What to Look for in a Hit ... All About the ... you want to know how many people are coming to your website; if you want to know how "sticky" your website is; if you want to know w
What to Look for in a Hit Counter
:::It's All About the Numbers::: If you want to know how many people are coming to your website; if you want to know how "sticky" your website is; if you want to know what pages of your website are attracting the most attention, you have to know the numbers. And to get the numbers you need, you need a hit counter that does more than just give you a head count.
Having a hit counter (or stat counter) on the front page of your website is nice, but most web savvy individuals know that those numbers can be artificially inflated. While a big number can be impressive, you as a webmaster need something more than a head count. You need to know what those numbers mean, and what changes need to be made, if any, to improve your site's popularity.
:::So, what does a good stat counter do?::: A good stat counter counts. No kidding, right? True, but the key to a good stat counter lies in what your stat counter counts. A good stat counter should track the following kinds of statistics:
* First time visits * Return visits * Page loads * Visitor path * Popular pages * Entry/exit pages * Visit length
A first time visit is exactly that. It's a visit from someone who has never been to your site before. Most stat counters will create a cookie for people who come to your site. If a visitor comes who has no cookie, they are counted as a first time visitor. Now that's not foolproof. If the person deletes all of his or her cookies and then returns to your site later, he or she will again be counted as a first time visitor, but then again no system is 100 percent perfect.
A return visit is someone who has returned to your site within an allotted amount of time. Again, a cookie is used to measure this, and most good stat counters will let you set the amount of time between visits. For example, you might not want to count someone as a return visitor who has only been away for ten minutes, but you may want to count them as a return if they have come back after thirty minutes or more.
A page load is every time a page from your website is loaded on a user's screen. This is where numbers can really become artificially inflated. Let's say you use a meta tag to refresh your page every two minutes. Every time the page refreshes, it will count as a page load. So if John Q. Public is visiting that page and he's there for six minutes, his visit will count as three hits instead of one. What's the harm in that, you wonder, it makes for great numbers. While you do wnat to keep track of page loads to determine things like page popularity, equating page loads with actual visits will give you a reading not based entirely in reality. You need to know if 1,000 page loads is really 1,000 actual visitors, or just twenty people who are really click happy.
The visitor path is a good way to find out where your visitors are coming from and what advertising campaigns and hit-for-clicks programs are paying off. A good stat counter will show you what path a visitor followed to get to your site. Did they come from a a Google or Yahoo search, did they come from one of your hits-for-clicks programs, did they come in through a web ring you joined, or did they just happen to blow in? Knowing the visitor path can give you a good indication about whether your search engine optimization is effective, or if a particular ad campaign or banner is paying off.
Popular pages are exactly what the name suggests. This statistic will tell you what pages on your site are attratcing the most attention -- and which ones are not. Having this information will help you to fine tune your site, and can help you determine what your visitors are looking for when they come to visit. It could very well be that what you are trying to give your visitors and what they actually want, are two different things. It may be that you need to change your site's approach in order to attract and hold visitors. Remember, marketing isn't about what you like; it's about what your customers like.
Entry/Exit pages. Like popular pages they can be a pretty good indicator as to what yur visitors are looking for when they come to your website. If they're leaving from the same pages they are entering, it could be that your site isn't "sticky" enough. In other words, your site isn't doing enough to hold your visitors' interest and getting them to stay and look around. It's like having a store that everyone drives by, but never enters.
Visit length. This is a record of how long a visitor has stayed at your site. Let's say you've signed up for several hits-for-clicks programs. Your visits are numbering in the hundreds, but people are only staying for about a second (or less). That's a problem. Again it's an indication that your site isn't "sticky" enough. The pages and offers you present in a hits-for-clicks program are entirely different from what you might use in a search engine or e-zine. Once more, you need to reconsider your tactics/strategies if visitors are coming but not staying.
One final thing in this section: You should get a stat counter that allows you to the option of hiding your stats from the general public. Why? Because when you're first starting out, your visitor count isn't going to be very high and most people aren't going to be impressed that they are visitor number 52. They'll see that and assume that what you have to offer isn't that great and leave. A stat counter that let's you hide your numbers from the public until you're ready to unveil them is a definite plus. Wait untill you can boast several hundred visitors and then allow your stat counter to make that public.
:::Where Should Hit Counters be Placed on Your Website?::: You should put your hit counter code on every page you plan to have visitors see. If you only have the code on your welcome page, how will you know if any other page is being viewed? It may take some time to put the code on every page your visitors might potentially view, but it is well worth the effort.
:::What I Recommend::: A hit counter that I have used for a long time and that offers all of these features for free is StatCounter, available at http://www.statcounter.com. And no, I am not being paid to say that. It's just my own humble opinion. Whatever hit counter you decide to use for your site (and I strongly recommend you use something), make sure it gives you the statistics you need to give you the most accurate information about your site.