paths needed to improve them.
Why use WordPress Analytics?
For those unfamiliar with Google Analytics, it is a free service that gathers a wealth of information about the websites it is installed on. Some of the info provided includes visitor numbers, where they come from, what pages they visit, traffic sources and so on. Knowing this data not only helps webmasters know how their sites are doing, but it also provides insights on how to upgrade them as follows:
- Know what content is popular: Posts that are attracting the most attention can then be improved or promoted in new ways.
- Links to a website: Use this to see what link building strategies are working.
- Visitor numbers and interaction: Information on how many and when visitors are coming to a site, as well as how long they are staying and other information that aids webmasters in figuring out what their visitors are looking for. In addition, it shows such things as the browsers and languages of visitors so webmasters can adjust their sites accordingly.
All this information can also be used to best target advertising dollars according to location, time of day and other factors.
The one drawback to the system is that some people feel nervous about giving Google too much information about their sites and what they are managing. While everyone needs to decide if they are willing to share so much information, it should not be a problem for those following white hat SEO practices.
For those who do not have one already, the first step will be to create a Google Analytics account. This best way to do this is to first open a Webmasters Tools account and create a linked analytics account from there. It is a simple process, and the instructions are clearly laid out in Google.
Once the Analytics account is created, it will be necessary to install tracking code to enable Google to gather the data. There are two ways to do this in WordPress: directly inserting the code or using a free plugin. Plugins, the easiest way, will be covered first.
Top WordPress analytics plugins
Google Analytics for WordPress
This is a very easy to use and popular plugin. Once it is installed, the Analytics code can automatically be inserted in seconds, although manual options to place it in other locations are also available. It can be used at a very basic level, but it has plenty of options for more advanced users. Once it is installed, it will update automatically and can be configured to track outbound links, downloads and other custom variables. It is also possible to set it to ignore different levels of users for more accurate tracking of visitors.
All in One Webmaster
A neat feature about this highly-rated plugin is its ability to integrate analytics and/or webmaster options for various services to inlcude Bing, Alexa, Blog Catalog, SiteMeter.com, GetClicky and Yahoo’s Webmaster in addition to Google. This gives users a much more comprehensive look at how their sites are doing.
Another popular plugin, it includes an admin dashboard displaying a graph of visitors over the last 30 days, as well as other information to include top referrers and searches. It also supports site speed tracking, link tracking and page links.
This plugin is great for those interested in tracking their social influence and engagement. It tracks more than 50 social metrics.
A number of other plugins, some very interesting, related to analytics can be found here.
Direct paste method
Using too many plugins can sometimes slow down a site and open security holes. For these reasons, some people prefer the direct paste method for inserting the analytics code. A tutorial on how to do this can be found here. Just keep in mind that the process will need to be repeated if the theme is changed.
Other advanced options
To avoid logged users from skewing analytic results, a tutorial for excluding them can be found here. Note that many of the plugins above offer this option.
Using the Google analytics API in WordPress
More advanced users will find this tutorial for Google analytics API useful.