by John Eberhard

If you have a web site, you need to monitor how things are going with it. How can you be at cause over website marketing if you don’t even know how many people are coming to it week to week? A good web statistics service will tell you how many visitors you have, how many pages were viewed, what pages were viewed the most, where you’re getting traffic from, and what keywords people used to find your site. And it should allow you to select any time frame you want to look at (last week, last month, etc.).

I have used a lot of web statistics programs over the years. There are a lot of them out there, both as monthly services and as software packages that you buy. Most web hosting companies will give you some form of web statistics for free. However, most of these are pure crap and don’t give you the data you really need.

Although I admit I’m a relative latecomer, I have in the last year started using Google Analytics, and although I didn’t like it at first I’m finally sold on it. For one thing, it’s free. Free is good. My previous web stats service of choice had been OpenTracker.net at a relatively cheap $17 per month, but since Google Analytics is free I can’t recommend OpenTracker any more, especially since I’ve been unable to get them to close down an account for one of my clients.

You can open a Google Analytics free account, or if you already have a Google AdWords account, you can easily start up Google Analytics within that same account. And you can add any number of web sites that you want to track.

After you set up the account, Google Analytics will give you a piece of code that gets put on each page of your site, which is invisible to visitors, but sends data back to Google Analytics every time someone goes on that page. Once that code is up on all your pages, Analytics will start tracking all your web traffic.

Here are some of the things that Analytics will tell you:

  • How many visitors you had to your site in any given time frame
  • How many page views you had (the total number of views of all the pages put together)
  • The web sites that referred traffic to you (search engines and other sites that have a link to yours, where people are clicking on that link and coming to your site)
  • What keywords people are entering on search engines that brought them to your site
  • Which are the top landing pages (where people enter your site) and exit pages
  • The percentage of new vs. returning visitors
  • What operating system, browser, and screen resolution your visitors had

There is more that Analytics can do, but those are the basic things that you need to know which give you a really good idea of what’s happening with your web site. As you do things or send out promotions or make changes with the web site, you can then see what effect those things have. And when you review things like which sites are referring traffic to you, or which keywords people are using to find you, that tells you which of your link building activities are working, and which keywords you should be targeting.