Running a website without access to statistics is like piloting a ship without a compass. You might eventually get to your destination, but you’ll suffer through a whole lot of unnecessary headaches along the way.
Analytics hold the key to understanding exactly what your audience wants, which kinds of content gets them hooked, and maximizing engagement, conversions and (of course) your bottom line. There’s a veritable treasure trove of data out there that you can take advantage of without investing in expensive advertisement campaigns, and with this post, you’ve got a map in your hands.
To get started, let’s break down how individual statistics can help you make better decisions, then go over a list of plugins that will get you all the data you need.
The Power of Analytics
Statistics may not be the flashiest of subjects, but their importance is undeniable. They’re the key to both understanding your visitors and figuring out how to keep them hooked.
You don’t even need super complex data to pull off this feat. For example, just by keeping track of your visitor count in a given week or month, you can easily figure out which content is performing better on your site and use that information to determine your strategy going forward.
A lot of plugins will collect this data for you and go a step further by outright telling you which posts have been more popular, or which keywords have led more visitors to your site, and whether they’re browsing through a PC or a mobile device (for example).
You might be overwhelmed at first by the sheer volume of information that analytics tools will throw at you, but you don’t need to focus on every single stat in order to make your website successful.
As long as you’re not ignoring analytics, you’ve already got a leg up on the competition. If traffic spikes data and device information are all you need to keep moving forward, then kudos to you!
It’s almost not an exaggeration to say that JetPack does it all: managing subscriptions, automatically linking related posts, social media sharing, website monitoring services, mobile optimization, letting users comment with non-WordPress accounts, etc. If JetPack could pour a fresh cup of coffee, it would easily be the best personal assistant a WordPress webmaster could ask for.
Among its many tools lies an analytics feature, which focuses on serving the most important analytics data in an easy-to-understand fashion.
- Statistical analysis is a JetPack default feature, which means it doesn’t require any additional setup aside from installing the main plugin.
- Includes an option to display stats (viewer count, most popular post, and top searches) on your main dashboard so you’ll always have easy access to the data.
- Keeps track of detailed information such as numbers of views per country, posting trends, peak visitor hours, referrers, clicks, and which search engine terms have driven the most traffic to your website.
- Enables you to decide who has access to statistical reports.
- There’s a nice little feature which can be enabled in the stats configuration screen, which displays a miniature chart detailing visitor activity during the last two days.
- A friendly smiley face can be added to the bottom of your page to show whether the JetPack analytic tools are working (killer feature alert!).
Where JetPack favors simplicity over complicated charts, Google Analytics for WordPress takes pride in being thorough and leaves no stone unturned when it comes to providing relevant information.
Books have been written about Google Analytics, but that doesn’t mean it should be reserved for professionals. Simply put, it’s a tool with a high-skill-ceiling that can still work wonders in the hands of beginners.
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights does a fantastic job of integrating Google Analytics within WordPress and giving you easy access to the data you need in order to make your job simpler.
- The integration process is as simple as following along with their guided on-boarding wizard.
- Keeps your embedded tracking code up to date to make sure you’re taking advantage of the full array of Google Analytics features at all times.
- Track the origins of your traffic with detailed reports, as well as which individual pages within your website are performing the best, and see which sites are referring the most viewers to you.
- Enables you to track 404 errors and see what visitors are searching for within your site.
The team behind Analytics Stats Counter Statistics also works on the ongoing development of a wide range of webpage administration tools, but their statistics plugin is a step above their other offerings.
Its developers have a passion for data analysis and were inspired to take a swing at developing their own tool after experimenting with Google Analytics. Even though they’re not quite in the same league yet, their plugin packs more than enough features to stand on its own.
- Lets you narrow down results and analyze details pertaining to unique visitors.
- Enables you to break down visitor statistics according to countries, cities, operating systems, which browser they’re using, and even screen resolution.
- Your analytics counter can be customized in order to provide a more personalized experience.
- Includes a statistics widget which can be inserted into your site if you want to brag about your numbers.
- The analytics counter can be password protected if you need to restrict access to the information.
Now for something a bit different. Simple Feed Stats tracks and gives you reports on your feeds, on top of providing you with a plethora of customization options to personalize the data you obtain.
- Enables you to track both feeds and custom content, as well as display the resulting statistics on your page through text or a badge widget.
- Your feed stats can be customized using CSS.
- The plugin features four different tracking methods: directly via feed request, embedded images within posts, embedded images within feeds, and open tracking through embedded images.
- Aside from tracking subscribers, the plugin collects data such as IP addresses, referrers, browsers, and time stamps.
This lightweight plugin is designed to give you all the statistical information you need in an easy to digest (and customizable) fashion.
- The developers have made an emphasis on privacy, which makes this plugin perfect for those who would rather avoid using third party services. All data collected by the plugin is kept within your own host and cannot be accessed without your permission.
- Keeps track of page views, type of devices, referrers, browsers, operating system, geographical data, and which search queries are used within your site.
- Enables you to choose whether to keep tracking enabled, in general, as well as choose if logged in users should be included in the statistics.
- Customizable time periods for statistics.
- One-page statistical report which features all the tracked information through icons, charts and maps to simplify analysis.
- Available in multiple languages.
In practice, this feature is so addictive that the plugin was named after it, even though said feature may not be very practical for analytical purposes. Thankfully, this plugin has a lot more going for it than a single quirk.
- Lists new arrivals at your website, which are identified through time stamps and country flags.
- W3Counter has its own Bootstrap-powered analytics dashboard, which looks fantastic and works in all kinds of devices. You can even switch between multiple themes to customize your experience.
- Keeps track of overall visitors, referrers, popular pages, and even tells you how many people are currently reading or commenting at any given time.
- Includes geographical data and a real-time world map which jumps between locations to signify new arrivals.
This well-rounded plugin can stand toe to toe with the big boys when it comes to statistics due to its wide range of features.
Most information is displayed through easy-to-understand graphs, which is a nice touch considering the sheer breadth of information WP Statistics throws at you.
- Includes a thorough admin manual which can be accessed from within the plugin’s dashboard. The manual can be downloaded from the same section in either ODT or HTML format.
- Makes uses of Maxmind GeoLite2 technology in order to display in-depth geographical data.
- Enables you to track visitors, current sessions, page statistics, queries from all major search engines, browser details, and referrers.
- Visitor IPs can be hashed in order to protect their privacy.
- Users can be excluded from the statistics depending on a wide range of criteria which can be customized to your liking.
- The data you collect can easily be exported to XML or CSV files or set to be e-mailed to you at predetermined intervals.
- Enables you to restrict access to the analytics dashboard to whichever back end roles you choose.
- Very active troubleshooting team.
Choosing an Analytics Plugin
Choosing the right plugin is never easy, especially when so many of the most popular ones share similar features. You must take into account exactly what data would be most valuable to you, which kind of reports you’d prefer, and your feelings regarding third-party services.
If you’re not concerned with the details and just want to get a solution up and running, JetPack or Google Analytics by Yoast provide a well-rounded service backed up by millions of users from all walks of the web.
Privacy is a tricky issue which shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you want to assure your visitors that theirs will be treated with the utmost respect (i.e. not shared with third parties) you’ll want to go either with WP Power Stats or WP Statistics.
If you like having someone you can turn to when you have technical difficulties, Google Analytics by Yoast provides a 24/7 support service alongside its premium plan, and the WP Statistics developer team is incredibly active when it comes to resolving user problems.
Ultimately, the choice of which plugin to use is up to you. We encourage you to take a good look at the list of features mentioned alongside each candidate and test out those that seem like good fits for your needs.
As a webmaster, your main concerns will always be how to attract more visitors or customers, and to keep them coming back for more time and time again. Analytics may not hold the answer to all of your problems, but they’ll give you the information you need to get started on solving them.
Keep the following in mind and you’ll be well in your way to success no time:
- Define your strategy and figure out exactly what kind of data you need.
- Pick the right plugin according to the criteria that suits your needs (feel free to test around; it’s important to pick something you’re comfortable with).
- Test things. Testing should become second nature to you as you try out new strategies to see what works best.
- Enjoy watching your viewer count grow!
What’s your favorite analytics plugin? Let us know in the comments section below!
Article thumbnail image by Max Griboedov / shutterstock.com