A number of bloggers have recently asked me to write something about statistics packages – particularly to talk about the stats systems that I use and what features in them that I analyse.
I’m happy to do so but I’m not sure how unique my opinion will be. Perhaps it could make a good discussion – so consider this an ‘open mike’. What stats packages do you use on your blog? How do you use them? Which features do you look at most frequently? Share your thoughts in comments below.
My statistics habits
I use two statistics packages on most of my blogs. Both give me slightly different information – both have their strengths and weaknesses and working together give me a pretty decent understanding of what is going on in my blogs on a daily but also a longer term level.
Sitemeter – this is a free statistics package (unless you upgrade to unlock some of the premium features) that I use to check my daily statistics. It’s strength is that it is easy to install and gives a snapshot of each blog quickly. As I start a new blog I sign up for a new sitemeter counter so each blog has its own independent stats. Let me take you through it’s features using ProBlogger.net as an example (you can do this any time by clicking the little colored square at the bottom my blog which I keep open to the public – I have nothing to hide).
Summary Page – The stats I check on this page at least once per day are:
• Average Per Day – this is an average of the last 7 days unique visitors.
• Last Hour - I like this one as it tells me at a glance how the site performed very recently.
• Today - today’s unique visitors.
Each of these stats can be viewed per unique visitors or page views. I tend to look mainly at unique visitors.
Referrals Page - This page gives you a snapshot of where the last 20 visitors of your site came from. At the bottom of the last 20 referrals are links to 5 other pages giving you access to the last 100 visitors site of referral. This tells you who is sending your traffic. Knowing this is useful in building relationships and tracking conversations. You’ll see a lot of mine are ‘unknown’ (depending on when you view this) – this means it could be news aggregator, bookmarks or email referrals.
Monthly Graph – This tracks the last month’s daily totals. I find this a more useful graph as it identifies patterns and trends (ie like weekly rhythms – how a series of posts might be affecting stats etc). Again you can view it with page views.
Yearly Graph - Handy for tracking the big picture stuff. Not so useful after just a few months but after 12 months it can be quite interesting to track seasonal events like Christmas. Here is the page views one.
Entry Pages - I find this very useful – it gives me an idea of which posts are ‘hot’ today as it tracks which page people are entering my blog on. Usually my home page is the biggest one – but there is usually one or two posts that are bigger than others which gives me some indication of what is working and what is not. Again this tracks the last 100 visitors entry pages.
These are the main pages that I check using Sitemeter – these give me a quick handle on what is going on at any given time. Sitemeter has other features which I check from time to time like Time Zones (which graphs where in the world the last 100 visitors are viewing the site from) but I don’t tend to view the other features too often.
You’ll notice a little lock icon next to some features which are locked because I have not upgraded to the premium version. I haven’t done this simply because my web hosting comes with another stats package that gives me a much more comprehensive statistics package called AWStats.
I won’t show you the inner workings of this package except to say that these statistics are more accurate and comprehensive. They don’t just show the last 100 visitors details but capture a whole months and store previous months. They have pretty much everything Sitemeter has on a larger scale however the way my host has theme set up they only update once per day and doesn’t really give you a quick snapshot like the sitemeter stats do.
I tend to use AWStats on a less frequent basis (weekly and monthly) to track the bigger picture trends.
Lastly – the only other statistics package that I’ve used id Extreme Tracking. This is another free service that many bloggers use. It has similar features to Sitemeter – however I don’t find it quite as comprehensive.
So – now lets turn this over to the wise and experienced ProBlogger readership. I know there are plenty of other stats packages out there – a few of the owners of them have been trying to get me to try some out recently but I’ve stayed with the tried, true and familiar so far – but I’m curious about what stats packages do you use and recommend? How do you use them? Which features do you look at most frequently?
Update: A few wise readers have pointed out another advantage of systems like AWStats – the fact that it tells you the words that people are using to search for your blog with. ie it gives you the top individual words and phrases that people type into Google, Yahoo!, MSN etc to end up at my page. This is incredibly valuable information.
SiteMeter gives you this information if you updgrade – and you can get it indirectly by looking at your referral pages and clicking on the links – but AWStats is much more comprehensive on this. The only down side of AWStats keyword tool is that you can only really view it on a monthly period and not a daily one.