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With any web project, stats are essential; a blog is no different. You need accurate figures on traffic growth, and you need to know which articles are popular and why. Even the earliest web pages had hit counters.
Oddly, WordPress doesn’t come with built-in stats, but there are certainly a few plugins you can use to add this. Today I’d like to compare 4 of the best WordPress plugins for this, and see if we can come to a conclusion.
Wassup is a quite unique in the sense that it spies on users in real time, taking your stats to a very granular level. The main dashboard is a fascinating display that auto-refreshes every few minutes with some really detailed information on each individual visitor, including:
- How they reached the page, which keywords and which results page they clicked through from if it was a search engine.
- Their path through the site as they view different pages.
- Their resolution, and browser details.
- Physical location using geo IP locators.
- Type of visitor – it might be a Googlebot, or an RSS reader for instance.
The main graph is a basic visits vs pageviews for a pre-determined time periods, which I personally prefer to having to select specific dates.
A quick Top Stats overlay also gives you useful info at a glance.
There’s a separate screen where you can spy in real time on visitor activity, and though I don’t find this entirely useful, it is nonetheless quite fascinating.
- Graphing of pageviews by day, month and week.
- Referrers and search engine terms
- Top posts and pages
- Outbound click tracking
- Subscriber stats for the email subscription widget included in the JetPack plugin
Functionality is basic, and the main dashboard widgets only focus on today or yesterday, which is a little frustrating. If you want to find out the top posts of all time for instance, you need to click through to another summary page.
On the plus side, the simplistic graph on the dashboard does have one unique feature, in that hovering over a particular day will inform you of any posts published that day. It makes identifying particular surges in traffic very easy. Otherwise, I’m a little underwhelmed by the functionality provided, as well as the interface and UI in general.
You should also bear in mind that the JetPack plugin is more than just stats, so you could take that either negatively because you’re getting more bloat; or positively in that you’re actually getting a lot of functionality for just one single plugin.
If you’d rather use Google Analytics, Analyticator is by far the easiest way to get your site hooked up and connected. All you need to do is authorize using your Google login (securely), then choose your site profile. Google Analytics is a topic far too in-depth to be getting into here, but the obvious advantage to sending your stats via Google is that it’ll take the load off local database as well as be securely backed up.
Analyticator also gives you a basic widget on the WordPress dashboard – admittedly nothing compared to the other plugins here, but perhaps all you would want at-a-glance.
If you think the standard JetPack stats reporting leaves a little to be desired, you might want to look at this WordPress stats enhancement plugin. It requires JetPack to also be installed and a WordPress.com account linked, but it provides a more in-depth look and additional functionality.
You get an incredible number of social engagement metrics and basic SEO stats, and these can be individually enabled or disabled on the settings page; some can be graphed over time, like your Alexa rank.
The plugin links with your social networks to give you engagement stats from there, but though Twitter worked fine I couldn’t get our Facebook fan page linked correctly.
Of these all I’ve outlined, not a single plugin stands out as being the ultimate stats plugin per se, though Wassup does seem to be the most attractive and comprehensive in terms of visitor details. WP-Stats Dashboard gives a nice range of other non-traffic related stats if you’re looking for a bit of SEO in there; and that requires JetPack anyway. That said, I would suggest you setup Analyticator immediately, as you may find yourself outgrowing local stats once your site gains traction, and it would be a shame to not have all that historical data there already.
How do you track stats on your blog? Do you have a favorite stats plugin you think we should have mentioned?