I use several site statistics and analytics plugins and services. Each one gives me a slightly different view of my sites, and each one has a different take on how it collects and collates its information. And every one has its own version of what the numbers for my sites are!
Since the statistics all of them provide is different, how do I decide which one is the most accurate? Frankly, it’s through experience in comparing the hourly and daily stats provided, and learning as much as possible about what data is collected for each statistic and how it is collected. Over time, I have gotten a feel for which ones are most reliable, and I depend on them to make important decisions about my sites. The others I use for their strengths, but take their statistics “with a grain of salt.”
Here are the statistic plugins and services that I use:
WordPress.com Stats plugin
The stat plugin I use the most is WordPress.com Stats plugin. It creates a new panel in the WordPress Admin area that has a real-time graph of the number of page views on the site as well as statistics for referrers, top posts and pages, search terms used to find the site, links clicked, and incoming links. Its history of articles read is not available in other services or plugins I use. Its statistics are kept on the WordPress.com site, so there’s no load on your server. I do not consider these statistics as infinitesimally accurate as those provided by other plugins and services I use, but are a good indication of real-time trends in an easy-to-use format. I use it the most because of its presentation of information, not for its accuracy. The stats provided tend to be on the high side.
The CyStats plugin is much more detailed in the data it collects and presents than the WordPress.com Stats plugin. It, too, displays its information on a panel in the WordPress Admin area. It uses the WordPress database to keep its information, so it does add a load to your server. CyStats is also real-time and keeps some of the same data as WordPress.com Stats, adding hits and information from feed readers, summary of all traffic, most visited pages, most commented posts, and much more. Its accuracy is very good, and its stats are the ones I depend on the most.
Woopra plugin and service
Woopra has both a website and a plugin. As of this writing, it is in closed beta, free, and accepting new members. It offers real-time tracking and analysis of your site statistics, and collects roughly the same data as the WordPress.com Stats plugin. To this is added tagged visitors, bounce rate, visit durations, and countries. The data is kept on Woopra’s servers so there is no load on your server. Its stats tend to be the highest of any of the plugins or services I use, so I use it only for certain statistics others don’t collect, such as tagged visitors, which tells me by name who has visited my site and how many times they have done so.
Google Analytics is a free service that is accessed on the web. Data is kept on Google’s servers, so there’s no load on your server. It provides a wealth of information, from pageviews to bounce rates to average time on the site, and is particularly good at allowing you to view statistics side by side to help you make decisions. Its display is not real-time, and lags behind by a day. I use Google Analytics for deep analysis of search queries, keywords, and long-term trends, among other things. I consider the information to be quite accurate, but a little on the low side. Thesis Theme Tools has an article, “Google Analytics Setup” that steps you through getting the service, as well as sources of help to learn how to use it.
Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools is not strictly an analytics or statistics service, but it gives you lots of nuts-and-bolts information about your site, such as pages not found (404 pages), the last time the Google ‘bot crawled your site, very detailed search query information, search keywords lists, and much more. The information is provided on the web, and like Analytics, data is kept on Google’s servers. It is not real-time, lagging behind about a day. I use Webmaster Tools to keep an eye on the health of my sites, and for its very accurate search and keyword information, which it excels at. There is an article on Thesis Theme Tools entitled “Google Webmaster Tools Setup” that guides you through signing up for the service, and gives an overview of what the service can do for you.
The bottom line
So I use 5 different plugins and services. You might ask, “Why so many?” Each one collects data that the others don’t and presents it in a different fashion. The information provided by the sum of all of these sources of statistics helps me determine whether my keywords are effective, what search terms people are using to reach my sites (particularly important for Anxiety, Panic & Health), things I can do to keep visitors on my sites, which articles are most effective, and other SEO-related information.
Of all the statistics provided by these plugins and services, I trust CyStats the most. It is in the middle as far as the numbers go, and its stats are internally consistent and presented in a very usable form.
Next to CyStats, I have faith in Google Analytics more than the other services and plugins. Its analysis tools are second to none, and I depend on them for many of my statistics needs. When using Analytics, I keep in mind that its numbers are a little on the low side.
I use the stats in Google Webmaster Tools to keep track of search and keywords, besides to keep tabs on the wellbeing of my site. My trust of Webmaster is on a par with Google Analytics.
As I said, WordPress.com Stats’ numbers are on the high side, but its presentation makes it simple to see trends in real time, and it does have some unique statistics. Its easy-to-use graph of activities and stat summaries cause it to be active in my Admin panel much of the time despite its optimistic view of traffic.
Woopra’s value to me is almost solely on its unique tagged visitors information, which is not subject to its numbers being the highest (and most inaccurate, in my opinion). If it weren’t for tagged visitors, I would not use Woopra.
Why don’t you use Mint?
Mint is a fine statistics and analysis site, and many people use the service and swear by it. However, I am not convinced that it is any more accurate or useful than the suite of plugins and services that I use. I believe that if I were looking for a single source of statistics, I would choose Mint.
I hope this article has been of value to you. If you have any questions or comments, please write them below. You can also reach me by email by clicking on the “Contact” button in the menu bar.
©2009 Michael L Nichols. All rights reserved.
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