There are all kinds of stats plugins and services available to track your web or blog. They all do various things well, and I’ve personally used quite a few of them. After installing and uninstalling many of them in my WordPress blogs I’ve settled on two that I used all the time, the bsuite plugin, and Google Analytics. But Automattic (the people that bring us WordPress) has released an official WordPress plugin “WordPress.com stats“.
Before I tell you about WordPress.com stats – I’m going to tell you the features I like best of the two stats collecting mechanisms I use now.
bsuite is an awesome but quirky plugin. It’s easy to install and setup, and it not only gives you stats, but has other features for highlighting keywords and search terms when visitors arrive from a search engine. This is the bsuggestive portion of the plugin. The feature is “highlight search terms and offer search help”. You can also enable a “pulse graph” of activity for dashboard use, or include it on any page by editing your them which will display a nice graph, hits for the day, and avg hits. Another very nice feature is that you can filter incoming search terms using comment moderation and a blacklist. This fights spam because many splogs and spam bots will hit your site for various “bad” keywords looking to get listed in your logs. But the feature I like the most (also under the bsuggestive portion) is to “suggest related entries in the post”.
Other than the features bsuite provides (like multiple plugins rolled into one), it also tracks your blog activity and gives a nice one page snapshot of stats. You get a quick list of daily page loads, avg daily page loads, a prediction for the day, previous 10 days and best 10 days. You also get to see most read pages, top movers, search and non-search referrers in addition to comments and trackbacks. The only bad things is that bsuite tracks “hits”, and not page views, and it tracks ALL hits. So your numbers are going to be much higher than say google analytics or AW Stats – because it even tracks all hits by search engine robots. But once you get used to this it’s easy to view trends and activity.
I say bsuite is quirky because for the most part it installs easily and works well. But it seems to have some kind of conflict with either certain versions of WordPress or certain plugins (or both). A few blogs I have generate a database mySQL error for search referrers, and I can’t seem to fix it. The other features continue to work flawlessly.
Google Analytics is installed on every blog I have. I don’t look at my stats here all the time, but I do as regularly as I can. I like the way the reports are laid out and the multitude of reporting options at my fingertips. However, I don’t like the fact that I have to click through tons of screens to get what I want. There seems to be no way to get a quick “dashboard” of stats (everything I want to see quickly anyway) in Google Analytics. The one feature it does have thought, that no other package has is the ability to see (and drill down) geographically who is hitting your blog. If you have any local content at all – this feature is EXTREMELY helpful. You can drill right down to a state level and see the actual counts by city where users are coming from.
Now enter this brand new plugin from Automattic WordPress.com stats. Previously the ability to get stats from WordPress.com was only possible if you had your blog hosted at wordpress.com. For those of us that self-host WordPress blogs with a hosting company, you had to collect stats some other way. This is why plugins like bsuite were developed. I think that Automattic was VERY smart to develop a plugin for self-hosted WordPress blogs, and here’s why…
I installed WordPress.com stats quickly, and then had to input my “Wordpress API key” (the same one you use to enable Askimet). To do this you need a WordPress.com blog or at least a login. Although I don’t use it often, I do have a WordPress.com blog. I installed the plugin on all my WordPress sites. I was logged into WordPress.com when I got my API key, and after installing the plugin on various blogs I own, I had to refresh the WordPress.com page for some reason, and I noticed the tab “My Dashboards”. Maybe this tab was there before – but I didn’t remember it, and when I moused over it listed ALL my self-hosted WordPress sites!! Glory, glory, hallelujah…I had been waiting for this day for a VERY long time, where I could go to ONE PAGE and access all my WordPress blogs!! My wordpress.com account just because a thousand times more useful! And because I will be visiting that page every day – I probably will post to my wordpress.com blog much more regularly (I think they had counted on this)!
Once you install the WP stats plugin it takes about 20 minutes or more for it to collect anything (and you’ll get a message to that effect). And you access them by going to the “Dashboard” tab, and then “Blog Stats”. This is a very well laid out snapshot stats page…you’re going to see first a graph that can be configured for days weeks or months of activity, top posts (by view), referrers (by view), search engine terms, and incoming links. The one thing is this stat report I gained that I didn’t seem to have in any other was “clicks”, which you can use to see what people are clicking on. I never had access to stats on my outgoing clicks before. There are many plugins that track this, but I’d never installed any (for yet another report).
There are two features of the WordPress.com stats plugin that really nail it for me. One is “Stats Access”, where you can add the email address of any WordPress.com user and grant them access to your stats. Keep in mind that this is a “Wordpress.com” user and NOT someone registered to your blog. This is great I think because you can just tell someone to get a WordPress.com login – and they have instant access to your stats without the need for you to grant them access to your blog. The second is the top right dropdown (if you have more than one blog) and the “Switch” button. You can switch between stats on your different blogs right there (without having to visit multiple dashboards and wp-admi pages). That’s a TREMENDOUS time saver for me!
All in all I think that the WordPress.com plugin is the cream of the crop. I am very happy to have it installed on all my WP blogs – AND to have them all tied together in the dashboard and in my WordPress.com account. I think that everyone should have this plugin. I will, however, keep the bsuite plugin because it goes beyond stats in that it suggest related entries for each post and provides search help and highlights incoming search terms. Google Analytics I will keep because of the geographic drill down capabilities and the extended reporting options. I can honestly tell you though, the WordPress.com stats dashboard page will be the one I look at on a daily (or more frequent) basis for my sites.
I hope this review of the WordPress.com stats plugin helped you, and if you have similar (or negative) experiences to share, or want to suggest other stat tracking alternatives – please comment and share with all of us now!