These are tools that both assess site traffic data — the digital and geographic origins of site visitors, what device they’re using to view the site, the popularity of specific articles — and help optimize pages to increase traffic and to improve visitors’ experiences.
Data Analytics and SEO Tools
Ahrefs is an easy to use but powerful SEO tool. Although it has a paid version, it offers a suite of free tools for smaller websites. These tools’ functions include: analyzing your website for broken links; analyzing other sites that link to your own; ranking your site against competitors; suggesting keywords for better SEO performance; and offering WordPress plug-ins. The Ahrefs website also offers a number of clear resources on other SEO and analytics tools.
Cost: Some tools are free; paid versions start at $99 per month for the first user and $30 more for each additional user.
Languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Japanese, and Chinese.
With most of its features free for small and midsized users, Google’s service analyzes the behavior of visitors to your website, providing reports on activities like the duration of a site visit and the number of clicks within a website. Analytics is now built into Google’s larger Marketing Platform software, which enables users to connect with other tools they might be using. For instance, if you use Google advertising tools, you can define metrics to determine what would be a “successful” conversion of a visitor who clicked on the ad, and view the results in Google Analytics. It also integrates with Google Search Console to allow you to see how well your site performs in Google Search results. Google Analytics data is used by Google itself for its own business, and the presence of Google Analytics trackers on a website will prompt blocking activity by some browsers and plug-ins and necessitate creating the “accept cookies” popup now commonly seen across the web. That said, unless your organization prioritizes or markets privacy to your users, Google Analytics is without question the leader in SEO and analytics, both in terms of its power and its ease of use. Google Analytics is also easily enabled on the WordPress CMS platform, and comes packaged with certain tiers of other website building tools, like SquareSpace, as well as with other services, like MailChimp.
Cost: Free for small and mid-sized organizations; discount available for nonprofits and charities.
Languages: Many available.
Not all analytics are automated, like most tools in this section. Many news organizations, especially non-profits, now have to provide some way to measure the impact of their reporting, whether it is being featured in other forms of media, used by a college professor, or leads to policy change. The Center for Investigative Reporting’s simple Impact Tracker tool is a Drupal-based web database that allows users to enter different ways that specific pieces have created an impact. After initial setup to create custom categories, a simple web form allows users to quickly enter different types of events and ultimately create timelines and reports assessing a piece’s impact.
Matomo (formerly Piwik) is an open source tool that provides website analytics. Users can host it locally on their own servers for no cost (or integrate it into WordPress, if that is how they are serving web content), or pay a monthly fee for Matomo to host their data. Like Google Analytics and similar services, it allows a user to see how site visitors behave and navigate your website, the search keywords that brought them there, and more. Matomo bills itself as a more ethical way to perform site analytics. Unlike Google Analytics, Matomo can anonymize user data and does not use this data for its own purposes (to serve users ads, or to track users across the web via their IP address). With its cloud servers based in Europe, Matomo also emphasizes compliance with EU GDPR regulations, which require certain online privacy and data protection provisions. This eliminates the annoying, click-through opt-in screens that international users often encounter when they arrive at a website.
Cost: Free for local hosting; $29 for cloud hosting for sites with up to 50,000 monthly page views. Additional analysis services offered with a yearly fee.
Languages: Available in 54 languages.
OpenWeb Analytics is a free and open source web analytics software. It’s available as a WordPress plug-in, but can also be installed to the database of any other website. It provides a number of useful, sophisticated features, including clear and usable dashboard, a heat map to show where site visitors click most frequently, analysis of the search terms that lead a user to the site, and anonymized browsing data. Installation and upkeep demands some technical and programming skills.
Plausible bills itself as a simpler, privacy-centric Google Analytics alternative. It offers significantly fewer reports and displays, arguing that simplicity both speeds up site performance and eliminates features that most small businesses do not actually require. It displays essential stats relating to site performance, such as number of visitors and main sources of site traffic. Its privacy emphasis (fully anonymizing all site visitor data) also prevents site visitors from having to click through GDPR consent boxes. It is also relatively simple to implement.
Cost: Scales with the number of site visitors, beginning at $6 per month for 10,000 monthly page views; 30-day free trial.
Languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, and Swedish
Screaming Frog offers a free version of its website crawler, SEO Spider, which can find broken links and duplicated pages, create a visualization of your website to map connections, and analyze metadata and page titles. The paid version offers more advanced features, ranging from checking spelling and grammar to identifying security issues and images missing alt text. It also integrates with Google Analytics.
Cost: Free version will crawl up to 500 URLs; paid version is £149 ($208) per year.
Languages: English — 39 languages supported in spelling and grammar check.