When consulting on New Media, one of the first questions I ask everyone is “who is visiting your site and why?” Nine times out of ten, they have absolutely no idea? I am a firm believer that you can’t begin to develop your web site, podcast or anything else until you have some basic understanding of this question. Even worse, today it is easier (and cheaper) than ever to find and track this information than ever before.
So, in an effort to get you all started on the right track, below are a number of services that can help you get a handle on your visitors and give you the information you need to move forward with site updates and new projects.
Your ISP (Internet Service Provider)
Most ISPs provide some sort of web analytics as part of your basic web hosting package. In my own case, GoDaddy provides some summary statistics, but I also pay a bit more each month to have more detailed reports and access to the raw log files which show each and every access to my site. This allows me to develop podcasting statistics on the number of downloads for each new episode.
If your ISP doesn’t provide you statistical reports, or they aren’t detailed enough for your needs, you can try out a 3rd party services, such as Google Analytics. Ananlytics is yet another free service provided by Google. It can provide extremely detailed reports on almost every aspect of your web site and it ties in directly with Google’s Adsense advertising system, so you can do an amazing amount of data correlation to help improve your earnings.
One issue with using a 3rd party service is that you need to place a small snippet of HTML code on each page you want to track. This can be a problem on sites with large numbers of static HTML pages, although adding this code to a blog is much easier, as you only need to add it to the base template that is used for all the blog pages and it will appear on every page of the blog.
One final site to highlight is in beta testing, but is still very useful, Woopra. Woopra provides much of the same statistics as Google Analytics and others, but adds in realtime reporting of stats. You can watch your web site and see how visitors ebb and flow over the course of the day, monitor and receive notifications of particular actions or visits to particular pages of your site. I have been using this recently to monitor visitors to the pages for my new JumpStart Sessions, especially after I post links to my Twitter feed or send out emails with links to the new classes.
If you aren’t using one of these tools, get started today. You can’t make informed decisions about your web site or your web-supported business if you don’t know what is happening on a daily basis.