(Note: I found a solution to this problem. Skip to the update at the bottom of this post to see what I did to fix it.)
A long time ago, I installed the plugin WordPress Popular Posts on this blog. Then I totally forgot it was there. But over the last few days, I’ve been going over the tech side of this blog (with varying rates of success), and I stumbled across this plugin. It’s supposed to keep track of the number of views that posts on a blog receive. Well, I clicked on it, and I was amazed at the numbers I saw. According to WordPress Popular Posts, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people read my blog. The numbers blew my mind. In the last week alone, four posts on this blog were read 5,000 times each. A host of others were read a thousand times each. My most popular post was read over 30,000 times since I put it on the blog.
These numbers tell me one of two things: One, my blog is much more popular than I thought. Or, two, WordPress Popular Posts doesn’t work at all. My money is on the second option. There is no possible way that in the last week, 5,000 people were interested in the second day of my holiday on the island of Camiguin in the Philippines. And even if 5,000 people were interested, there’s no way those 5,000 people managed to find their way to that post on my blog.
My sense that WordPress Popular Posts returns inaccurate numbers is born out by comparing it to other stats. I recently installed the Jetpack plugin, which offers a host of useful features. Jetpack comes with a simple Site Stats feature, and the numbers I see there are much more realistic. Jetpack’s Site Stats tells me that there were 350 views of my blog within the last week. WordPress Popular Posts reports that this blog received something in the order of 50,000 views this past week. 350 vs 50,000. Something is clearly wrong here.
Further muddying the waters is the plugin Post Views Count. I installed this plugin because it keeps track of views and puts that stat at the bottom of each post for everyone to see. (I think WordPress Popular Posts will do this as well, but it was too complicated for me to figure out.) The point is that Post Views Count gives numbers that are different from both Jetpack and WordPress Popular Posts.
My question, of course, is what the heck is going on? Which one is right? I’m not worried at all about the number of views this blog receives. It’s not a money-making venture or anything like that. But it bothers me that even a simple thing like keeping track of views is exceedingly complicated and contradictory. And it really shouldn’t be. In the real world, the number of views a website reviews is very important. Ad revenue is based on that. Therefore, accurate view counts are very important. And it’s not like WordPress Popular Posts is some random plugin. As far as I can tell, it is by far the most popular plugin for keeping track of post views. It appears on many lists of the most popular plugins for WordPress. Yet, on my blog at least, it seems to be inaccurate. And not just mildly inaccurate. It appears to be wildly inaccurate.
Anyone else having this experience?
Update and a Solution: I did some more research into this topic, and I found a lot more people who experienced this problem. The solutions they employed were highly technical and I understood very little of what they were talking about. They were generally people who did things through HTML code and whatnote.
However, there was another group of people who concluded that the problem was a conflict between the WordPress Popular Posts plugin and the W3 Total Cache plugin (which I also have installed). I didn’t understand the technical reasons for this at all, but the guy who wrote the WordPress Popular Posts plugin created a widget called Ajaxify. To resolve the conflict, he said, you simply have to go to the Tools page of the WordPress Popular Posts plugin and enable the Ajaxify widget. I did that, and the problem I was experiencing disappeared. WordPress Popular Posts now appears to be returning sane numbers for views of the posts and pages on this blog. They don’t line up exactly with the stats I see on the JetPack Site Stats feature, but they are pretty close. At least, I’m no longer being told that tens of thousands of phantom people are visiting my blog every day.
I still had the old inaccurate statistics built up in the WordPress Popular Posts database, which reported as many as 30,000 hits on many of my blog posts. To get rid of that, I had to clear the database. There are two buttons on the WordPress Popular Posts tools page that do that. One clears some kind of cache. The other clears the entire database. Clicking on those two buttons reset everything and got rid of the inaccurate numbers. Unfortunately, it also meant that the count of all legitimate views was gone as well. My view count for the entire blog’s history went to zero.
I guess you can call this a solution to my problem. Of course, it would be better if this problem didn’t exist in the first place, or if there were some kind of clear instructions about this when you first install the plugin. It wouldn’t be fair, though, to level this criticism at this plugin. It is simply a part of the way that WordPress works, with random people from all over the world willy-nilly writing plugins and setting them loose for people to use without any clear documentation. It’s one of the many things about WordPress that has always puzzled me.
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