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Who’s watching? Statistics Plugins for your WordPress Blog

Not a good day at all. A late post today, shorter than I was planning, because my ISP went out twice, for hours each time, in less than 15 hours. This will teach me to wait until the last minute to finish writing a post. Well, okay, it probably won’t teach me. But this one is finally done.

One of the things everyone writing a blog wonders is if anyone is reading. The best way to know that from the huge amount of comments you get when you post your wonderful words of wisdom. Unfortunately, most of the people that visit your blog do not leave any comments. This is true even on busy blogs, a fact is a comfort for those of us that do not get many comments, but it does not really help find out what folks are reading. So let us look at what the prolific plugin producers have given us to find out this information.

Keeping Count

WordPress.com Stats is pretty much the default plugin for statistics on WordPress blogs. It is maintained by the WordPress and uses the WordPress.com servers for calculations, so your servers are not having to do the work. It gives a good overview of number of visitors, popular posts, referring links, etc., all the things that a blogger is curious about.

The presentation is not all that great. There is a lot of information available, but it is not always easy to grasp the way things fit together at first. Probably the greatest lack of the statistics provided by this plugin is the inability to download them. Not a problem for most casual bloggers, but handy to have. Other than that, this plugin will probably handle most of what you want to know about your visitors once you get used to the layout.

StatPress Reloaded describes itself as real time stats for your blog. It creates a separate menu item on your dashboard, with an impressive list of available statistics. The Overview page starts off with a small section listing the numbers of Visitors, Page Views, Spiders, and Feeds that hit your site. It also tells you your last hits, last search terms, referrers, agents, pages, and spiders. All of this is cross referenced, and includes the IP address of the visitor. And I almost forgot the graph of your hits.

After that, you can really get into the details. There is the Details page, the Spy page, the Search page, the Export page, and a User Agents page. The amount of information available on these pages is easily more than what you get from the WordPress.com stats. It is not as comprehensive as Google Analytics, but it is easier to understand then either of the two, at least for me.

The ability to export a range of days as a csv file is very nice to for looking at information offline. And knowing what spiders are crawling your site, as well as how well they obey the robots.txt file, is also handy. The major downside to the plugin is the fact is the fact it uses your server and database. For a small site, this is not a big deal, but for a large one, it could be a literal show-stopper, especially if one of your posts makes it to the front page of Digg. So this is a nice plugin for small to medium blogs, if you want to know more than what WordPress.com tells you. But if your site grows larger, you will probably need to move on to something else.

Google Analytics for WordPress is the popular choice for integrating your Google Analytics account and your WordPress blog. Looking at the options, it is easy to see why. You just place your Analytics Account ID in the input box, choose where you want the code to appear, and decide if you want Google to keep track of the outbound clicks and downloads. It then starts sending information to your Analytics account.

There is also a section for more advanced options, with advice that you don’t really want to use them unless you really know your way around Google Analytics. I do not know my way around Analytics that well, so I am really not sure how well it works for most of the options there. But there are some nice things in it that are not to hard to understand, like tracking your Adsense clicks and being able to set tracking for different outbound links.

Very nice plugin, easy to set up for beginners, with a nice expansion of options you can use as you gain experience with Google Analytics. The biggest downside to it, is the wealth of information you find when you go to your Analytics account. It can take some doing to really understand and use that information to the fullest, but for large or growing blog, or one that is really serious about monetizing, it is probably worth the effort. And the plugin writer has some good documentation for helping you so just that, be sure to check it out if you decide on this plugin.

Final Words

There are other plugins for tracking statistics on your WordPress blog, some are stand alone like StatPress Reloaded, others use different outside services. And there are other plugins that will integrate Google Analytics into your blog as well, but they will have to wait for another post.

If you are really wondering if anyone is reading, or even just visiting, your blog, adding one of these plugins to your blog will help you find out. That is what they all are for, the only difference is how much detail, and complexity, you want to deal with.

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