Joomla! 1.5 : Tracking and Tracing to Improve Your Web Site - Looking at your options (part 2)

8/30/2012 2:59:34 AM
Looking at your StatCounter stats

A few years back you could get detailed information on the last 100 pageviews, which has now increased to 500 page views—thanks to the great service offered by, which has been running for many years.

If you want a large number of pageview details to analyze, you can upgrade and pay for a 1500 to 100,000 detailed page quota with a price that is stated on a per month/per year basis. If you upgrade to 1500 pageviews, you get a total of 2000 because the 500 free pageviews are added to it. This is the one I implement on every site, along with Google Analytics, and is the one I look at every day!

Now, why is that? This is because I get an overview of all my web sites (project) on one page and with numbers that I can compare easily. I also have a separate account to monitor all my customers' web sites and I can even give each of them separate access to the statistics of their web sites only. Also, the statistics are easy to read, and the customers can look at their site's statistics without my help.

When you log in to StatCounter, you get a project page overview with the headers as shown in the following screenshot:

You also get the project details line, which has some icons displayed on it.

We will go into the details of some options and functions you get from StatCounter and learn how to use them.

  • Project Name:

    This is the description of your site that makes it easy for you to identify it. In most cases you will have the URL of your site put in, but if you have more sites you might want to group them together on a certain topic or hosting package. In that case, you will be pleased to know that the page is sorted alphabetically and you can change the description by clicking on the wrench icon of the project at hand.

  • Type:

    The project type will be Standard unless you upgrade. Once you upgrade, the name changes to the one you upgraded to.

  • Today, Yesterday, This Month, and Total:

    These options will give the number of pageviews that your site generated. If you look at this every day, you will know instantly if something is wrong with your site. If the numbers you expect to see don't match with the actual numbers, it is time to investigate what happened—did your site get hacked, did its rankings drop, or was it a major holiday that impacted your numbers? All kinds of questions come up if the numbers are not as expected. Here is an example of a graph that indicated such an event:

    In this case a 301 redirect hack was placed in the .htaccess file, which led all visitors from Google, MSN, and Yahoo! to a different web site. In this case the effect was noticed within couple of days and corrected quickly. However, as there was no sign of a hack on the site, it took some investigation to determine what had happened.

    Imagine if you did not have a tool like this, or you only looked at it once every three months or so. Your site could have been completely removed from the search engines and you would have to put in some major effort to get it back to the top position in the rankings. This example is just to show you why you need to look at those statistics at least once a week, and don't go crazy looking at them every hour! You can spend your time in a much better way by creating new content for your web site.

Don't count your own visits

One option you need to set within StatCounter is a blocking cookie and, if you have a static IP address from which you browse the Internet, it's good to block that too. If you don't know that static IP address (mostly used by broadband connections), visit your web site that has a StatCounter script running and click on a few pages, then look at the recent visitors activity and you will see your own visit and IP address shown so that you just have to copy it. To block that address you click on the wrench icon again and select Settings.

In the lower part of the screen you will see a form where you can paste your own IP address. If you have multiple projects set up already, you can update this field across all projects at once. If you do this on the account where you have your customer's IP address blocked, the later options will overwrite all those values, so be careful in such a case.

Now go back to the wrench overview screen, go to the function Create Blocking Cookie, and click on the button that says Stop logging my visits. From this moment onwards, only the real visits from other computers are included in the statistics and your own visits are no longer counted.

If you want to change the display of your counter or if you need to retrieve the installation code again, you can get it from here as well. If you want to show off your visitor numbers and want the colors of that counter to match your site's layout, that can also be accomplished here.

Personally I don't like those counters anymore, they have these 90s look and feel and they don't provide any extra information to your visitors. In some cases I show a StatCounter button if it makes sense to show it, for example on site building web sites, otherwise I use the invisible option.

If you are worried about what search engines might think of such an outgoing link, keep in mind the is one of the very few web sites that have a PR of 8 and at one time even had a 10 (Google also has a PR of 8).

Looking at StatCounter information and graphs

Once you have logged in to StatCounter, you can select the project that you want to analyze. The first thing that will be shown is a graphic display of your web site's traffic. If you start with a project, it is shown as bar graph.

This is really horrible to read and it is advisable to immediately switch to the area graph, which is much easier to read. If you want this to be your standard view, select the little option Save As Default and push the Submit button.

You can see several options to check your statistics over different time periods. Above the graph you have view options such as Daily (default), Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly. If you use those options, you will also get an area graph with the data compressed for that time frame. On the yearly graph, you can see when you started with StatCounter, it shows data going back several years. This is useful for sites that have been established for a long time. Beside the graph you have a long list of menu options.

You can go through all of these, but the things you should use are:

  • Came From: To see where your visitors are coming from

  • Keyword Analysis: To learn which search terms are performing well for you

  • Recent Visitor Activity: Here you can see in great detail what your visitor is doing on your web site

Some items in the following screenshot have been altered for privacy reasons, but it should be is clear that you can get a lot of useful information. You can see the navigation path through your web site in a table following the text Navigation Path.

If it is a returning visitor, you can also see on which dates he/she visited your site.

If you have an international site, you might be interested in the Recent Visitors Map.

All these options and graphics tell you a lot about your web site. As I mentioned before, you not only see how your traffic is growing over time, but, for example, you can also analyze traffic spikes to see if somebody placed a link on Stumblr or even Digg. But it could also be because of a blog post you made, or perhaps somebody with a large number of followers posted a link to your web site. It doesn't matter who or what created that spike—it is important that you analyze and act upon it!

If somebody mentioned your site in a blog post, on a forum, or anywhere else on the Internet, you should at least check it out. In some cases it might be a great way to learn about somebody who writes about the same topic as you do, or you could help someone gain more insight into your writing.

If you are looking at building links to your web site, now is the right time to start as the person recommending you already knows what your site is about. You can add the results from the Keyword Analysis to your keyword list and see if they match with your initial research.

Analyzing your site's recent activity can give you a better understanding of the way your visitors navigate through your web site. It involves answering questions such as:

  • Did you design the site for the visitors to follow a specific pattern, or the visitors can browse the site as they want

  • Should you reflect those patterns in a new menu layout or design

We will see more information on the navigation issue in Google Analytics.

StatCounter is a great tool for getting insight into the main statistics of your web site really fast, and it presents it through nice visual graphics and elements. It is very user friendly and is easy to understand.

The biggest problem is the limited number of pageviews that you can analyze for free. You can upgrade to a paid account if you want to, but for such in depth analysis, I suggest we turn to Google Analytics instead.
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