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.
These last two are especially valuable if you have put the code onto all of your important pages.
Site meter statistic page
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.
WebTrends Log Analyzer gets its data directly from your server and presents it in a suite of reports you can use to make sound decisions for your web site and business. These reports graphically display what paths visitors take through your site, what content they view, where they come from and more.
You can view these reports in several languages, including Spanish, French and German. You can apply filters to your reports and customize them especially for your needs. The Log Analyzer costs $499 USD at this writing and requires at least one gigabyte of free space on your hard drive.
WebTrends Live works in a different way than the Log Analyzer. Instead of accessing your sever logs, a snippet of code is installed on each page of your site, and this is what collects the data. All the hardware and software that analyzes the information about your visitors is maintained on site at Web Trends. You can access up-to-the-minute reports from a browser anywhere in the world.
One of the useful features of WebTrends Live allows you to track the performance of your online ad campaigns. Not only will you know which ad pulled the most visitors, but more importantly, which ad generated the most revenue.
If you have a shopping cart on your site you can view such activities as cart additions, removals and completions over time. Discovering where in the process your shoppers abandon their purchase can help you refine and improve your shopping cart performance.
The eBusiness Edition of WebTrends Live starts at just $35 USD per month for 50,000 page views. Huge sites may need to consider the Enterprise Edition, which starts at $2,000 per month.
If you are interested in learning about how visitors are actually using your site, there are many low-cost or free options available. Site Meter is worth looking at for its free and inexpensive versions that are suitable for many small businesses. Larger or more serious online competitors will want to explore the various tools offered by WebTrends.