Free Web Visitor Tracking and Hit Counters

Without Forced Advertising

After you publish your web pages, you'll probably want to know about visitors to your website: how many, what they searched for to arrive at your website, what links they followed, where they are located, how long they stayed, and so on. You can get this information by using visitor tracking, also known as Web analytics

You can optionally display a hit counter on your web page, which shows how many times your web pages have been viewed. You can see one at the very bottom of this web page on the right-hand side.

To perform visitor tracking, you need to use a Web analytics service, preferably one that is free and does not put intrusive advertising on your web pages. Two good choices are StatCounter and Google Analytics. For a comparison between these two options, see the Google Analytics vs StatCounter review by EDinteractive.

I'll describe StatCounter here because that's what I use.

How Visitor Tracking Works

To perform visitor tracking at your website, you add a page tag to each web page. A page tag is a brief block of HTML code (some lines of text) provided by the Web analytics service. StatCounter calls this a snippet of code. Don't worry, you don't need to know anything about HTML; you simply copy the snippet provided by StatCounter and insert it into your web page. When properly done, the snippet is hidden so that viewers can't see it.

Each time someone views your web page, the StatCounter code sends the viewer's information to StatCounter. StatCounter records this information and maintains the statistics for you to view at your convenience. The code also writes a cookie to the viewer's computer so that the same viewer can be identified later as a returning visitor.

Create a StatCounter Account

To open a free StatCounter user account, go to and click the "Sign Up Now!" link. Enter the requested information in the fields provided and click "Create Account." This opens your account and takes you to the "Add Project" page.

Creating Projects to Track

For tracking purposes, you should divide your web pages into groups of related pages. Each group is called a project. StatCounter combines the statistics for each project and keeps track of links followed between the pages of a project. For example, if you maintain a stamp collecting website and a bungee jumping website, you can define one project called Stamps and another project called Bungee. Then you can separately view the visitor statistics for each of your two sets of web pages. If you have many projects, you can organize them into related groups, for example, Hobbies, Businesses, and so on.

                  Project     Counter type selection

In the "Add Project" page, enter the requested information, including the initial URL (web address) of your web page and a title for your project. Select the type of hit counter you want displayed on your web page, if any, or choose "Invisible Tracking" otherwise. Also specify how often you want statistical reports emailed to you, if you want them. You can always view reports at the StatCounter website, so emailed reports aren't really needed. Then click "Add Project." This creates the project and takes you to the Insert Snippet web page.

Inserting the HTML Code Into Your Web Pages

The snippet is the block of HTML code that you need to insert into your web pages to make visitor tracking work. All you need is to copy this text and paste it into your web pages. StatCounter provides specific instructions on inserting the snippet for a variety of web editing tools: Blogger, Dreamweaver, FrontPage, Joomla, and so on. If you are using one of these tools, follow the instructions provided by StatCounter, and skip ahead to Viewing the Website Statistics.

If you are using SeaMonkey as your web page editor, use the following procedure.
  1. In the Insert Snippet web page, click the "Default Installation Guide" link.

    Default Installation Guide link

    This displays your StatCounter code for your project:

                    StatCounter Code
  2. Click the "Copy to Clipboard" link.

  3. In your SeaMonkey window where you are editing your web page, in Normal editing mode, put the cursor at the very end of your web page or the place where you want your hit counter to appear.

  4. Choose the Insert > HTML menu command.

  5. Type Ctrl-V to paste the text snippet into the dialog box.

                    HTML dialog box

  6. Click the Insert button. This inserts the HTML code. Although you might see the code in your SeaMonkey editor, the code will be invisible in the final web page.

  7. At the top of the SeaMonkey editor window, click the Save button, then the Browse button. Look at your edited web page in the new browser window. The code snippet should not be visible. The hit counter should appear there instead, unless you chose invisible tracking.
Repeat steps 3 through 7 for each web page belonging to your project.

An alternative method is to click the "<HTML> Source" tab at the bottom of the SeaMonkey editor window, and then paste the text into your HTML source code just before the </body> statement at the end.

For future reference, you will also get an email from StatCounter containing the HTML code snippet and general instructions for inserting the code into your web pages.

Viewing the Website Statistics

StatCounter starts registering visits to your web page immediately, even visits made on your own computer. In fact, it should have just logged your one visit to your own web page.

To check your statistics, go to and log in. You should see your project and the log indicating 1 visit today.

                statistics overview

Click the name of your project, and you get a bar graph showing the number of recent page views. You also get a list of commands along the left side to display detailed information about your visitors.

Be sure to upload the edited web pages to your hosted web space so you can start tracking real visitors! You can use FileZilla to upload multiple files or directories.

The reported number of hits represents the total number of page views for all pages belonging to the project. This is also true for the hit counter displayed in your web page. If you want the hit counter to show the number of hits for that particular page only, then you need to create a separate project for each web page.

For a given project, you can create two different snippets, one that displays a hit counter for you main page and one that doesn't for the other pages of your project. For details, see the page on that subject at the StatCounter Knowledge Base.

Detailed Tracking Information

When you first log in to your StatCounter account, you get a table that lists all your projects. For each project, the table shows the project name and the number of visits to the project web pages today, yesterday, this calendar month, and the total since you starting tracking of the project:

StatCounter log-in project list

Click on the project name, and you get a bar graph showing the number of page visits over the last two weeks (or other time period that you can set):

                summary bar graph

Click the "Recent Keyword Activity" link on the left side of the page, and you get a table showing the search engine query text used to reach your web pages:

The little number inside the oval shape shows how highly your web page was ranked by the search engine. For example, the second line in the table above shows that the visited web page was ranked #6 by Google when the user typed in the search text "letter of recommendation thank you note". The web page was listed sixth in the search results and the reader clicked that result.

In the recent keyword activity table, click the magnifying glass icon to get more information about a particular viewer such as the IP address, city and country, the sequence of pages viewed within the project, and the exit link.

There's a lot more information you can view. Try using each of the links along the left side of the StatCounter web page to learn how each one works.

There's one statistic called "Visit Length," which is the amount of time spent by the viewer at your pages within a project. StatCounter estimates the visit length by looking at the elapsed time between jumps from page to page within your project. If your project consists of just one page, there is no jumping between pages, so the Visit Length is always reported as zero. To track visit lengths, your project must contain multiple pages and the viewer must follow at least one link between those pages.

By default, StatCounter maintains detailed visitor information from the latest 500 page visits for each project and discards the information from older visits. This does not limit the hit counter or the total number of hits reported; your hit counters can go to into the millions. But when you view detailed visitor information about visitors, you're limited to the most recent 500 visits. This is plenty for most amateur web masters. If you want to keep the data from a larger number of recent visits, upgrade to a paid StatCounter account.

How to Prevent Tracking of Your Own Visits

You probably don't want to record statistics for your own visits to your web pages because, after all, you already know about these visits! To prevent tracking of your own visits, you can create a blocking cookie on your computer. This is simply a cookie that tells StatCounter to ignore your visits for tracking purposes.

To create a blocking cookie, log into your StatCounter account. In the project line, under "Settings," click the wrench icon. In the Installation and Configuration page, click "Create Blocking Cookie." In the Blocking Cookie page, click the "Create Project Blocking Cookie" button.

Wrench icon Insert
                        blocking cookie
Blocking cookie button

You need to do this for each browser that you use on each of your computers: FireFox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and so on.

You can optionally create a singe blocking cookie that applies to all your projects; click the link for that option in the Blocking Cookie page.

Getting Help

To get help on using StatCounter, log in and click the Support tab. You can then search the knowledge database for an answer to your question. If you can't find the answer, you can click the "user forums" link and search for an answer there, or click the "submit a support ticket" link to get personal help from the StatCounter staff.

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