Wow, I don’t know what I was thinking for the first 3 months when I using the basic “Awstats” program on my server as my only software to track traffic, visits, incoming search keywords, and all of the other vital information about visitors to my website.
Google Analytics is free, provides an almost overwhelming amount of data, and is super easy to integrate with WordPress. If you are running a WordPress blog and haven’t upgraded your analytics software, I suggest you hop over to Google Analytics now and get started. This should take 5, maybe 10 minutes tops to get setup (full disclosure, it took me about an hour, haha), and whether you are a data geek or not, you’ll find out some cool stuff about your visitors that will help you connect with your audience better, so it’s good to check out no matter what your background is.
You can use your existing Google account and within a minute or two Google will give you a 10 digit ID number like UA-0000000-1, which you’ll need for the next step.
Next, you’ll want to install the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin, which you can do by clicking the link in the last sentence or by going to your WordPress Site Admin – Plugins – Add New and search for “Google Analytics.”
Once installed and activated, all the plugin requires is your analytics ID (i.e. UA-0000000-1 in the previous example), which can be found right next to your URL in the Analytics dashboard. The plugin will then automatically insert the necessary code in the footer of each page.
One caveat (and why it took me ~1hr to get all of this going): some WordPress themes take control of the footer, including the theme I’m using called “Carrington.” If the code isn’t being automatically inserted into your footer due to your custom WordPress theme (the Google Analytics dashboard will have a ! sign instead of a green check in the Status column), it may require you to go into Site Admin – Appearance – Editor – default footer and entering the code yourself, or in the case of Carrington you can go to Site Admin – Appearance – Carrington and there is a custom field there that reads “Footer code (for analytics, etc.).”
Anyway, what does this get you? A lot. And it’s free. Some sample statistics & screenshots:
Top traffic sources show where my visitors are coming from. It’s kind of neat to see such a high amount of natural search traffic coming from Google, but also interesting that my twitter account has generated a decent amount of traffic, as well as my flickr account and a few blog comments I left over at at Agency Spy on MediaBistro.com. I guess this shows why it’s important to promote your website holistically through a number of channels, not simply relying on just one media channel (i.e. twitter) to generate traffic. I’m getting traffic from places I’m not even intentionally soliciting it from (like the blog comments).
Another good one is the keywords driving traffic to my site through Google. You can tell that they are relating around three very recent blog posts I had on Google’s Treatment of NoFollow and how it will impact blogs, A Social Media WordPress Plugin I recommend, and my tips and advice for the new Facebook Vanity URLs that rolled out earlier this month. This reinforces the core truth about blogging, SEO, and internet media in general: fresh, timely, and relevant content will get you more visitors and well-written, useful, informative or otherwise enjoyable content will keep them coming back.
Browser statistics shows what internet browsers people are viewing my site on. It makes me so happy to see MS Internet Explorer at the bottom. To me, this tells me my viewers are more tech saavy and don’t use IE just because it was the default browser and they upgraded to a browser that doesn’t completely drag ass and generally suck at the internet.
There’s tons more information in here, but you’ll have to set this up to find out. You’ll notice in both screenshots above there is an option to view a detailed report on each data point, showing just the level of detail you can drill down to.