Understanding Your Website Traffic - Tracking Your Visitors
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There are a number of ways to track the visitors to your website. Some are better than others. Take counters, for instance. A lot of people use them. You've no doubt seen websites that proudly inform you on the home page that you're the 15,345th visitor. It may sound impressive, but it doesn't exactly look very professional. Besides, whoever designs the page can set it up so that the number goes up by more than one for every visitor. If you're serious about understanding and analyzing your website's traffic, I would not recommend the use of counters.
Another way to count the visitors on your website is through tracking software. This kind of software actually follows a visitor as he or she travels through your website. And you can get a lot more information from tracking software. It can give you visitor statistics broken down by date, time, browser, page(s) viewed, and lots of other values. There is a down side, though: if you're using free tracking software, you may have to place a button or graphic on your site in exchange for the service. As with a counter, that looks unprofessional.
You can also find web traffic analysis software. This is more sophisticated than simple tracking software. It analyzes your server logs and builds reports based on what it finds. The quality of these reports varies with the software you use. Prices range from free to several hundred dollars and more. Google Analytics is an example of this kind of web traffic analysis offered as a service. It is free, but currently being offered by invitation only (though you can request an invitation). If you'd rather not spend lots of time poring over the raw data in your ISP's log files, this could be the way to go.
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