Like many people looking to start a blog I initially found myself drawn to the WordPress platform. The fully hosted and free solution provided by wordpress.com is especially attractive if you don’t want the overhead of managing a self-hosted WordPress blog. Unfortunately, one of their many restrictions is that you can’t use Google Analytics. Instead, you have to use their built-in WordPress analytics tool.
For an analytics guy (and anyone who wants to really understand their blog traffic) this limitation is a show-stopper. I don’t want to sound like a snob but wordpress.com analytics just aren’t comparable to Google Analytics. I understand that offering a simple, free blogging service that scales for the masses is a challenge and that the full power of the WordPress platform, complete with thousands of plugin options, isn’t really a workable option for their service, but no Google Analytics? You might as well deprive me of air, water and the will to live. Self-hosted WordPress blogs don’t impose this restriction nor do competing online blogging services like Posterous, Tumblr, Typepad, LiveJournal, Blogger, etc.
Do bloggers want Google Analytics on wordpress.com?
I’m not the first blogger-wannabe to be frustrated by the lack of Google Analytics support on wordpress.com. Their forums are filled with requests for the service. I have to assume that there is either a fundamental technical issue or a strong business reason why wordpress.com imposes this limitation.
In any case, I was about to reconsider investing in a self-hosted option when I found a post in the wordpress.com forums linking to a solution from a content delivery network called CloudFlare. The post didn’t generate as much discussion as it seemed to warrant but the idea sounded interesting so I gave it a try. In the end, using CloudFlare to get Google Analytics on my blog worked well enough that I thought it was worth sharing in more detail but not well enough that I would recommend it to everyone without reservation.
This isn’t a review so I’m not going to try to describe all of their features in detail. CloudFlare functions as a seamless CDN, offering speed, security and feature enhancements to your site. Here’s a quick summary:
|CloudFlare Feature||Claimed Benefits|
|Content Delivery Network||Automatically caches static and dynamic site content on a modern, globally distributed network|
|Web Content Optimization||Optimizes the loading of site resources using compression and caching and taking the client’s capabilities into account|
|Security||Protects against a wide range of security threats from comment spam to DOS attacks|
|Analytics||Reports on standard traffic, bots and traffic deemed threatening|
|Apps||Simplifies the inclusion of numerous website services without requiring code modifications|
In a nutshell, they claim their snazzy service will make your site fast, secure and more flexible. What’s not to like? These are the features that mattered to me as a wordpress.com blogger:
- Email obfuscation (huh, cool)
- Speed, security, analytics (meh)
The other cool feature that mattered was the price. CloudFlare is free unless you want more advanced features.
What you’ll need
As CloudFlare explains on their blog, it isn’t that hard to set up. Honestly though, if you’re not very technical you may want some help. Since they use DNS to intercept requests for your site you’ll need to have your own domain name. I assume that anyone who cares enough to install Google Analytics on their blog would also have registered their own domain (generally for less than $10/year) but to use a custom domain on wordpress.com you’ll also need to pony up for the Domain Mapping upgrade (for an additional $12/year). It’s a little odd to have to pay for such a base feature, especially when other blogging services don’t charge for it, but I understand that they’re running a business and I’m perfectly happy to support the wordpress.com team if their overall solution helps me achieve my goals. They’ve got to make money somehow.