Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tip #5: Site Statistics without spending a penny

Obviously if you have a big website or blog and you want to thoroughly analyze your site stats it may be a good idea to get a custom or for-pay site statistics package. But if you are just starting over, or you are on your way to having a popular website or blog, you already have a number of sources of free site tracking information.

Google Analytics, formerlly Urchin, is one of them. It is free to sign up and gives you comprehensive statistics. You can combine this with signing up for Google's Webmaster Tool for complimentary blog information.

But you may already have Site Statistics collected on your blog and you just didn't realize it. For example if you are using Feedburner and you have installed FeedFlare, you already have the code necessary to collect site statistics. All you need to do is activate it in the Feedburner settings. While their statistics may not be as elaborate as Analytics, they are very easy and quick to browse through. This is great for those of you who don't want to spend hours disecting weblogs.

Another one from the you-may-already-have-it category is those who have installed MyBlogLog (now a Yahoo company) code on your blog. Their service however is pretty basic. You get the full product the first three days you activate it, but then if you don't subscribe, you default to the basic service that gives you tape-delayed data.

Also in the you-may-already-have-it category, if you have Google AdSense ads or any other ad service that tracks impressions, you already have visitor counts per site or page depending on how your ads and your site is structured. This is obviously not a complete solution, but it's yet another source of data. Its main function here is to double-check your other counters. Don't expect them to be in lockstep as there are inherent differences in the way they count, but if one counter shows 2000 and the other shows 1000, then you know something is wrong!

Another free tracking site with extra benefits is AffiliateBrand.com. Included is also a tool that shows the most popular posts in your blog. You can install that as a blog widget. Their site statistics cover the basics, and they are available on a daily basis.

Another website that offers a very very basic look at incoming traffic is e-referrel.com. This text-based widget shows on your website the list of websites that people came to your blog from. The list is in reverse chronological order and you can also chose to show totals. One of the benefits of this is that you don't even have to open a separate website to take a quick look. It's right there on your blog :)

Of the specific traffic tracking websites I have tried, my favorite is StatCounter.com. At the free level of service you get the last 500 visitors per blog, and an unlimited number of blogs and websites to track. A close second is SiteMeter. If you don't mind a flashing button instead of a static GIF, AddFreeStats has some interesting statistics with more visual representations. All of them ask that in return you place a small button on your website/blog. Which is a fair exchange since you are getting a free service.

Granted it is important to go through your site statistics because there's a lot of valuable information you can get out of it and based on those you can make adjustments to improve your blog. But there is a trap here, you may fall into an endless cycle of statistical analysis and lose track of the bigger picture: The blog content is what really matters!

As always, finding a balance is the answer :)

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