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Google Analytics is currently the big dog in hosted web traffic statistics. It has a clean and generally intuitive user interface for seeing the reported statistics. It works similarly to Statcounter, in that you inject a special JavaScript tag into your rendered page, which reports traffic and browser information to Google for parsing.

And therein lies the rub with this free statistics package. You are reporting all of your traffic information to Google. Many people use Google for nearly everything these days — e-mail, calendar, and web traffic statistics included — though we distrust giving all this information to what could become Big Brother. Though, clearly, people have some trust for Google, in reality they could use the information they get for any number of purposes. Just think of the wealth of information Google has at its fingertips related to browser and OS share, then combine this with the AdSense and keyword information from your site. Today, Google allows you to track campaigns and site "reach" by cross-referencing AdWords and AdSense traffic with Google Analytics data. The amount of data related to web site use and marketing trends is staggering. The trade-off of data access is a business decision you will have to make.

Google Analytics is definitely marketing oriented. Many powerful tools are built in and learning how to use them will greatly benefit the quality of the reported data, including advanced segmentation of your traffic and custom reporting data. For example, we use Google Analytics to track which specific PDFs from our library site get the most traffic, and in e-mail marketing we track which campaigns generate the most clickthroughs. Many resources are available online to extend Google Analytics.

For example, here is the jQuery snippet for tracking outbound document links via Google Analytics. This code is derived from http://css.dzone.com/news/update-tracking-outbound-click.

/* use jquery to track outbound and file links * http://css.dzone.com/news/update-tracking-outbound-click

$("a").click(function() { var $a = $(this); var href = $a.attr("href"); // see if the link is external if ( (href.match(/ " http/)) && (! href.match(document.domain)) ) { // if so, register an event var category = "outgoing"; // set this to whatever you want var event = "click"; // set this to whatever you want var label = href; // set this to whatever you want pageTracker._trackEvent(category, event, href);

var fileTypes = ["doc","docx","xls","pdf","ppt","pptx", "rtf", "txt"]; $("a").click(function() { var $a = $(this); var href = $a.attr("href"); var hrefArray = href.split("."); var extension = hrefArray[hrefArray.length - 1]; if ($.inArray(extension,fileTypes) != -1) { pageTracker._trackEvent("download", extension, href);

Tracking outbound traffic is useful if you're trying to use your site as a reference point or expertise repository, and need to know where readers are going for additional information. Getting detail on the types of documents referenced gives you a high-level view of what content flavors are most popular or helpful. Obviously, you can add additional document types if you point users at OpenOffice, PhotoShop, or other file formats.

Many WordPress plugins are available for Google Analytics, which anecdotally serves as a barometer for the popularity of this service. Each offers slightly different functionality, but all essentially do the same thing, which is inject the appropriate JavaScript into the page. Some offer additional features to track the extra events via the control panel. Take a look at Figure 11-2 for a screenshot of the standard Google Analytics dashboard.

FIGURE 11-2: Standard Google Analytics reporting screen

You can find more information online at http: //google.com/analytics/.

If the statistics are giving you good news — your site is gaining in popularity, readers are actively participating in discussions, and search engines are sending new users your way — you'll likely want to turn your attention to site scalability. Now we'll look at ways to improve the overall performance the WordPress system components.

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