Statistics Tracking Tools Reviewed

Comments 11 by Rebecca Bollwitt

Being the liveblogger for my friend Dave‘s “Fuck Stats, Make Art” session that I attended at Northern Voice, I know full well that none of my content revolves (or should revolve) around statistics. However, for many reasons stats tracking is important to me, here are a few:

  • I do have ads on my site for local businesses, and I am ‘for hire’ for live blogging and event coverage. When all of these potential advertisers or gigs would like to know what their exposure will be on, I rely on my stats for this information.
  • Unfortunately we live in a world where cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent each day and individuals hide behind their computer screens to spew nasty, unproductive and defamatory comments and emails at others. In this case I use stats to locate IP addresses and take note of these flamers, if even for my own security.
  • With that being said, here is every stats program I have ever installed on, and what I use what I use.

    SiteMeter – FREE – I like the instant updates, you can see who is currently on your site and with one click of a button their IP is revealed, along with their visitor path and other information that filters right down to which operating system or browser the reader is using. Drawbacks are that the numbers are not always on target, in fact they’re about 50% lower than results from other tools, and SiteMeter’s uptime is not always consistent. They’ve had about 3 outages in six months, which can actually affect my monthly totals when I’m using them for professional purposes.

    StatCounter – FREE – I use this most of the ‘keyword analysis’, I can have a little fun finding out what search terms people entered into Google to reach my site. Like SiteMeter it’s instant however its numbers also vary greatly compared to any other tool.

    Mint – $30 One Time Fee – Brand spankin’ new to me. I have signed up today but it’s not yet installed, check out Duane’s report for more information and to see what’s in store for me.

    Google Analytics – FREE – A very meaty report that I rarely even look at. The stats are not tracked instantly however they are posted once a day and you can setup monthly reports, set up goals, track numerous pages and align it with your AdSense should you be setup there as well. Stats – The graph is a nice little addition to the WordPress Dashboard when logging in but I don’t really take its numbers seriously. Also it posts figures once a day and the cutoff for the “day” is in GMT so that’s late afternoon for us in on the Pacific Coast.

    Again, using stats in a professional capacity is my only concern, this is far from a popularity contest and I never like sharing my “magic number” with anyone, nor will I ever state when numbers have raised or dropped. My blog is my content and this is my choice; to promote local business, use my skills to promote events, and to spread the link love. If folks require information about me or my site, I’m happy to share, I would just like to make sure what I’m providing is the most accurate.

    11 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

    1. KeithWednesday, May 28th, 2008 — 5:28am PDT

      Something people should keep in mind is that each stats tracking service you add to your site requires yet another chunk of JavaScript to load. The more you add, the slower the pages on your site will load, so it’s good to not have too much overlap between services.

    2. Tyler IngramWednesday, May 28th, 2008 — 6:31am PDT

      I use Google Analytics with my site. But yes like Keith said the more stat tracking sites you use the slower your page loads. Mainly because these tracking sites have to pull information externally from you server which, depending on network traffic, can and will increase your page load time. I have also noticed this with various affiliate ad companies.

      If you can afford it, or if your web host allows for it you can use Urchin (now owned by google) which runs on your server and takes/logs stats for you (via Apache’s logs) without having to use an external site.

      There is another web traffic analyzer out there that you can run on your server that reads your Apache logs (since that is where all you’re traffic info is stored) but i can’t seem to find it. Again this would allow for quicker web page loads because it wouldn’t need to run from an external site. It parses through the Apache logs and displays the data you want.

    3. Miss604Wednesday, May 28th, 2008 — 7:01am PDT

      @Keitha – I’m hoping Mint will solve all of this so I can remove the rest.
      @Tyler – Yeah, my host uses Urchin.

    4. Duane StoreyWednesday, May 28th, 2008 — 8:57am PDT

      @Tyler Mint solves that basically too since the JS file is located on your own server. It can be requested along side the with the HTML pages and images. Many webservers now allow single connection requests, in which case it wouldn’t even require a separate connection.

    5. Tyler IngramWednesday, May 28th, 2008 — 9:40am PDT

      I’ll have to take a look into Mint. Thanks!

    6. Derek K. MillerWednesday, May 28th, 2008 — 10:09am PDT

      Don’t forget that many hosting plans (if you use a shared, semi-dedicated, or dedicated server, rather than a blog hosting service like TypePad,, or Blogspot) also offer various log file analysis tools, which don’t use JavaScript but actually process the raw log files generated by your web server software.

      For example, my host gives me AWStats, Webalizer, and Analog, all of which are open source and a bit clunky. I like AWStats the best. While anyone can argue about which numbers are more “honest” (they all lie in their own special way), server log analysis at least starts with all the visits your server records, not just those to web pages that can load scripts.

      If your host gives you a control panel with access to log file stats analysis, it’s worth looking at, and at least comparing to your script based alternatives. By the way, I use StatCounter, Sitemeter, Extreme Stats, Google Analytics, and AWStats for my blog. They all tell me something different, but where they agree I at least have some sense of what *might* be happening as far as visitors to my site go.

    7. Gary Jones :: BlueFur.comWednesday, May 28th, 2008 — 10:28am PDT

      Have you tried Crazy Egg?

    8. TaniaWednesday, May 28th, 2008 — 10:54am PDT

      Thanks for the reviews – This is really helpful! I’ve only had experience with statcounter & wordpress stats, so it’s nice to hear about other options out there on the Web – especially free ones.

    9. JeremyWednesday, May 28th, 2008 — 1:03pm PDT

      Rebecca – I’m interested to know your thoughts on Mint. I’ve read about Mint for a couple of years now – and I’m unsure as to the benefits over Analytics. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts in a future post.

    10. JohnWednesday, May 28th, 2008 — 8:15pm PDT

      @Jeremy Google Analytics is delayed….can be as much as 24 hours whereas Mint is realtime since it’s on your server.

    11. DaveOThursday, May 29th, 2008 — 6:07pm PDT

      when the content is useful and interesting, the people will come and be grateful. beside the shift in focus, i find stats can be disheartening for writers since the most “popular” pages are almost always not your “best work”.

      i do look at some stats for professional work but pay most attention to things like page counts and time on site and other metrics indicative of user experience rather than raw “hits” which are simply not useful methinks.

      BTW, i used to download logs and analyze in Webtrends but that was in the 90s, now i use google analytics (though i seem to suffer from identity crisis with too many projects, logins and passwords).

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