Tuesday, March 16, 2010...9:00 am

My tangled web of analytics

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Warning: intense WordPress stats geekery ahead

We’re coming up to the annual WordPress geekery blowout that is my full year web stats report.

Freelance Unbound’s half-yearly web stats geekery report came when the site was hosted on WordPress.com. This had its ups and downs.

The upside was that it was simple to understand – WordPress has created a very user-friendly set of Dashboard tools to help newbies get to grips with site traffic. The downside was that it wasn’t that detailed or accurate. As far as I could tell, it didn’t tell you who just visited the home page – as opposed to clicking on individual stories.

This seems to have been resolved on WordPress.com now. But it meant that at that time my traffic seems to have been under-reported. One of the motivations for switching to self-hosted WordPress was to install some more detailed analytics. I really wanted to get a deeper insight into my stats.

How did that go? A bit hit and miss, frankly.

Google Analytics

First off, I signed up to Google Analytics. Sign-up is easy enough – but figuring out how and where to paste in the analytics code into the right place in my web site was pretty confusing. Not, however, as confusing as figuring out where my site traffic information actually is on the Google Analytics site.

I was ready to give up on it, when, thankfully I discovered there was a Google Analytics dashboard plug-in. A shame it took me a while to find it, but it did simplify things a lot.

But there were still a couple of problems. First, its numbers were completely different from the old WP Stats. It meant I had no idea whether moving the site to a new domain name and host had boosted traffic, or if it was being measured in a different way.

WordPress Stats

Eventually, I found the WP-Stats plug-in, which gives you back your old WordPress.com-type stats. It showed visits more or less in line with the old WordPress.com site, which told me the traffic boost I had experienced was because Google Analytics measured visits differently.

But the other problem with Google Analytics is that it doesn’t really tell me what I want to know. It’s there in the dashboard, but doesn’t seem to break out the stats graph into greater detail about top posts and pages. I guess for that I have to go back into Google and find it there. Which leaves me back at square one.

StatPress Reloaded

Then I discovered the StatPress Reloaded plug-in, which seemed to be the answer to all my prayers. It breaks down my traffic into minute detail, but in easily understood visual format. At last, I thought, I have The Answer.

But on closer acquaintance, StatPress has been a bit of a let-down. Yes, it has fantastic detail (I even know all the IP addresses of my visitors’ ISPs. Which is, you know, the key to blogging success). But it doesn’t have any accessible archive that I can see.

There is supposed to be an export function that will let you export data for a specified period to Excel, say. But, frustratingly, it doesn’t seem to actually work. All I get is an empty file when I try it.

This has all left my stats a bit adrift. I’ve got inconsistent numbers, inconsistent formats and no track record of the most detailed figures.

Irritatingly, I didn’t realise that I had the option to integrate my WordPress.com blog stats with the WP-Stats plugin if I’d installed it straight away. At the least this would have meant I had a consistent year’s worth of at least some stats to share with my eager, geeky readership.

In short, I’ve made a bit of a hash of it all. So the annual blog stats geekery update won’t be quite as informative as I’d hoped. But as Soilman says, he’s been through the stats-obsessed stage and come out the other side. I often don’t bother looking at my stats from week to week and just focus on my content. Which is probably for the best…

3 Comments

  • Despite the fact that I am pained by your heinous mistake in para 7, I’m pretty impressed by your web stats. That’s quite a lot of visitors, you know.

  • Freelance UnboundNo Gravatar
    March 16th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Now corrected. I thank my eagle-eyed readership for correcting my first-year J-student error…

  • “But as Soilman says, he’s been through the stats-obsessed stage and come out the other side. I often don’t bother looking at my stats from week to week and just focus on my content. Which is probably for the best…”

    I’ve been there too. Pretty soon you realise what a waste of time it is when you’re running a low-traffic site. Stats are vital if your daily visitors run to tens of thousands and your advertisers are screaming for numbers, but until I reach that point, I’m comfortable not knowing too many details.

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