While there are countless web analytics services out there, Google Analytics must be the most popular option. The free service from Google gives you access to masses of data on how visitors interact with your site, including how they found the site, how long they spent on it, and what they did during that time.
Using Google Analytics on your WordPress site is a great way to get a better insight into how users see your content and what they make of it. It’s also ideal for tracking outbound links on your site and seeing where your visitors go after they’ve finished their visit.
In order for the service to work however, each page on your site must feature the Google Analytics tracking code. Thankfully there are many plugins to choose from that take care of the arduous task of inserting the code into every post and page.
The best Google Analytics plugins also include a wealth of other features, while some even add a dashboard widget that allows you to view the analytics data directly from your site, removing the need to go elsewhere to see the usage stats.
Here is our pick of the top WordPress Google Analytics plugins for connecting these two free but powerful tools:
Google Analytics for WordPress
With over 5 million downloads, you’d be hard pressed to find a self-hosted WordPress site not using this plugin from Yoast in order to connect their Google Analytics account.
Setting up the plugin is very easy and even if you’ve got lots of different sites listed under your Google Analytics account, this one makes light work of letting you choose the right one to track, right from your WP admin dashboard. Effort has been made by the developers to ensure the tracking code won’t slow down your site, thanks to the use of the asynchronous Google Analytics tracking code.
This free analytics plugin can also track outbound links and downloads and show them as page views in the tracking report. It’s also great for not tracking logged in users or those with a specific user role level, to ensure your stats aren’t artificially inflated.
The Google Analytics for WordPress plugin by Yoast is a tried and tested option that will ensure your site visitors are accurately tracked in the way that you want using the popular Google tracking service.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
While the above plugin from Yoast is very popular and does a great job, this option brings something different to the table. Once installed, it allows you to view your Google Analytics tracking data from inside your WordPress admin dashboard. The need to login into a separate site to see your visitor stats is negated by installing this plugin. Each time you login to your WordPress site you will be greeted by the latest tracking data from Google.
A great feature of this plugin is that you can view the analytics data for any site you are tracking that is held in the same Google account. This means you are not limited to which site’s stats you can view from your WordPress dashboard, simply select a site from the dropdown menu and see how many visitors it is getting without leaving the site the plugin is installed on. This feature can also be turned off should you not wish to share the list of sites you manage with other registered users of your WordPress site.
When it comes to privacy, this plugin by Alin Marcu has got the right settings in order to give you enough control over which logged in users can see the stats and exactly what they can see. As this plugin has its own connection with Google Analytics, you won’t need another plugin in order to view the tracking widget on your dashboard.
Google Analytics Dashboard
This is another option for viewing your analytics data inside of your WordPress site. However, unlike the above plugin it doesn’t add the tracking code to your site so it’s recommended that it’s used in conjunction with Yoast’s Google Analytics for WordPress plugin or a similar option.
This means you get the best of both worlds and can use the most popular analytics plugin, while combining it with this one, in order to view the data in on your admin dashboard, saving you from logging into Google every day to see what’s been going on on your site.
A great feature of this plugin is the ability to use shortcodes to embed parts of the Google Analytics tracking data into your posts for your readers to view.
This is another very popular choice with over 3 million downloads. It’s a standalone plugin that will add the Google Analytics tracking code to your site, as well as giving you access to the data via your WordPress dashboard, killing two birds with one stone.
An added bonus is that the Google Analyticator plugin includes some sidebar widgets that allow you to publically share some of your user statistic metrics with your readers.
Outbound link tracking is also available with this plugin, allowing you to see which of your external links your visitors are clicking on. Downloads can also be tracked so you can see who has been downloading what and when. Site speed can also be tracked and monitored using this plugin ensuring you don’t fall foul of Googles latest algorithm changes which penalise slow loading sites.
This is a competitive plugin that does a good job of making it very easy to track the visitors to your WordPress site using Google Analytics and also allowing you to view that data from right inside your site’s dashboard.
Google Analytics +
This is a premium plugin from the WPMU team and its one that manages to pack a few more features into the already pretty feature rich free options. One of the main selling points of this plugin is that it has been built with Multisite owners in mind. Therefore if you are using the WordPress Multisite feature and managing multiple blogs from one installation, then this plugin will allow you to view all the individual visitor reports from one dashboard, saving your lots of time.
Another impressive feature is its ability to display the detailed stats for an individual post, on the Edit Post screen in WordPress. By viewing the post page in the WordPress backend, you can view the Google Analytics data for that post. This data is displayed in the usual graphics and charts to give you a great insight into how that particular page is being viewed, how readers and finding it and how long they spend engaging with the content, as well as where they go next.
If you’ve ever wondered which are the best read pages on your WordPress site and want an easy way to find out, then the Google Analytics + is a great option despite it having a price tag. The dashboard widgets that display the GA data for the whole site also look really good and are well organised, unlike some of the other dashboard plugins covered here.
If you want the best looking Google Analytics dashboard widget for your WordPress site and you don’t mind paying for it then gAnalytics is for you.
There isn’t really that much to justify the price of this plugin when compared to the free options that are available. However, it does look good when viewing the stats on the backend and might be good for impressing clients.
Google Analytics Opt-Out WordPress Plugin
This premium plugin gives you a way for your site visitors to opt out of being tracked by Google Analytics. Why would you want to do that? To comply with the EU-Privacy Directive AKA ‘The Cookie Law’, that specifies that all websites must allow the user to opt out of being tracked during their visit.
Although the directive was never really enforced, if you want to stay on the right side of the law, then this simple but effective plugin is a great choice. This cookie law, tracking opt-out plugin adds a banner to the bottom of each page on your site giving your visitors the opportunity to opt-out of being tracked.
The plugin also integrates your Google Analytics account with your WordPress site so you can still track those visitors who allow you to.
As you can see there are plenty of options for tracking your site’s visitors using the Google Analytics service. By installing a free plugin you can not only ensure that every page on your site contains the correct tracking code, but you also get access to a great range of other features to enhance the tracking data.
By opting to use a plugin with a Google Analytics dashboard widget, you can also save yourself a lot of time by making it possible to view your site usage stats from inside your WordPress admin area, without the need to login to the Google service.
Whichever plugin you use, you can rest safe in the knowledge that Google is tracking every page load, link that is clicked and file that is downloaded on your site, allowing you to see exactly how your visitors interact with your content.
How do you track the visits to your WordPress site?