How to: Monitor your web stats with Google Analytics

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How to: Monitor your web stats with Google Analytics
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Cookie regulations

Analytics software uses cookies to anonymously track a visitor’s progress through your site. This is necessary because when you move between HTML pages, information stored in the browser’s memory is lost. Some controversy exists over the use of cookies and how they factor in terms of compliance with the National Privacy Principles laid out in the Privacy Act of 1988.

Muddying the water is the fact that the UK recently completely revamped its stance on cookies, with new regulations now in force requiring that users be given an explicit choice whether or not to accept cookies. Cookies essential for the site’s functioning are exempted, but it’s hard to argue that an analytics cookie is “essential”. So if you’re using analytics you’ll need to implement a cookie opt-in process when visitors first arrive on your site. This isn’t great news for webmasters: when the Information Commissioner’s Office (the government body responsible for implementing the new law) implemented an opt-in process on its own website, its own analytics data collapsed by more than 90% – although that may be partly down to the ham-fisted way in which it was implemented.

In Australia, much of the use of cookies relies on the doctrine of implied consent. Cookies that enable information to be collected when that information is not of a personal nature (such as a unique ID number) are outside of the Privacy Act all together.

For cookies collecting names and email addresses, it’s a lot greyer - we recommend a look at the guidelines here: http://www.

Real time analytics

Analytics are hugely useful for tracking long-term trends; but sometimes you can learn much more from watching how visitors are interacting with your site in real-time.

For example, if you’ve been running a campaign on your Facebook page or via Twitter, real-time analytics lets you follow the impact each update has on the behaviour of your fans as it happens. You can then adjust your marketing methods and even the layout of your site, on the fly, to make the most of positive feedback. It becomes possible to run several ad experiments per day, rather than having to roll out changes on a large scale. This can save money for large e-commerce sites, which typically spend a huge chunk of their marketing budgets on pay-per-click marketing such as Google AdWords, and need to generate the best return.

Real-time analytics is also invaluable when a site is being developed, upgraded or repaired, since it allows you to follow the progress of visitors through the site – and spot problem pages or features instantly. Google Analytics now offers a Real-Time view, but services such as Chartbeat and Clicky offer a richer live view of visitors’ behaviour. Both charge a modest monthly fee but include generous free-trial periods, so you can test whether the insights they provide are worthwhile.

WALKTHROUGH - Set up Google Analytics on your WordPress site:

Step 1:

Go to and sign in with your Google account. Click Sign Up and complete the form, setting up your first website for tracking – you can add further sites later. You can also choose here to share Analytics data with other services. Select your territory, tick the terms and conditions box, then click Create Account.

Step 2:

Ignore mobile options, as we’re tracking a website, not an app. You can choose to track a single “www” domain, or keep the option to add subdomains later. Analytics generates a tracking code that goes before the closing head tag on each page you want to track. We’ll use a WordPress plugin to insert this automatically

Step 3:

In the WordPress Dashboard, select Plugins/Add New and find the “Analytics Head” plugin by Lukasz Nowicki. Install it, then click Activate Plugin. Go to Settings and click Analytics Head, then paste your Google Tracking ID into the Google Analytics ID box. Tick “Hide for administrators” so your own visits aren’t counted.

Step 4:
Pop back to Analytics and click Save to finish setup. To test it, click Home, then click Real-Time (Beta) | Overview on the left. You’ll probably see zero visitors: log out of WordPress, browse around your site and after a moment you’ll see the counter tick up. You can click Content and watch this change as you browse.
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