Website Analytics Packages
There are a wide range of website analytics packages available, differing greatly in price and functionality. Different analytics packages will measure data in different ways, so it's often meaningless to compare statistics between 2 or more different packages for the same website, so you really have to decide on a package to suit your needs and then track the trends within that package.
Google Analytics is now the most popular website analytics service, mainly because it provides some good quality in-depth data and is free. However, if you want to consider alternative options, we have summarised some of the other more popular analytics services below:
i) The Free Options
Webalizer is a simple log file analytics tool that you can load onto your web server and use to view your website statistics online. It provides yearly, monthly or daily summary information on usage, referrals and search engines and keywords.
AWStats is a more advanced log file analyser which is developed by the 'open source' community. It provides complete lists of referrers and keywords and also includes good information about the browsers, screen sizes and operating systems that are being used to view a site. Its main limitations are that it can be quite difficult to install and it does not provide the facility to export data to a spreadsheet format.
ii) Hosted Analytics Packages
Hosted analytics tools display your statistics on a secure website and providers charge a monthly fee for their service, meaning you can get started without a large initial expense. To set a package up, most require a small piece of code to be placed on every page of your site, which tends to be very simple to do.
The majority place 'cookies' on your visitor's computer to measure unique visits and browsing patterns. However caching, dynamically generated pages, frames and firewalls can often disrupt this process, meaning that the statistics they provide may not be totally accurate in terms of volume, but are still useful for measuring trends over time.
These commercial tools provide more detailed information than the free tools and allow you to create reports based on custom date ranges and export reports to spreadsheet files, which can be very useful in many business settings.
Some of the most popular tools for small and medium sized business are LiveStats.net ($49 per month), HitBox Professional ($35) and WebTrends 7 ($35). Click Tracks ($49) is a slightly different package that allows you to view statistics superimposed on different sections of your website, making it easier to visualise behaviour.
iii) Standalone Packages
Most of the main commercial providers also offer a 'stand alone software' version of their packages that you can use on your own computer or server. There is a high up front cost to this type of solution and they tend to use a website's log-files so can be more complex to set up. However this can be more appropriate if you work with a number of different websites or are certain you want use a tool in the long run as there is only a one-time fee and the software provides faster performance.
Most commercial packages offer a demo version or a free trial that you can test by running through the scenarios you are most likely to face before you buy.
In many cases your hosting company will provide statistics through a favoured package, depending on the fees paid or the depth of data required. If you're not sure what statistics are available for your site, or how to make the most of your log files to develop your site, please contact us for an initial, no obligation, discussion.
Alternatively, if you are thinking of using website analytics for the first time, or have already started tracking your visitor data, we can provide you with a FREE analytics assessment to give you an idea of the key elements you should be tracking and reviewing to increase the performance of your website.