Josiah Cole

Web design, development and general tech.

Should You Use a Google Analytics WordPress Plugin

google-analytics-wordpress-plugins

Many times I come across a website powered by WordPress rife with unused, out of date and abandoned plugins.  The first step in remedying this common situation is to review the plugins installed and identify candidates to eliminate.  Often I attempt to remove plugins that provide simple, easy to replicate features.  One example is Google Analytics.  Beginner web folks, and tech averse clients don’t feel comfortable editing a theme by hand, and this is why you typically find a plugin that merely inserts code into a theme – a task quite easy for even the most green web developer.

For a websites with existing performance or stability problems, removing a Google Analytics plugin, or similar is low hanging fruit.  However for websites without issues, WordPress plugins that offer connections to the Google Analytics system can provide added features, not easily available when using manual code.

Pros and Cons

Let’s explore the pros and cons of each.  First manual code:

Manual Code Pros

Simple to implement (copy+paste into your theme)

No plugin overhead

Manual Code Cons

Not simple to implement for those tech-averse or unfamiliar with WordPress themes.

Expanded features need to be coded manually.

You need to manually update code if Google Analytics changes.

Without picking a specific Google Analytics plugin, I’m going to highlight the overall pros and cons of this approach.

Plugin Pros

Simple setup process, usually aided by a graphical interface.

Added features such as outbound link tracking, traffic exclusions for logged in users, integrated reports & graphics.

Assuming the plugin is actively managed, changes to Google Analytics should be accommodated automatically.

Plugin Cons

Possible added performance overhead from running a plugin.

Plugin bugs could cause issues with the site in general.

Added maintenance related to updating plugin.

Most if not all of the cons associated with running a Google Analytics plugin are applicable to running any WordPress plugin.  You run the risk of the plugin wreaking havoc on your site, whether it be from WP core updates, plugin updates, or conflicts with other plugins.  As WordPress plugins go however, these are typically lightweight, having to only create necessary JavaScript.

Google Analytics WordPress Plugins

I’ll spare you a review of each service, as I’m sure that’s been done before.  For what it’s worth I’m trying out Yoast’s solution*.

Google Analytics by Yoast

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

Google Analytics +

Conclusion

As I stated above, GA plugins are lightweight enough that you can consider running them without much maintenance or performance fear.  They keys to keep in mind are to choose a plugin that is actively managed, stay clear of plugin bloat (make sure this isn’t your one millionth plugin) and actually use the additional data enabled by this plugin.  If you’re not going to use the outbound link tracking, or if you’re not concerned with tracking logged in users, then manual code might be the way to go.

*Currently the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin is having troubles authenticating. It appears to authenticate, but when I return to the WP dashboard, the plugin warns me that I need to re-authenticate. This of course highlights one of the cons of using a plugin – with manual code I would not have to authenticate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *