Any blogger or site owner worth his or her salt will tell you that knowing how your site is performing is essential.
You have to know what is working, what isn’t, and what trends will make your site the next “must read” stop for visitors each day. The only way to effectively do this is to have a good statistics package working in the background. However, figuring out which package is best for your site can be tricky.
Until your site starts earning some revenue, you’re best starting off with something free. Then, as your site grows, you may want to pay for a few more features. If you’re really lucky, you’ll start off with a free package that can grow with you, and it may be the only package you’ll ever need.
This list covers ten free and paid solutions that will allow your site to hit the ground running and, hopefully, show you just what a success your site really is.
AWStats comes pre-installed by many web hosting companies. Additionally, if you’re setting up your own servers, you can download it for your personal use. AWStats goes deeper into the referring sites’ information than most analytics packages, and is a perfect tool for monitoring whether someone is hotlinking files from your site. Besides being a great detective tool for bandwidth thieves, it offers all of the usual useful tools that you might expect from a statistics package.
eLogic provides three levels of service based on your exact needs. If you need to track only one or two pages, they offer a stat counter that just offers you the most basic of reports. Their Webstats BASIC package is also free, but gives you more the usual tools you expect like referring sites, a history, demographics, and more. Finally if you’re a business or a larger site, you may sign up for their subscription program, Webstats PRO, that will give you a full history and more extensive tools.
3. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is arguably the most popular analytics package available for individual site owners. Google Analytics (or plain old “GA”) allows you to dig down deep into your stats to see breakdowns of individual regions, states/provinces, cities and numerous other items to better identify your site visitors. The wealth of data available is admirably balanced by a well-executed user interface, but it can still be overwhelming. The package integrates with AdWords and has ecommerce-specific tools to track sales.
ShinyStat was initially designed to monitor visits to Italian web sites. Now it is available to sites all over the world, and offers software packages for the individual user, the professional user who needs to track marketing, and a business owner who needs to monitor sales and ROI. There is also a level of service for ISPs to install and include with their hosting accounts.
SiteMeter has a free version for smaller bloggers with up to 100,000 monthly visitors that offers all of the usual tools a webmaster can expect such as tracking referrals, visit durations and so on. If you are launching a larger site and need more tools, there is a paid version based on your volume of visitors.
StatCounter might have a rather plain interface, but it deftly handles multi-author blogs, allowing you to easily assign unique codes to each author. While it is free and does work, you have to click on a link to see each analytic result on a separate page. Despite its unpolished looks, the site does offer you clearly readable stats on things such as keywords, traffic sources, and other useful information.
W3Counter comes in a free and paid version. With a free W3Counter account, you can track up to 5,000 page views a day across 10 websites and see all of the usual stats. In addition, you get a bonus that you can share your stats with anyone you like via widgets for your blog or an API that lets you build new tools. For sites with higher traffic, you can go for the Pro account that allows you to track up to 1 million views a month.
W3Perl differs from other analytics packages in that it doesn’t just measure web traffic, but also can parse the log files of email and RSS to measure just about anything you choose. You can set up the administration interface for web access and gain real-time stats from there.
Webalizer is written in C, which means that it is extremely fast and portable, and is a favorite choice of people who host their own servers. Many web hosts have this analytics package pre-installed for your use inside of their control panel. Webalizer doesn’t allow you to dive terribly in-depth into your data like some other packages, but it provides an excellent overview.
Woopra is currently in a closed beta test, but it offers you a wealth of data for those who can get in. Real-time data are streamed from your site that appear on a map letting you graphically see where readers are coming from, what keywords brought them in, and referring sites. Woopra offers you a unique ability to open up a chat window with visitors of your choice as they browse your site. An unusual feature of this service is that the data is presented to you in a desktop application. WordPress users can install a plugin that lets them see this data in the dashboard of their blog.
There are no doubt other excellent site analytic packages out there. Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.