I have been running modest blogs for years. One of the most gratifying activities (even when you are blogging for fun) is watching statistics. Any writer would be curious as to how his content is being read. Reviewing web data also encourages you to improve your blog as well.
Analytics for WordPress Users
Most WordPress users have two options for web analytics:
- Jetpack’s WordPress.Com “Site Stats” is probably the most ubiquitous option. Once you enable Jetpack, you will get access to this feature. Its feature set has remained relatively stable for more than a decade. You can see how many people view your site each day, where they are from and other essential statistics.
- Google Analytics is the gold standard in web analytics. You are going to need to set this up (including installing a plugin), but it provides in-depth statistics. Cool things include events tracking and detailed e-commerce tracking.
Having used both options for years, this is my take. I liked Jetpack because it is simple and well-integrated in WordPress’s interface. However, if you would like to go further in analysing your data, you eventually have to “graduate” to Google Analytics.
All these options also have another issue: you’re sending your visitor info to Google or Automattic (who makes Jetpack). If you’d like to protect the privacy of your users, you have to balance between the risks and your desire to learn more about their activities.
Enter Matomo Analytics for WordPress
I was looking for something different when I chanced upon Matomo Analytics. There is a solution for websites generally, but the one I am reviewing is specifically for WordPress. Having read through the difference between the general solution and the WordPress Plugin, you should use the WordPress Plugin if you manage only one site or don’t need to collect data from several sites.
Once you have installed the WordPress plugin (like any other plugin), you can access a dashboard loaded with data you will love to explore.
Looking at the dashboard, you will find statistics that Jetpack gives you typically. You don’t really need to do anything else if you are comfortable with that.
However, dig a little deeper and you will find many features that are available only in a solution like Google Analytics. Here are some highlights:
- Tracking a web user’s journey through your website is very useful in trying to improve it. What would encourage a user to continue to engage with your site? You can also track transitions and events.
- The plugin also allows you to set goals. A goal is an event which you would like to track as a conversion, and even allows you to set a dollar value to it for fun. For my site, I set a “Spends time on page” goal as well as an email subscriber goal.
- Campaigns are a fascinating way to separate your audience and figure out how your efforts to promote your sites are working. For example, I have an email newsletter (please subscribe!), and I can build URL links to mark such links as coming from such a newsletter.
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Matomo is Privacy-Focused
Perhaps what got me most interested in Matomo is that it stores data in the WordPress installation and not in the cloud or some service provider. In an age where trackers are blocked, you avoid such interference as only your site receives all requests.
In all, Matomo walks the talk. It claims it is ethical, and I agree with it.
What I didn’t like
The WordPress integration is pretty tight. However, I would have loved it more if there was a Site Stats on my WordPress Dashboard, just like Jetpack’s. For now, I have resorted to saving a shortcut to the reporting page on my phone so that I have very quick access to my site stats.
Although the plugin’s responsiveness is reasonably acceptable, I can’t shake the feeling that the site stresses out my WordPress site a lot. It shows an error to request me to contact the administrator (read: me) from time to time. Even though that’s disturbing, I have not encountered real problems or effects while using the plugin.
I have used and explored this plugin for several months now. I like it so much I feel confident enough to remove Google Analytics and now disable Jetpack’s Site Stats. The easy installation and full features are worth considering on its own, but what bowled me over was its ethical stand. As an owner of a small website, Matomo Analytics is both an easy upgrade from Jetpack and a rewarding experience.