Your website's vital statistics do not have to remain a mystery to you if you install a good web page counter or Internet tracking system. While web page counters offer on-page display showing you the approximate number of visitors to your page, more advanced Internet tracking systems provide detailed website traffic statistics online as well as off-line. Which counter or tracking system is the best? It all depends on your needs. Below you will find a description of the different types of counters and trackers that are currently available.
The earliest web page counters were numerical display counters powered by cgi scripts. These counters are still available. Some web hosting companies have pre-installed counter scripts which enable any of their clients to install a counter by just adding a piece of code to their html pages. It is also possible to search online and find a cgi script that will generate a counter, however, successful installation of cgi scripts can be a headache if you are not a “nerd” so if your hosting company does not offer easily installed counters, it might be wiser to look at other options.
If your web hosting company does not offer easy to install counters, check to see if they have any other statistical support. Many hosting companies have system-wide statistical programs such as Webalizer or Awstats. These programs provide detailed traffic statistics for any of the domains that are hosted with that company. If your hosting company offers this service, then you will not have to do any kind of installation. All you will have to do is log into the area where your statistics are displayed.
The statistics measured by these programs include: total visits, unique visits, IP numbers of visitors, referring websites, referring search engines, keyword searches used in search engine referred visits and many other statistics that can be used by you to improve the performance of your website.
Log Analysis and Internet Tracking Systems
If your hosting company does not offer any statistical support or counters, then find out where your site's access logs are stored. Download these logs and run them through a log analysis program such as Open Webscope or Sawmill. Log analysis programs give easy to read statistics not only for your home page but for all the pages of your site. You will be able to find out which of your pages were visited the most, which were visited the least, and where visitors entered your site and left it. Most importantly you will find out which search engines sent you traffic, and which keywords and keyword phrases were used in the queries that took people to your site.
In the event that your host does not offer you easy access to your website logs, then another way to view your website statistics is to install a java script tracker on your home page and other pages of your site. These Internet trackers are offered by several companies. You will have to sign up for the service, and then paste a piece of java script on your web page or web pages. Upload the modified pages to your server and you will be ready to start reading your stats. You will have to go online and log in to your account to view these statistics.
Perhaps the last word in tracking systems is Google Analytics. Google recently purchased the highly regarding Urchin web statistics software and has installed it on their servers for use by their customers. They are presently offering a free, beta service. While some commentators have expressed concern that Google will gain too much information from its users, it looks like Google Analytics will become a leading website statistic service, especially if it can provide detailed information that will enable users to optimize their pay per click advertising campaigns. Currently Google Analytics is over-subscribed and Google is placing applicants on a waiting list
Some of the Internet trackers are free, some are supported by advertising and some of them are paid services. If you have a personal site and want a general idea of how many visitors you are getting, then a simple web page counter may be enough for you. If you need more detailed information, then log analysis or a sophisticated tracking solution would be best for you. Choose the one that is best suited to your needs.
Donald Nelson is a web developer, editor and social worker. He is the proprietor of A1-Optimization, http://www.a1-optimization.com and provides search engine optimization, website copywriting and article writing services .