Using Web Analytics Tools is not rocket science, many people refrain themselves from using these simple but powerful tools that could amass mammoth information which could be used to understand where your website stands and how to improve it further.
According to Wikipedia – Web Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of web data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage.
Well yes I know it sounds too technical. Let me put it in plain simple words, performing Web Analytics will help you to analyze the traffic that you receive to your website. Traffic refers to the people/robots who actually visit your website.
Need for Web Analytics Tools
Why do you need to gauge your website analytics using a tool? A simple answer to this question is – you can’t count the number of visitors manually, just like you sit and count people in front of a door.
A website doesn’t sleep like we do and is awake 24/7 (well that really depends where you host, have you heard about Dream Host?, that’s where Artic Post resides), visitors from different countries, belonging to different time zones may land on your website and hence it is practically impossible to do this stuff manually.
Ok, now that I have convinced (or at least I believe I did) that you need a web analytics tool, let us see what kind of data you get in first place.
Features of a Web Analytics Tool
Every web analytics tool is different in its own way but the end result will always be the same, a web analytics tool should always help the website owners to analyze and understand the traffic that is coming to their website. But what I have mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg, below are some of key data that every web analytics tool will provide at a bare minimum level,
- Real-time view of who is visiting your website.
- Browser and Operating System used by the visitor.
- User’s IP address, Country and Internet Service Provider Name.
- Referrer URL – from which website did the user come to your website?
- Type of device used – Desktop, Mobile or Tablet and its brand.
- How long the visitor stayed in your website and which pages were accessed.
- Email Reports to your Inbox.
The above details are provided by all web analytics tools that are available in the market today.
Types of Web Analytics Tools
There are two variations of web analytics tools available,
- Software as Service (SaS)
Software as Service (SaS)
Usually people who have just started their website or people who are not aware how to setup their own web analytics prefer to just make use of the free online web analytics providers. There are a very few good services available over the internet and a best example is Google Analytics.
In the Self-Hosted Model you have complete control of your data. You will be setting up the web analytics software on your server (self-hosted, so you are your own provider) and use it to monitor your websites which means, you have the data with you. Example: Piwik
Free Web Analytics Tools List
Now that you are fully aware of what data you will get and the options that you have, let us now see some of the best tools that could provide you in-depth website analytics.
The most common and widely known web analytic tool is Google Analytics. It is very easy to set up and get started.
How to set up Google Analytics for your website
- Let me walk you through the steps that will help you to get started soon:
- Navigate to the Google Analytics website.
- Click on the Sign in button and enter your Gmail Username and password.
- If this is the first time you are Signing up for Google Analytics then click on the Sign up button that is displayed.
- You will now be shown New Account page, enter the below details:
Account Name – could be anything
Website Name – enter the name of your website
Website URL – enter the website that you would like to monitor
Industry Category – Pick an industry that your website is closely related to.
Reporting Time Zone – Select the time zone you are currently in.
- You can leave the Data Sharing settings check-boxes as it is and click on the Get Tracking ID button.
- Click the I Accept button on the Google Analytics Terms of Service Agreement page.
- That’s it you are now into Google Analytics Program and you will land on the Admin Page. You should be right away seeing your website Tracking ID and tracking code as shown in the below screenshot.
Copy the script and paste it in your website to start tracking your website. It may take a while for Google to start tracking your website and once that happens you should see the message, Status: Receiving Data.
Note: If you have caching enabled for your pages ensure that you clear your cache once after adding the tracking script. You can right click on your website and click view source to verify whether the tracking code you added is there or not.
StatCounter isn’t a completely free solution like Google Analytics but it is suffice for beginners. The free account with StatCounter doesn’t store any logs and is only supported for Monthly page load limit of 2,50,000.
- Go to the StatCounter sign up page.
- Pick a username and provide details like email address, name and password. Click Create Account.
- In the Add Project Screen, enter your website URL, website title, country and time zone details. Ensure that you select Invisible Tracking radio button under Do you need a counter or button section.
- Leave the email Reports frequency as weekly and click Add Project.
- You should now see the script for StatCounter displayed to you. By default you will be shown script for other frameworks like Shopify. At the end of the page you should see other frameworks listed like Joomla, WordPress, etc. Click on the one that is appropriate to you and follow the installation instructions.
- Once you have added the script, click on the Check Installation button to verify if the tracking code is installed properly.
As i mentioned earlier in the types of web analytics tools, the above two fall under SaS model which means they are free but is hosted somewhere else and you are just consuming the service. Next two tools will show you how to run your own web analytic setup and consume it.
Piwik is definitely one of the best free open source Analytic Tool that is available today. I have written a separate article on Piwik which explains its features and the steps to install it.
CrawlTrack is yet another useful and unique open source web analytic tool that will not only help you to track your visitors but also helps you to understand the crawlers that visit your website. Installing and setting up CrawlTrack is very easy so you should try it too.
If you are using a hosting provider that provides cPanel then you can find Awstats in the Visitor Stats Tab which will provide detailed statistics like visitor count based on Country, Top hosts by ip address, Robots/Spiders visit data, Visit duration, Operating System, etc.
You don’t have to specifically do anything for setting up Awstats as this is provided by your hosting provider itself.