Archive for the ‘Wordpress’ Category

WordPress 2.7 and Google Analytics: Google Analyticator plugin review

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

I’ve previously written about Google Analytics and WordPress 2.7, and all I managed to do really was to show my ignorance. The problem that I’d had was that after installing Google Analytics manually (by inserting the relevant code in the footer), I’d then upgraded to 2.7 automatically, and naively expected it all to work magically.

I now understand that I am not yet an instinctive WordPress user. The first instinct of an experienced WP blogger looking to install analytics of any kind (or carry out almost any task) would naturally be: “Find me a plugin!”, whereas I’m more used to handbuilding web pages using simple HTML editors.

So when I recently changed the WordPress theme of one of my scratchpad blogs, and I knew as a result, the analytics code that I had placed in the footer file would have disappeared – changing themes is another way of losing code that has been manually added – I decided to investigate the plugin route.

It didn’t take too long to find the Google Analyticator plugin, which is intended to make installing Google Analytics as simple as possible.

Test blog software version: WordPress 2.7

Installation and activation: worked without hitches of any kind. Following “activation”, you do have to enter the relevant ID from your Google Analytics account and enable tracking, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re done when you’ve activated the plugin. To be fair, you do get a great big warning at the top of the page letting you know about this.

Options:

a) You can choose to put the code in the footer rather than the header – I would have thought that this should be the default setting, as I’d always want to ensure that the tracking code was loaded last on the page – visits where the visitor doesn’t wait for the full page to be loaded before hitting the back button or moving on don’t seem to me to be worth counting. However, as the plugin’s author explains in the settings, apparently not all themes support having the code in the footer.

b) You can choose whether to exclude visits from logged-in blog admins. My strong recommendation would be to use this, as you don’t want your own visits to the site to be distorting your traffic. (The more traffic you have, the less important this distortion will be.) A good feature – and one that appears to be working correctly. One warning on this: the way that it works is to exclude the tracking code from the page when you are accessing the page as a logged-in admin. So, if you want to check your pages to see whether the tracking code is present and correct, you’ll need to log out first. That one confused me for a moment or two!

c) You can specify additional tracking code to go before or after the GA code. This allows you access to a range of additional tracking functions in GA. My needs here aren’t yet that sophisticated, but I can confirm that adding the text works as it should.

d) You can choose whether or not to turn on tracking of outbound links.

e) You can specify (by file suffix) any file links that you want to be counted as downloads.

Persistence:

The key question for me was as to whether this useful-seeming plugin would plug the gap that I’d originally been hoping to fill: that is, whether it would maintain the correct analytics code in the right place if I were to upgrade or switch themes. As my test blog for this has the current 2.7 version of WordPress, I can’t test the upgrade question, but I can see what happens if I switch themes. And I can report that it handles the transition perfectly. I’ll report on how it handles any upgrades at a later stage.

Verdict:

Adding Google Analytics to your WordPress blog is not that complicated a task, but the Google Analyticator makes it even simpler, and also gives an intelligent range of useful options. Congratulations and thanks to the plugin author, especially for taking the time to make it compatible with WordPress 2.7.

Yaab 1.2 and WordPress 2.7 not the best of friends yet

Monday, January 5th, 2009

The main test site that I have used for Yaab Autoblogger to date is using WordPress version 2.6. It’s all working pretty sweetly (with the occasional apparent double-posting that I have yet to investigate properly, and suspect is my fault or a problem with the feed).

I was keen to try out the new version (1.2) of Yaab, and continue to provide some feedback to its tireless author. As it happened, I’d just bought a new domain on which I’m intending to try out some experiments with autoblogging, autolinking and crosslinking on various subdomains, so I had the opportunity to carry out a fresh install.

Having set up a blog on one subdomain, using WordPress 2.7, I installed the latest version of the Yaab plugin.
Now, 2.7 represents a major change of interface for WordPress, and Yaab was clearly designed to fit in with the previous interface. However, anyone thinking about installing the plugin with 2.7 should be warned that you will not be seeing it at its best!

It will still function, but the interface changes to 2.7 have messed up the attractive interface of Yaab somewhat. I’m sure that this is something that Satheesh will be looking to tidy up (once he has finished his exams), as I think that the latest version of WordPress is likely to be very popular.

Now, I’ve broken a golden rule of experimentation by changing two elements at the same time. Fortunately I still have a live blog running 2.6, and I will try installing Yaab 1.2 there in order to give proper feedback on its new features. I might also have a go at installing the earlier version of Yaab on a 2.7 blog somewhere, if I get time for that as well.

WordPress 2.7, Google Analytics and automatic upgrading

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

I love the new version of WordPress – the new dashboard is immediately appealing; it looks like this:

The WordPress 2.7 dashboard in action

The WordPress 2.7 dashboard in action

 

As you may be able to see the primary navigation has switched to a vertical sidebar on the left, and the main area shows you a summary of activity, recent comments and even has an area that I’m using right now – Quickpress – that allows you to add a speedy post.

I updated from the previous version using an automatic update facility provided by Fantastico De Luxe, a facility that comes courtesy of my hosting provider.

I’ve now worked out that the update includes a change to the footer template, which is where I had put my analytics code. The automatic upgrading is not smart enough to pull out the bespoke changes to the file and put them in the new version, so I have to be smart enough to remember to do it myself. 

I suppose that the alternative would be to put the code in a separate file, and ensure somehow that all pages called that file. I wonder what other bloggers do?

Yaab 1.1 release addresses issues

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

The amazing Satheesh is at it again – perhaps encouraged by some feedback, he has already released an updated version of his autoblogging WordPress plugin Yaab.

I think that there may have been a misunderstanding previously about “duplication” – I have never seen the same item twice in one blog post – that would only happen, as Satheesh points out in a comment, where there was already duplication in a feed. 

My concern was that the plugin would publish the last X items (X is configurable) whether or not there were any new items available.

However, it seems that this problem has been resolved in the latest release. The relevant part of my log file is as follows (the most recent item appears first):

2008-12-21-08:45: BBC Main News 2 is fetched automatically. No posts published
2008-12-21-08:33: BBC Main News 2 is fetched automatically. 1 posts published

This is great. Yaab now checks in, and if it finds nothing new in the feed, it leaves it alone…

There are some other welcome new elements in the release, which I will assess in a future post, but it is all looking good.

Yet another Yaab postscript

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I’ve removed the multiple BBC-generated posts from the test site, as I like to avoid having duplicate content (unless I’m actively testing duplicate content issues). I left the 4th edition live, so that it is clear that there was originally more than one such post.

Yaab – next steps

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

As mentioned in a comment to an earlier post, following the author’s advice I have now been able to get the Yaab Autoblogger to work successfully with a Yahoo Pipes feed, by substituting the “feed” prefix with “http”, which is great.

The next thing that is really great is that setting the interval for fetching new content and posting it also works a treat. In my impatience to see it working, I set the timer for only 20 minutes, and it produced another post right on time. 

Now, 20 minutes is probably not the best time to set, unless you are referring to feeds that are updated extremely often! What happened in this instance was that it fetched exactly the same items that it had got 20 minutes earlier, and created an identical post (which I have now deleted to avoid duplication). What would be a really great feature for this plugin would be if it were to check whether there were any new items since the last time it fetched the feed, and only create a post if there were any such items.

However, I should probably test this properly: I made some other changes to the feed (the name of the post in particular) and it may be that it would have handled the duplication better had I not done so. 

So that becomes the first task on my Yaab testing to-do list, which follows:

Testing to-do list

1) Create a new autoblogger on the test blog that updates frequently and let it run without making any other changes; assess how the autoblogger handles non-updated material

2) Install the SEO Smart Links plugin and see whether and how this works with Yaab – the ability to add in my own predefined links on certain words/phrases is a feature that I liked in WP-o-Matic, and has obvious potential SEO benefits. Satheesh mentions this as a future upgrade to his plugin also.

3) Test the plugin with an images RSS feed.

4) Try the plugin with multiple feed URLs

5) Test the output blog posts with Adsense to get some insight into how Google treats the output content

Yaab Autoblogger – first impressions

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I am probably taking a risk by uploading a plugin recommended to me by the author and downloadable only from their blog, but following an earlier comment on this blog I was moved to install the Yaab Autoblogger plugin.

So far it hasn’t stolen my identity, crashed my computer or created any other kind of unexpected havoc, so while I can’t give any guarantees, so far it looks as though I was right to trust the instinct that told me that Satheesh (the author) was not the malicious type…

Download and extraction was fine, installation was fine, and the plugin works. There are some friendly cartoons in the settings to let you know where you are, and although the language used is a slight variant from the English that I use, I could clearly follow what was going on.

I have to say that the principal inspiration for downloading this plugin to give it a spin was the hope that it might be able to cope with a wider range of RSS feeds than WP-o-Matic, which had trouble with certain feed variants.

Now, I do need to give the major caveats that I am (1) not very patient and (2) not terribly systematic, but what I found was that Yaab gave me feed URL errors with quite a wide range of feeds. The main news feed for the BBC news website – feed://newsrss.bbc.co.uk/rss/newsonline_uk_edition/front_page/rss.xml – produced an error, as did a customised feed from the BBC: feed://newsapi.bbc.co.uk/feeds/search/news+sport/glam%20rock

A particular disappointment was the apparent inability of the plugin to recognise RSS output from Yahoo Pipes, for example feed://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.run?_id=ivS59KeM3RGF_9CarbQIDg&_render=rss&textinput1=glam+rock

I did get it to recognise the general feed from the Guardian newspaper:http://www.guardian.co.uk/rssfeed/0,,12,00.xml.

However, I’ll do a little more playing around with it and see what I can come up with! I might even dig around in the code a bit to see if I can work out what is going on in the validation stage.