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Tools to Track Your Site Visitors

There are many reasons why a web site owner would want to track the number of visitors to her site, and almost as many ways to do it. This article will compare two well-known tools as a demonstration of the range of options currently available.

Site Meter's Free Version

Site Meter offers two levels of information, one set for free and an additional set for a small monthly fee. For no charge you can get a bit of code to add to your home page that will count the number of visitors who arrive there. You can choose from a variety of visible counters that show how many visitors you've had. If you prefer not to show a number, you can choose a small colored square instead.

Once this is installed, Site Meter starts counting your visitors and will email you the total each week. I recommend you activate the optional Ignore Visits feature. Then, when you visit your own site, those visits are not added to the total, giving you a more accurate count.

Any time you like, you can use your code name and password to access more information about your visitors online. Among the statistics gathered are: referrals (where they came from), time spent on your site, number of pages visited, time zone, computer operating system, browser version, JavaScript and CSS enabled or not, entry pages and exit pages.

These last two are especially valuable if you have put the code onto all of your important pages.

Site Meter's Paid Version

For $6.95 USD per month, (as of this writing) you can get several other features added to your account. The first is an invisible counter. Many people find this gives a more professional look to the site, especially compared to having an odometer-style counter on each page.

In addition, it will tell you which search engines bring you the most visits and the most page views. It will also list the exact phrases that were typed into the search engines to find you. This kind of information is especially valuable if your are counting on getting a lot of your traffic through the search engines.

If you want to do additional analysis on your own you can download a comma-delimited document you can open in Excel or another spreadsheet program. One of these two levels (free or paid) will be sufficient for most small business web sites. Expect your web designer to charge a modest fee for each page the code is placed on.

Into the Big Time: WebTrends

At the other end of he spectrum is a much more sophisticated (and expensive) traffic analysis tool, Web Trends. WebTrends offers a range of products, suitable for the small-but-serious online business, up to an enterprise version that is designed for sites that receive millions of unique visitors per month. This article will only discuss two of the more modest offerings.

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