If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make noise? If you have a great website, and no one goes to it, is it still a great website? The point is, if you don’t know who is going to your site, and why, you can’t adjust to your target audience.
The software I’ve used the longest is Google Analytics, formerly Urchin. The fact that is now free is awesome, as I used to pay an arm and a leg for it. An example of what you can see is:
This shows the main stats:visits, pageviews, new vs returning visitors, referral source and a map showing visitor location. My stats are pretty pathetic, eh?
The next most useful analysis (to me) is Keyword Conversion, as I find it extremely interesting what search results brought people to my site. Below are the results for my wife’s site woggle-bug.com:
It’s interesting that her site is now #1 in search results for the misspelling of aspergers. If you click on the + next to the search term, it shows you the breakdown by search engine for that term only. I think that’s a bit of a pain, as I have the screen real estate to see these results with their engines below them all at once….
The last feature I use all the time is the overlay:
The bars over linkable items show the frequency of clicks in blue on the top and the “quality” of the links in green on the bottom. It’s a good way to see what is catching eyeballs on your site and arranging content so that people see (and click) on what you want them to.
There are, of course a million more reports available, especially if you are trying to gauge the effectiveness of an advertising campaign.
I’m not sure how quickly Google is sending invitiation to those who request it, but everyone I know who has asked for one has gotten one. For the price, this is one great tool for webmasters!
Next time we’ll look into my favorite analysis program – StatCounter