This post is for you if you're looking for a plugin to help track your website visitors. I have done a similar article in the past, discussing alternatives to Google Analytics. Still, for this one, I will focus specifically on website analytics/counter plugins for WordPress users.
As I outlined in the article, there are many reasons not to use Google Analytics. But ultimately, it's not up to me to make that decision on your behalf. Besides, GA is still the most popular website analytics software in the world. As such, I will mention a way to integrate Google Analytics into your WordPress dashboard and highlight alternative solutions.
For this blog, I don't track things like conversions or monitor bounce rates or anything of that nature, so a simple analytics script that tracks post views and site visitors is more than enough.
That said, this article does cover comprehensive analytics solutions as well.
Countless plugins integrate Google Analytics with your WordPress dashboard, and Google happens to maintain its own official plugin for this purpose. That plugin is called Site Kit.
With Site Kit, you can not only connect your Google Analytics account and track site visitors, but also connect with other Google products such as the Search Console, AdSense, and PageSpeed Insights.
The setup is straightforward. Once you download and activate the plugin, you'll be redirected to an onboarding page that offers to connect your Analytics account.
You'll need to grant the plugin all the necessary permissions, but other than that, there is no manual setup required. Even the tracking script itself is inserted automatically.
Here's a list of things you'll be able to track with Site Kit:
- Audience growth. Track overall visitors daily, monitor channels (referrals and social), device types, and user location. All data is anonymized by default.
- Top queries. Since you can integrate with Search Console - you also get to monitor the incoming keywords for your content daily.
- Web vitals monitoring. Site Kit will create reports for metrics such as LCP, CLS, and TBT. Further, you'll also get recommendations for optimizing your files and other site elements.
- AdSense (optional). If you run Google Ads on your site, you can use Site Kit to monitor your earnings directly from the WordPress dashboard.
As I said, this plugin does anonymize data (IP addresses), but depending on what you track, you may still need to consider using a cookie consent plugin. Specifically, you need to look for plugins that integrate with the Site Kit API - as such plugins will tell Site Kit not to render its scripts for users who have not given their consent for being tracked or otherwise monitored.
Matomo is an open-source enterprise-grade analytics platform that is arguably the closest true alternative to Google Analytics. It can be configured to a lightweight version with extremely strict privacy features to ensure that you're always GDPR compliant.
If you look at the dashboard alone:
You can immediately see that Matomo focuses not only on traditional reporting but also on numerous business-oriented features suitable for eCommerce purposes.
Here are some of those features:
- Funnels. Apply targeting to custom goals and have Matomo monitor their impressions and conversion rates.
- Goals. Want to know how many people clicked on your product page after reading a blog post? By setting up Goals, you can easily monitor specific actions.
- A/B Testing. Not sure which landing page gets more clicks and ultimately conversions? Matomo supports A/B test monitoring and provides detailed reports on your queries.
- Session Recording. An advanced feature that lets you monitor user sessions and see the pages they viewed (or actions they took) during the entire length of their session.
Above all, Matomo provides the necessary tools to ensure your site visitors' privacy is respected.
As it happens, that is also one of Matomo's biggest draws. The plugin has a separate settings panel to configure privacy-related features and information on how to add a cookie consent plugin specifically optimized for Matomo.
You can also peep at the official Matomo Demo site to get a better feel for these features.
Regarding privacy, plugins like Independent Analytics have become somewhat of a trend in recent history. Many people are interested in software that helps them avoid getting caught up in a GDPR mess, and if you're among those people - this analytics plugin is worth considering.
Setting this plugin up is a breeze. Download, activate, and that's it. There's no need to tinker with script insertions as the plugin does it for you. Here's what the dashboard looks like:
But you also get some additional features, such as:
- Filters. Create custom filters to find statistics for specific posts and pages. You can narrow your search down to posts that contain a specific keyword in the URL or the title.
- Dark mode. Not a fan of bright colors? The plugin has a native dark mode option.
- View Counter. If you'd like to display a post view counter on your post pages, there's a separate option in the settings. You can set it for pages, posts, or media. And you can also exclude pages and change the default label.
- Geolocation. This plugin's new feature recently introduced is the ability to track users' Geolocation. This data is also anonymized and complies with GDPR requirements.
And, of course, the plugin also tracks referrers.
With over 600,000 active users - WP Statistics is one of the leading alternative solutions for creating analytics reports and performing general site tracking. The main draw of this plugin is its diverse set of reporting features. You can narrow down reports based on daily, weekly, and monthly analysis, and then apply that logic to individual categories, such as browsers, devices, top pages, etc.
One of the more unique features of this plugin is the ability to track statistics for categories, tags, and authors! If you run a multi-author blog - this plugin will help you track the best-performing content on an author-to-author basis. Of course, this could also be done with other analytics tools, but then you would have to spend time making custom queries.
As for privacy, WP Statistics stores all data locally. For example, if your server is hosted in the EU, you won't have to worry about complying with regulations for this plugin. Additionally, you can change settings to anonymize and also hash IP addresses.
It's not unheard of that marketing guides discuss post views as social proof. If someone lands on your article and sees that it has 200,000 views - it may or may not play a role in ensuring that the reader engages with the full article. And if that's what you're after - this is the plugin for you.
Once installed, the settings panel provides ample opportunity to configure the plugin to your liking. You can change which posts to track (including custom post types), and how often you wish to update the final post and view count.
Under Display settings, you can customize the label, change the positioning, and customize the label appearance - to be displayed as text, an icon (Dashicons), or both.
Monitoring website analytics from the WordPress dashboard
Needless to say, tens if not hundreds of various platforms offer website analytics.
This article explored options for monitoring website analytics directly from your WordPress dashboard. For example, if you like a platform like Plausible or Fathom - you have to refer to their own official plugins for WordPress if they have any.
And the same goes for Google Analytics; even though Site Kit does integrate and display data inside your dashboard, if you want to get all of the data points - you still have to open up Google Analytics from a separate browser tab directly.