Site Updates – HTTPS, Matomo Analytics, & More

I finally got around to making a few site improvements that I’ve been planning for a while:

HTTPS Only

The biggest improvement is upgrading the blog to HTTPS. I wrote about this in detail in The Great Detailed Image HTTPS Migration so I won’t go into “why and how” too much here other than to say it’s a basic necessity on today’s web. A step zero for any new project for sure. It went super smooth – I used cPanel’s built-in AutoSSL feature and followed the instructions from that prior post about our Detailed Image migration.

The only slightly time consuming part was updating my old Blogger posts from 11/2005 – 8/2007. I wrote almost every other day back then (296 posts!) It was a difficult but also exciting time, and I often shot from the hip. Even if some of it is cringe-worthy to read now, I think it’s important to preserve. Since Blogger published via FTP (no local database) I had to do a bunch of mass find & replace operations to support HTTPS. While I was at it, I trimmed out old advertisements, my old blogroll (almost all broken links), and even restored an old image folder from a local backup to bring back pictures on some posts.

No 3rd Party Cookies and No External Scripts

As awareness to the long term pros and cons of these things continues to evolve, so have my views. There was no need for the Facebook Like or Twitter Share buttons on post pages. If you like a post, you can figure out how to share it without giving up data about your reading habits. So those are gone. And so is a slightly more controversial one – Google Analytics. Some people don’t ever want Google tracking them. I’m not one of those people, but I liked the idea of removing all external scripts, and I kind of wanted to try out…

Matomo Analytics

In place of Google Analytics, I installed the on-premise (self-hosted) version of Matomo Analytics (formerly Pwik). I’ve long been intrigued by their product, and this was a good opportunity to try it out myself in a low-traffic situation. It installed similar to a WordPress installation, and at first glance I’m quite impressed. It’s obviously modeled after Google Analytics, but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s immediately familiar. I’m interested to see if this could possibly be something we use on commercial projects.

Related Posts Plugin

I also installed the Related Posts by Taxonomy plugin. I like the idea of giving suggested posts at the end of a post, especially for people who may be stopping by for the first time. I’ve got a lot of content and this is a simple way to revive some of it. We’ve used this on the Ask-a-Pro blog for years and I’ve always been impressed with the related posts. It’s extremely easy to install and customize for both the regular theme and AMP theme.

These changes were long overdue. I’m happy to finally get them done!

4 comments on Site Updates – HTTPS, Matomo Analytics, & More

  1. Dale Ting says:

    Adam those old blog posts are what inspired me to pursue the path I’m on now! Glad you kept them!

  2. Rob says:

    Your “No 3rd party cookies & no external scripts” is a great move. Since June the latest version of Firefox blocks a bunch of stuff out of the box, and not just in private (incognito) windows. uBlock Origin / AdBlock which have 10s of millions of users do the same. Current estimates put it at 25% of users using adblock of some kind, and I only see that growing.

    I’m very much in favour of removing reliance on and exposure Google & Facebook.

    How are you getting on with Matomo?

    • Adam McFarland says:

      It’s funny you mention Firefox. That was one of the things that pushed me to finally do this now. I noticed that things were being blocked on my site when using Firefox and wanted to remedy that. For a blog, it’s all really unnecessary.

      The conversation gets more interesting with an e-commerce site like Detailed Image. Retargeting ads have absolutely helped us grow, as has the data and insights from Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc. Not saying we couldn’t do it, or won’t eventually, but my feeling now is that it would be like doing business with one hand tied behind your back.

      Matomo is solid. It doesn’t blow me away, but everything that was in Analytics is there and if you’re willing to pay it has every feature and more that you’d ever need (tag manager, session recording, A/B testing). The self-hosted version is great for a small site like this, but I’d be concerned about it on a high-traffic site. You’re using your own resources to store data into the database. You’d just have to factor that into your resources needed and scale accordingly. Or just use their hosted version.

      Given the direction everything is heading, I’d love to be in Matomo’s business right now. It’s hard to see them not growing substantially over the next few years.

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