Choosing the right Google Analytics plug-in

Google Analytics is a beautiful thing (as long as you do not care about privacy of your visitors… but then it’s their choice not to use Tor ).

Googe Analytics works by inserting a tiny snippet of code into your pages. Google provides the snippet, you insert it, the rest is pure magic (with some very sexy charts).

The snippet itself is very simple:

<script src=”http://www.google-analytics.com/urchin.js&#8221; type=”text/javascript”>
</script>
<script type=”text/javascript”>
_uacct = “XX-XXXXXXX-X”;
urchinTracker();
</script>

So, why on Earth would there be not one, but whole four (4) WordPress plug-ins for integrating this much functionality? Confused yet? – I was.

Ok, here is the summary:

Google Analytics by Rich Boakes – is the simplest of them all. Fill p one field with your Googgle Analytics ID (the line you got where I used “XX-XXXXXXX-X” abive) and it will smartly insert the code in the footer of your generated pages (so as not to affect the loading times as percieved by the visitors). That’s it. No frills, no questions, no problems. Best thing ever for a newbie who is afraid of making wrong decisions.

Google Analyticator is a more sophisticated animal. Not all of its options are extremely useful (I am sure many will disagree with me), but the important ones are:

  • disable admin logging – this is truly critical if you are running a small blog where your personal visits can severely skew the stats (or if you are anal like me).
  • disable outbound link traffic – a “feel good” privacy measure.
  • a field for other present and future extensions to Google code snippet.
  • tracking for downloads on per-extension basis.

When you activate this plug-in and try to check it by looking at the source of your pages… make sure you log out first. If you chose not to log the administrators, then nothing will be added into the pages viewed by users level 8 and above. You will feel really stupid after you bitch how it “does not work” and then figure out that it was you all along.

Google Analytics by Semiologicfalls somewhere betwee the first two. One can even claim that it has all the simplicity AND all (or most) the power:

  • one-field configuration. This time the user does not even need to know what his/her Google Analytics ID is: just paste in the code snippet and you are done!
  • it ignores the admins as well for that extra-precise data.
  • PROBLEM(?): the code snippet is inserted at the beginning of the pages. So, if for some reason there are problems communicating with Google it may (theoretically) affect your visitor experience.

Me, I am a purist, I am annoyed by things like this… There are plenty of people around who do not care (ones who do not know their Analytics ID, for example).

WordPress Reports by Joe Tan is very well thought through.

The plug-in creates a new top-level menu in your admin panel, not a highly promoted behavior, but I’d think it is almost justified in this case. The only alternative is to stick it underthe Dashboard, and you can do yourself with the help of Barun Singh’s Custom Admin Menu Plug-in.

Inserting the code snippet for you is almost an afterthought for this plug-in. It does not even ask you to paste anything – just lend it your Google Analytics user ID and password (they will be used only once and NOT stored, and thus cannot be stolen) and it will take care of everything.

  • The code snippet goes into the end of the page
  • admin traffic is not reported
  • The plug-in generates nice reports for Google Analytics AND Feedburner (that part is way outside the scope of this review)
  • There is a well-defined support infrastructure:setup page contains the links to the support google group and to the bug reporting page
  • You can use another plug-in to insert Google Analytics code, and just stick to this one for the sake of the Reports

This one seems like the one to go with. The only thing still unclear is whether it tracks downloads, and what will happen if Google extends its snippet code. I could test, I guess…

You know what? – I am going to deploy WordPress Reports together with Google Analyticator thus getting the best of both worlds!

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