Website Analytics Options Beyond Google

If you have any interest in knowing where your website traffic is coming from and what brought them to your site, you need to use some type of analytics software to learn these things.

As with any kind of software, there are free and open source alternatives to paid versions. The one pay-software for site stats worth mentioning here is called Mint and is found at haveamint.com. It’s a totally configurable way to look at your site stats. If you don’t have many web properties, the $30 per site license isn’t too bad.

Let’s take a look at the software that doesn’t cost anything but an investment of time….

Site statistics are included in CPanel which comes with most hosting packages. Once you sign in to CPanel, look under the Logs section for Awstats or Webalizer Stats. More people seem to talk about using Awstats, but if you go to Webalizer Stats and click on any month name under the summary you’ll get all the same data that is provided by Awstats. Pick one whose layout is easy to read and you’ll have your site statistics at your fingertips.

Google Analytics (GA) is geared towards marketers and can easily be integrated with an Adwords or Adsense account, both from Google. If you want to formulate a plan for meeting sales goals or increasing conversions, the big G can help you when you link your existing accounts. Some folks have written that they don’t trust Google and don’t want Big Brother knowing their every move online, so they shy away from using a GA account.

Instead, you could rely on a free alternative called statcounter. Visit statcounter.com and click on the features page. You’ll see many of the same items listed that occur in your CPanel stats options. The downside to using statcounter or GA is that you’ll have to dig into the page code and insert a few lines of code. It’s not that hard, but it does take a little time to set up. You only have to set it up once, though.

If you’re running a WordPress blog, try the stats plugin found at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/stats/ for a pretty look at your site stats.

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IE7 Error Refuses to Open Site – Operation Aborted

A client mystically had these errors pop up where they could not open their web site with Internet Explorer. It’s strange that this error hadn’t been reported to me before because the site has been operational for a couple years now. Internet Explorer 8 doesn’t spew the error, nor does Firefox, but IE6 and IE7 would report that it couldn’t open the site with the following error window:

Internet Explorer cannot open the Internet site - Operation aborted.
Internet Explorer cannot open the Internet site - Operation aborted.

The problem was traced to the older IE browsers’ inability to render the page completely before it tried to execute some javascript code.

The solution was to add a simple defer tag to each javascript call, like so:

<script defer="defer" type="text/javascript" src="src goes here">/*code goes here*/</script>

Thanks goes out to Richard for posting his found solution. Thanks, Richard!

Microsoft also indicates that this error can be avoided by updating your browser to the latest version, which at this time is IE8. Now, if only all my clients would do the same!

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WordPress Plugin Review: Collapsing Blogroll

Last time, I wrote about a new WordPress plugin, at least new to me, that is, Collapsable blogroll. The author let us know that there is a newer version with a slightly different name, Collapsing Blogroll.

Here’s what I did to update from Collapsable blogroll to Collapsing Blogroll:

  • Downloaded collroll, unpacked the zip file, ftp’d the folder ‘collroll’ and its contents to wp-contents/plugins/.
  • Logged in to the WordPress dashboard and edited the links page where I had used the older plugin, Collapsable blogroll, to create a list of links from the blogroll. I changed <!–catlinkspage–> to [collroll] and saved the page.
  • From the Manage Plugins page I deactivated Collapsable blogroll, then activated Collapsing Blogroll.
  • When I visited the links page, all the links were hidden, or collapsed, and the words Expand | Collapse were visible. Clicking on expand showed all the links. (I’m not sure the words expand/collapse need to be there as you can set the links page default to either expanded or collapsed.)
  • Once I knew that the new plugin worked as expected, then I deleted the older plugin.

Improvements in the plugin allow you to change the appearance of your links page from the WP dashboard. Visit the new Collapsing Blogroll page that is listed under Settings in your WP-admin.

From there you can select a title background color by clicking on the white color swatch. A color picker comes up that lets you select whatever color you want by picking it from the rainbow or entering the RGB/#hex values. If you uncheck the box “use this color” next to the title background, then there is a transparent background, or no background color depending on your point of view.

Also featured in the newer plugin, you can select the order of categories or links as either alphabetical or one of your own choosing, which is especially useful if you use a different plugin to order your links. Since I’d been using “My Link Order” on a site where the Collapsing Blogroll was installed, this feature was a relief to see.

From the settings page you can specify the width of the blogroll div, in px or %, so your link list can fit in the sidebar or other space you’ve created.

And finally, indicate whether you’d like the initial link list to be collapsed by default, or not. Make sure to save your new settings.

Collapsing Blogroll will be really helpful for those sites where there are many links, especially when the list of links changes from time to time. Works in WP 2.8.4! Thanks again, Romain!

WordPress Plugin Review: Collapsable Blogroll

A client’s site was being updated and I needed to find a way to capture their blogroll into a page of links. Instead of manually inserting links and titles into a new page, I searched for a WordPress plugin to do the work for me. It would be desirable to have the links page be automatically updated when the blogroll was updated.

It took a little bit of searching to find the plugin called Collapsable Blogroll, but it does exactly what was needed. Downloading the file collapsable-blogroll.0.1.zip, unzipping it, uploading it to the /wp-content/plugins/ directory, and activating it via the wp-admin page went smoothly. No surprises there.

All you have to do is place <!–catlinkspage–> where you want your blogroll list of links to appear. It’s that easy! Put your links inside a post or a page — it’s your choice. By default the link list is separated into the categories of your WP blog and each list is shown in the collapsed state. Just click on the category name and the list will expand to show all your links.

I like the fact that you could add a new link to your blogroll via the wp-admin and it would show up right away on the links page.

The Collapsable Blogroll plugin works with WordPress 2.8. Thanks, Romain!