As we often do, we like to make our readers aware of timely development updates that are highly relevant, including WordPress and plugin updates that will affect many users.
ExactMetrics’ Google Analytics Dashboard plugin (formerly GADWP) has over 1 million active installations.
Last week ExactMetrics released a big update to its plugin, that so far, has received a lot of negative commentary from users.
What appeared to be a regular plugin update is forcing a lot of users to reconsider the Google Analytics plugin on their WordPress site – we updated a site and this is how we found out about it!
Please read below for a quick summary of what happened, and how you should proceed if you’re one of the +1 Million active users that have this installed on your WordPress site.
Table of Contents
Background on Google Analytics & Available WordPress Plugins
What is Google Analytics?
If you’re reading this, you’re likely aware that Google Analytics is the most popular website analytics tool available and is completely free to use. The only drawback for many is that it requires installing custom code snippets in different places on your website depending on what interactions and user activity you want to track, which for many often requires the help of a professional developer.
About Google Analytics WordPress Plugins
Because installing Analytics tracking code on websites requires a mid-level programming understanding, many WordPress sites use Google Analytics plugins that make installing Google Analytics tracking code as simple as installing a new plugin, and then authenticating with your previously-created Google Analytics account.
There are a number of plugins that offer these features, but 2 plugins lead the market:
- +2 million active installations
- +66 million Lifetime Downloads
- Purchased by Awesome Motive in 2016
- +1 million active installations
- +25 million lifetime downloads
- Purchased by MonsterInsights (Awesome Motive-owned) in 2018
These top 2 plugins together have more active installations than the next 18 most popular Google Analytics plugins combined!
What happened to the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP Plugin?
Awesome Motive is a WordPress development company that owns a number of Freemium-model paid plugins, as well as the WordPress developer blog site WP Beginner, which features tutorials and blogs about developing for WordPress.
On May 9th, 2018, Awesome Motive (through MonsterInsights) purchased the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP plugin and rebranded it as ExactMetrics.
On February 13th, 2020, ExactMetrics released a major update to its plugin’s functionality, as well as introduced a new overall pricing model.
This update changed the plugin from a completely free plugin to the Freemium model, however some of the updated plugins features are now behind the paywall and only available to Premium members.
What are the implications for WordPress users that have ExactMetrics Installed?
In full disclosure, we haven’t fully tested all of the premium features that are available. It appears that many are very good. So if you’re happy to pay for the premium features, this may not be an issue for you at all.
The Premium features remove the need to configure your Google Analytics account settings or install all of the different types of Google Analytics tracking code on your website to use more of the advanced tracking features.
For example, Google Analytics e-commerce tracking requires different code on your site than Google Analytics Form Signup tracking or interior link tracking.
You can read all about the premium features here:
Wait, what?! ExactMetrics isn’t Free Anymore?!
The ExactMetrics plugin predecessor (GADWP) had been a free plugin since its inception and offered lots of the great features.
Now that some features require a premium license, there has been a very large outcry from the public (+600 1-star reviews in the last week), as many users claim the Lite version no longer provides many of the features that were available as recently as a week ago.
I have the Free Version of ExactMetrics plugin Installed, what are my options?
If you don’t want to spend up for a Premium license for the different premium options, depending on your needs, here are a few things you can do.
1) Wait, and don’t update the plugin to the latest 6.0 version or above (yet)
Generally speaking, this is not a best practice. Plugin developers are constantly finding bugs and making fixes to make their plugins better and more secure.
However, because ExactMetrics has forced users to use the new version of the plugin after updating, you can simply not update the plugin and your site will likely be fine for a while.
Also, because this plugin update is less than a week old and it’s had a large pushback response from users, there’s a chance the plugin owner will revert to the old version.
2) Update to the new Lite Version (Free)
If you update the plugin to the latest version, you’re not forced to purchase a premium license. However, at a minimum, you will need to re-authenticate the plugin in order to view any of the reporting at all.
In ExactMetrics’ blog post, they explain the rationale for the new Authentication model. Essentially the plugin had grown so big that it was running up against Google Analytics’ API limits.
The new Authentication uses Google OAuth so that your website will be creating its own set of API calls to Google Analytics, removing the API call limit burden that was hurting overall performance.
However, in order for the new plugin update and its new reporting and features to work properly, you are required to grant ExactMetrics access to your following Google accounts:
- Edit Google Analytics management entities
- View, add, update and delete Google Analytics management entities as well as view report data
- View and manage your Google Analytics data
- View and manage your configuration information
- View your reports
- View your AdSense data
- View your ad clients, ad units, and channels in AdSense
- View your AdSense performance and earnings reports
- View and manage Search Console data for your verified sites
- View and manage Search Console data (e.g., manage your sites, submit sitemaps)
Here is the written response in their documentation about how each Permission level is used.
All of this seems completely above the board, and these features help WordPress site admins easily manage their website’s Google Analytics and Search Console (sitemaps). However, this is granting ExactMetrics a lot of your Google properties’ control over your Google accounts.
If you only have one Google Analytics property in your account, or you’re not worried about this, then by all means, please proceed.
3) Uninstall ExactMetrics and Add Your Google Tracking Code Yourself
If you know how to add Google Analytics to your website without this plugin, then you can simply uninstall the plugin and add the code yourself.
Every WordPress website and theme has different options on how to add Google Analytics tracking code to it. There are already a ton of other great resources published on the web about this, so I’m not going to focus on it.
However, if you’re not a developer or don’t know how to add code to the header section of your site, this is likely not an option or will require you hiring someone to do this for you.
NOTE: Please reach out to Chainlink if you’d like assistance – we’re happy to help! (Link to Contact Page)
4) Uninstall ExactMetrics and Use another Google Analytics Plugin to re-add your tracking code
Another option is adding another Google Analytics plugin that would offer up the same thing as ExactMetrics was offering prior to the latest update (dashboards, easy tracking code installation, etc).
The most popular Google Analytics plugin currently available in the WordPress Plugins library is Google Analytics Dashboard by MonsterInsights
It does almost all of the same things (for free) that ExactMetrics did before the recent update.
However, a few words of caution – MonsterInsights is the company that owns ExactMetrics!
Their latest version of the plugin requires the exact same Authentications as ExactMetrics, so if that was a turnoff, this won’t work for you either.
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