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
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 StatCounter.com 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.
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.
In the Insert Snippet web page, click the "Default
Installation Guide" link.
This displays your StatCounter code for your project:
Click the "Copy to Clipboard" link.
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.
Choose the Insert > HTML menu command.
Type Ctrl-V to paste the text snippet into the dialog box.
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.
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
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.
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 StatCounter.com
and log in. You should see your project and the log indicating 1 visit
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
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:
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
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
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
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"
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
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.