What good is it having your own Web site if you can't measure who's coming to visit it? Although you're unlikely to rival the BBC's traffic figures with your personal Web site, it's still nice to see what's happening underneath the surface, if only to boost your ego. If you're not running a commercial Web site, you won't want to shell out your hard-earned money just to track the traffic, but luckily there are a few free tools available online.
I was recommended StatCounter.com by a friend who builds Web sites for a living, and have been grateful for his advice ever since, as the stats it provides have helped me focus the content of my personal Web site and improve my Google ranking.
Setting up the StatCounter Web tracker was easy-peasy -- I simply registered an account and put a few lines of code into all my Web pages.
Once it's setup you can get the skinny on all your site's visitor info by logging into the StatCounter Web site. The most useful report is the summary, which let you see the number of unique, first-time and returning visitors and allows you to see graphs of visitor numbers for different periods -- weeks, months and years.
I spend a lot of time going to the keyword analysis page to find out what search terms people used to find my site, and use this info to decide on the areas I should focus on. The country and ISP information is also interesting, if only for the appeal of seeing the truly worldwide aspect of the Web -- this month I've had visitors from Malaysia, Namibia and Yemen, as well as many European countries.
My sole frustration with StatCounter is that you can only see keyword analysis or country information for the last 100 visitors (if you pay, you can increase the quota). But as it's free, I can't complain. -Ingrid Marson