Sunday, July 09, 2006

Know Your Visitors

Most Bloggers, and publishers of other websites, shouldn't just write content, blindly. They need to know who reads the content too.

Some folks learn about their readers from the comments left by them. If the website is a blog, and if comments have been enabled, then some readers will feel moved to leave comments about specific posts.

Both Blogger and WordPress, and probably other blogging services, provide for comments. For regular websites, and for blogs without comments activated, you may be able to use Disqus. Disqus provides commenting on non-blog websites, and on blogs where more control (and separate from Blogger connections) is desired.

As an alternative to commenting, some blog / website owners may prefer a GuestBook for their blog or website. There are quite a few free GuestBook products available, such as A-Free-Guestbook, and UltraGuest. GuestBooks are different from Comments - Comments are generally left for a specific post, while GuestBook entries apply to an entire website.

But we can get better information about our visitors, using specially designed visitor activity logs and meters.

Both Comments and GuestBook entries suffer from one major flaw. They require active feedback from the reader.

Why is this important? Simply this - not all visitors will feel inclined to leave any comments, good or bad. During a typical month, I might see a dozen entries left in my UltraGuest account.

During that same month, both SiteMeter and StatCounter will record hundreds of unique visitors, and thousands of page views, on my websites. Alternatively, the Blogger Stats product will provide statistical information, that no competing product can possibly provide.

Both SiteMeter and StatCounter are free services, reasonably easy to install (in an XML based Layouts / Designer template), and both provide invaluable information about the visitors to your websites. To understand the difference between these complementary yet competing products, and what they can tell you about your visitors, you need to know about the difference between unique visitors and page views.

A unique visitor is a single person, viewing many pages in the website, during an arbitrary time period (generally 1/2 hour, for both products). A page view is generally one article or post being viewed, whether from cache (on the reader's computer), or retrieved from the website, by any visitor. Analysing both types of information is essential to proper knowledge of your readers, and how they view your websites.

And this is where SiteMeter and StatCounter differ, and thus complement each other.

SiteMeter records unique visitors, and specific page view details about each visitor. StatCounter records individual page views, and aggregates information about each visitor, from the page views.

SiteMeter limits itself by unique visitors - the free SiteMeter service will show you information about the latest 100 unique visitors to your website. StatCounter limits itself by page views - the free StatCounter service will show you information about the latest 100 page views from your website.

Both SiteMeter and StatCounter provide a limited amount of complementary information. SiteMeter provides first and last page viewed, for 100 unique visitors. StatCounter aggregates information about the unique visitors, for 100 (or 500, in some cases) page views.

But both are equally useful. Fortunately, both are equally priced - free. And both will provide more data, for various fees.

SiteMeter makes it easier to spot trends. With StatCounter, at any time, you can see information on only the last 100 page views. Since you hopefully have, on the average, more than 1 page view / unique visitor, the information recorded by StatCounter is overwritten, more often, by newer information. So you will find yourself checking StatCounter more frequently, to get information about trends. SiteMeter has a graph of page view and visitor counts, by hour, for the day in question, that is not provided by StatCounter.

StatCounter, on the other hand, provides more detail about each visitors viewing of your website. SiteMeter identifies only the first and last page viewed from your website. StatCounter identifies each page viewed, in sequence, and what page (yours or anothers) led to that page. So StatCounter will help you learn the specific needs of each individual viewer.

A third product which I use, FlagCounter, provides a very simple count, by country, of visitors. From their statistics for your blog, behind a link "Page Views", you can see a useful histogram showing daily page view counts during the last week.

The idea here is that, by using these services together, you can know more about your visitors, and their interests and needs, and make them happy that they visit your blog. This helps you improve and tune your blog or website, get more visitors, and better search engine placings. This in turn leads to still more visitors.

With more visitors and page views, you will feel encouraged (and maybe become more able to afford) to purchase expanded service from either, or both, product. With expanded service, you'll get better tools, giving you the ability to tune your website more effectively - and to make your visitors happy. This will lead to still more visitors and page views.

Note:
Installing each product isn't complicated. Both FlagCounter, SiteMeter and StatCounter have wizards, where you select what options you want, and provide JavaScript for you to use. One useful option is to identify your own computer(s), by either IP address (range of IP addresses), or by a cookie placed on your computer, so you accessing your blog won't be counted in your statistics.
  • With SiteMeter, you select "Manager", then "ignore visits". To ignore by IP address, you then select "ignore visits by IP address".
  • With StatCounter, you select "Settings" (the wrench), then "Edit Settings" (to block by IP address), or "Create blocking Cookie" (to block by cookie).
Note that neither cookie nor IP address blocking are 100% persistent and reliable.

Having selected the options that please you, the JavaScript for your counter is generated. You copy the JavaScript, and paste it into an HTML / JavaScript gadget, in your blog. Then position the gadget where you like. You can, alternately, get fancy and arrange visitor counters (and other objects) next to each other, in one gadget.

Besides FlagCounter, SiteMeter, and StatCounter, you'll want to look at the native Blogger Stats product. Stats needs no installation - it's there with its own link in your dashboard - and has been there, since 2009 (or whenever you started your blog, whichever came last). Since Stats is not installed, it has its own peccadilloes.

Note that any visitor meter provides statistical information - not absolute detail. You gain more from any visitor meter as you are able to compare what it tells you, over a period time, and a longer period the better. And you gain more from comparing each different visitor meter with its own figures over different periods of time. You will gain very little, by comparing different meters with each other.

To be truly useful, a visitor meter has to be consistent, persistent, and stable. A visitor meter that goes offline next week won't be very useful next week (or even the following week). Try to select a visitor meter that will remain online for a useful period of time. Select a less mature or popular meter, and you may end up with no data, as various bloggers found out in January of 2009.

Having said all of that, we should note that your visitor meters only work from direct visits to your blog. People reading your blog from a Newsfeed Reader will read the feed from your blog, which doesn't include the visitor counter, so they won't show in your visitor logs. If you want to keep a count of visitors using your newsfeed, you'll have to create a custom feed, using a feed aggregator.

And if your readers are mainly bloggers, you may encourage a sense of community, and gain ability to surf each others blogs, by using Following, the new Blogger fusing of Blogger profiles, blog newsfeeds, and the "Next Blog" link. Here, you get to know your readers, or at least their pictures. And, understand the difference between followers, readers, and subscribers.

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61 comments:

Sandra said...

Hi,
very interesting post - as the one on making visitors happy - question for you:
I use Sitemeter on 2 blogs - and it seems to me that I get stats on both page views and visits - unless I misread/misunderstood you (or the stats), your post claims that only Statcounter provides page VIEWS, whereas Sitemeter provides stats on page VISITS. Are you sure about this?
http://not-so-desperate-yugowife.blogspot.com
http://izmir-blog.blogspot.com

Chuck said...

Sandra,

Let's try again.

SiteMeter provides information about unique visitors. The free service limits itself to the last 100 unique visitors (statistically unique anyway). SiteMeter will identify the first, and the last, page viewed by each visitor.

StatCounter provides information about individual page views. The free service limits itself to the last 100 pages viewed. StatCounter will also try and group pages viewed by unique visitor, but its information is provided primarily by pages viewed.

A unique visitor is one person, viewing any number of pages from your website. By knowing about the people, and about the pages viewed, you can get an more accurate view of your visitors.

Now neither the unique visitors, nor the individual pages viewed, are 100% accurate, for several reasons. So there will always be differences between the SiteMeter and StatCounter displays. I'll try to write about those issues later.

numifye said...

How do I put the comment code onto my website? I've seen plenty of graphic websites that have links that lead to a pop-up comment box...

Chuck said...

Hi Numifye,

Enable pop-up comments using Settings - Comments.
1) Set "Comments" to "Show".
2) Set "Show comments in a popup window?" to "Yes".

"Hynda" said...

Hello
You helped me in the "How do I" forum here on blogspot.com.
You told me that I should comment this post of yours and then you'd help me to see how I can see the IP number of the different coments I get in my blog.
I don't get it at all.
Hope that you can make my mind a luttle bit clearer.
/Anne (from Sweden)

Chuck said...

Hi Anne,

See my response in the Blogger Help How Do I? thread 'IP numbers - where can I see them?'

Dax said...

Chuck,

thanks for the help on this. I followed your instructions and have installed both Sitemeter and Statcounter on my recently created blog

Really appreciate it.

Newbie called "Dax"

EM CUBA said...

Hi there,
Congratulations on the site, great job!
By any means do you know if site meter and site stats are available for MAC OS X (10.4.8 intel)

NobarKing said...

This page helped me add a counter to my blog, Thanks!

Ms M said...

Thanks for all the info and help you provide. I decided to add a counter to my blog and knew if I consulted your site, I'd get the info I needed. I chose SiteMeter, which will track the stats I need. Got it set up in less than 5 minutes on my blog.
Gracias!

chameli said...

hello, this all look so great, but I can;t figure out where I get this Statcounter. Can you help?

chameli

Chuck said...

Chameli,

Look at the next to last paragraph in the post. You should see both "SiteMeter" and "StatCounter" have links attached. Click on either one.

chameli said...

great , Thank you. I now have my counters up and running!!

chameli
www.welcometojapin.blogspot.com
www.hadofriends.blogspot.com

Brandi said...

Thanks for all this great info!

I have a question. . .is there any way to track an anonymous commenter from a while ago? I know that NOW I can use sitemeter and pretty much figure out where they are from, but this comment is from months ago. Any ideas?

Brandi

Chuck said...

Brandi,

Unless you have a super SiteMeter or StatCounter account, or the blog is pretty dead, your visitor logs won't go back more than a week or so. So I suspect the anmser is "No". Sorry. You gotta monitor your logs regularly, if you want any use from them.

elims, Chuang Kuang Hong said...

Thanks for the sharing, newbie here, i want to be one of the most popular blogger in 2 years time.

Appreciate your lesson, wish to learn more. =)

Michal Herman said...

Thanks a lot, that's exactly what i've been looking for.

Adam said...

It's crazy that you still get comments over something posted almost two years ago.

I converted to Blogger from Wordpress specifically so I could support ads (not betting i'm really going to make anything, but if you don't try what's the point?), and i've been looking for a way to track the stats on my blog. So, thanks for posting this :)

Dragon said...

I'd be curious to know if my links are clicked, too, as well as how often. Do these little programs have this capability?

BTW, if a guy is using Firefox, he could go to "Tools" > "Options" > "Exceptions" (the first button in the upper right-hand corner). Then, in "Address of website," paste his site's URL and click "Allow." I don't believe it will be disappearing along with regular addresses when cache or cookies are cleared.

Chuck said...

Dragon,

If your blog has the visitor meter code installed, the code tracks clicks made on the page. But you do have to have the code installed first.

So the little program will track clicks made on the links in your blog. Is that what you meant by "my links"?

As far as cookie clearing goes, give it a test. You'll find that the Exceptions list grants permission to, or prevents a given web site from, dropping cookies. It doesn't affect your ability to clear cookies. If you clear cookies, the cookies for that web site will be gone.

milly said...

how can i tell how many people are reading?

Chuck said...

Milly,

SiteMeter and StatCounter tell you how many people are visiting the web site (blog). How many people actually read what they visit is a guessing game. Read some of the Help documents provided by SiteMeter and StatCounter, to get an idea how inexact the actual reading count may be.

natalie4466 said...

Are these visible on any given blog if they are being used? If so where?

I also wonder if Google allows this. I thought they prohibited any sort of collection of IP's.

Chris S. said...

I like to use a blog entry for a Guest Book. I have a few "navigational" entries that are back-dated to before I started the blog so they don't get in the way of reading the real blog entries. Those entries are used for the "About" page, a page with photo slideshows and videos on the blog, a page with a list of recent entries and comments, and another for a list of changes to the site. The Guest Book page just has a note for readers as the entry, then leaves it open for comments. Nothing fancy, but it works better than installing 3rd-party code.

Chuck said...

Nice, Chris,

How well does Blogger Commenting do, with abusive content like hacking and spam, when you open up comments for the entire blog to Anyone?

Alien8 said...

Hi Chuck,

Very nice site and good job, indeed!

I have two questions:

- Does any of those (or other) programs let me know how many time a visitor spends vsiting my blog? (in blogger)? For example, X was in my blog yesterday at 12:00. Can I know it was at 12:00? Can I know how many time he spent in my blog? Btw, he left at 12:15, or, even if it's not possible to know he came at 12:00, just how many minutes was he in my blog..?

2. I read about "letting other people see your stats". If I use Sitemeter or Statcounter, the gadgets will show on the side bar, I guess, but what about the stats? Can I keep then just for myself, or can anybody view them?

Thanks for any help

Chuck said...

Alien,

With 100% accuracy, no. You can know when a visitor loaded your web page onto his computer, and when he clicked on a link on that page. The more clicks, the greater the accuracy %, approaching 100% but _never_ equaling 100%.

You can allow your stats to be viewed by other folks, or you can keep them private. Both SiteMeter and StatCounter have this option, and it's differently selectable for each. Get one - or both - they are both free - and find out for yourself.

Mary said...

Very helpful! Thank you so much!

anishmathaimathew said...

Thanks a lot for this info. I'll try to use them and hope it makes a difference to my blog.

Best wishes.

the yellow house in the U said...

Thank you - this info was really helpful. I installed the counter - lets just hope people actually look at the damn blog, otherwise I'll need to leave another comment saying the info made me really sad

xiao tou said...

Hi

i have a problem with blogger visitor's history and i hope you will be able to help me.
My girlfriend and I are the only 2 person who can access our private site. I am the main contributor and account for almost 90% of the site content and would like to know if she visited the site. How can i track the last time she visits the site. She get tired when i keep asking "have you read our blogs?" I only need to know whether she has visited our blog and not necessarily which page she clicked on etc Do I need to use SiteMeter for this problem?

On the other hand, the "Multiply" blogging site automatically shows the visitors history automatically and I dont think this is avail in Blogger...?
I am trying to use Google Analytics but it is a real challenge for me and I didn't understand its instruction.
Do you have a better alternative?

Thank you very much,
Stephen

Chuck said...

Stephen,

Either SiteMeter or StatCounter should take care of your needs just fine.

Ulrike said...

Thanks heaps for this. Very useful information.

I do have a counter on my blog, but I really miss the blogger profile views counter. Approximate views stuck at 200 sort of isn't cool.

AG said...

Thanks for this post. It really helped me a lot.

Ida Harris said...

I am so impressed by your wealth of information and your generosity in sharing...It was been extremely useful in my blog journey

Vanessa Michele Garcia said...

Thank YOU so much for this useful information. I would like to track visitors by ip address how do I do that? I'm so new to this.

cocobean719 said...

I'm new to blogging and still finding my way around blogs, and this information has been very helpful, thank you.

Legacy2000 said...

StatCounter's free service now shows data for the last 500 page views, not 100.

Roxanne said...

Thanks heaps, I was looking for a counter to track traffic to my blog and had not considered how in depth the subject could be until I came across this blog. Perfectly explained and very helpful.

Paz. said...

Hey !!
I just noticed that you didn't mention Google Analytics,Any particular reason ??
I initially used statcounter(Still use it),and I also have Google Analytics active on my Blog,its pretty useful comparing both the data :)

Chuck said...

Paz,

When I wrote this, originally, there was no real Analytics. Even now, what they have isn't really comparable with StatCounter, and it's painfully complex to find what you need. They've been promising an integrated Blogger interface for a couple years, and we're all waiting for that to come out.

Family Garden Transformation said...

Thank you Chuck! We newbies owe a lot to you for sharing your experience. I'm sure you have made many folks more successful bloggers, it is a shame there is no counter for that particular statistic!?!

Chuck said...

I'm sure you have made many folks more successful bloggers, it is a shame there is no counter for that particular statistic!?!

Thanks for the encouragement. Blogger is a learning opportunity, for everybody (me too).

The Gaffer said...

Great widget and so easy to set up with your wizard. Respect and Thanks.

TBones said...

is this any different than having google analytics set up for your blog? if so, how? should i have both?

Chuck said...

is this any different than having google analytics set up for your blog?

FlagCounter, Google Analytics, SiteMeter, and StatCounter are all visitor meters / logs. They are all free, as is your blog - and it's your blog. You have to examine the features provided by each product, and decide if you benefit from using any one, or more than one, on your blog.

Shobha Kamath said...

Thanks a lot for the info provided. It really helped me and I have also successfully added the flag counter to my blog.

il güyji said...

Hello! How can I install this information like vistors and date-hour?

Chuck said...

How can I install this information like vistors and date-hour?

Both SiteMeter and StatCounter will provide information like vistors and date-hour. Pick one (or both), go to their websites, and get the code.

Agrippa said...

Thanks for the information, it is useful. The question I have is about the Globe Map I installed on my site. While my other counters register in dozens and hundreds on good days, my Globe Map registers in thousands and states that I have had well over 1,000,000 views: often it is lit up like a Christmas Tree. This seems to good to be true. I have checked the Globe Maps on other sites and the numbers are realistic. While I am glad to have the numbers I have, I cannot help but suspect something is amiss. I would like to know whether I can trust my Globe Map or should put it aside as a fantasy.

Shoaib Ishrat said...

Thanks alot buddy for sharing all tools you mention in above post.

Kathy Webster said...

Okay, Chuck,

I really wanted to use Flag Counter. I had it all set-up and try as I might, I cannot get it to install. I have tried to use have tried to use the HTML editor 3 times. I received error msgs all 3 times, and had to go into to delete HTML coding that I added to make the Flag Counter work. It said could not save template.

Then I saw the quick posts & tried that 4 times. At first the error msg read, Login Failed. After that I corrected my info and tried again and it said Post Failed.

I even tried to Add A Gadget in the place where it says Add Your Own. I tried 3 times to cut and paste the URL and it would not except it. It either said that the gadget was broken and needed to be fixed OR it would say that it contained legal characters.

Please tell me what I am doing wrong!!!

Thanks,
Kathy
talking.bout.my.God@gmail.com

lilprag said...

i ll also suggest for sitemeter tool for viewing of total no of visitors on your site or blog. It really works ... i am using this tool for my blog and i am very satisfied with it. my blog is
http://www.corporatemailsolutions.blogspot.com

Icyvirgo said...

Hi, very informative and helpful post. Thanks!

Michelle said...

Thanks for this (and so many other) great post(s)! I am learning a lot of details that have saved me so much time.

Junaid Tahir said...

very nicely compiled information. Great work

Fel T. said...

thanks for this helpful post! was looking for a way to find out unique views ;)

April said...

I know this is an old post, but I would like to say thank you for posting very useful information! I'm new to blogging and looking through your blog has certainly helped me a lot! Looking forward to more of your posts! :)

Rajan C Mathew said...

Interesting and useful info. I have taken advantage of some of these in my blogs. Thank you!

medsos said...

I started blogging in 2012. I have a personal blog. Honestly, I still do not understand about the effect of visitors to blog's performance

Chuck Croll said...

Medsos,

The subject of visitors, as it affects a blog's performance, is complex. To get into that in detail, you should buy me dinner - or at least a beer or two.

8-P

But seriously, that is a good subject to discuss, in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?.