You build your website so people will see it, but how do you know how many people are seeing results of your hard work?
There are a number different ways you can track your website usage, below we take a look at the different options, along with the pros & cons and some examples of software or services that use that approach.
Offers some very basic visitor information but is very easy to setup, and provides realtime information that can easily shared with your users.
Similar to the remotely hosted services above, locally hosted software can perform the same function, whilst allowing you to keep control of all parts of the analysis process.
Having control of all your information is a must for some people, also running all the scripts locally allows you to have more control of the overall performance of your websites.
The scripts recording the visitors details, and reporting scripts to view visit information can add a lot of extra load on your web servers, and depending on your traffic numbers may even warrant getting a separate hosting package to deal with statistics.
Developed by Shaun Inman, Mint is a very popular among web designers and developers.
Web server logfile analysis
Whether you use Apache, IIS, or some other web server to host your website, they are usually configured to record each and every request that visitors make. There is software that can analyze these logs and create reports for you detailing visitor numbers, their activity.
Although the reports generated with this method can be very detailed there is a delay in generating these reports, as you have to collect and process the logs before the reports can be produced.
Any and all visitors to the website can be tracked, including search engine bots, and other automated services.
No additional load is placed on your servers during website visits. Log file analysis can be scheduled to occur during off peak times.
The information that is tracked about your visitors is limited to the information that the webserver is configured to track. If you don’t have complete access to the web server configuration (on a shared host for example) you will not be able to control this.
Since files have to analyzed and reports generated after the visit, the information is not available in realtime.
Now owned by Google, the Urchin software is free, and needs to be installed on your server, and produces reports similar to the Google Analytic’s service.
Software packages exist, that when embeded into your web pages can record the visitor information to a database. This information can then be used to generate user reports.
Since the script is executed during the website visit you are able to add extra information from the webserver while the script is being execute to the statistics you are saving.
Your website must be written in the same language the stats package to function correctly.
Since the visitor information is saved during the page request, this can delay the return of the page to the user.
Based on the ShortStat software by Shaun Inman, extended to add extra functionality and to improve security, since Short Stats was discontinued. SlimStat can be incorporated into any PHP based website.
What is your favorite way of tracking visitor information?