Track Your Visitors!
Ladies and gentlemen, I owe you all an apology. I have not yet written about one of the most critical elements of setting up a site. I’ve mentioned the different plugins I’ve installed, and the different ad systems I’ve used but I completely skipped over site analytics. Now granted, a lot of this stems from my SEO background but really any website owner should have at least one analytics program installed on their site. Being able to see where your traffic is coming from, what they are doing while on your site and perhaps most importantly, where and when they are leaving your site are all crucial to the success of your website.
My personal favorite is Google Analytics (GA) which thankfully is free. The program was called Urchin in the past and was a paid service. However, after Google acquired the company a couple of years back, they made it completely free. Of course they now have access to traffic statistics for millions of websites but that’s a rant for a completely different post and maybe even blog. Anyway, GA as I mentioned is completely free and very simple to install. After signing up for an account, you simply install a bit of tracking code on the pages you’d like to track and wait for the data to roll in. I tend to just stick the code in my footer template that way I’m sure I track traffic on every single page. Also, by having it in the footer, GA won’t ever effect the load time for the bulk of the page.
Whether you use GA or any of the other analytics programs available out there, the point is to use at least one. You’ll be able to find out what terms you’re getting traffic for from the search engines, you’ll see which posts or pages are most popular, you’ll find new sites that link to you or have talked about your site. If you sell a product or a service on your site you’ll be able to find out which ads are performing the best for you, which traffic sources you should focus on and which are just a waste of your time and money. Quite simply, you need it. If you don’t have an analytics program installed on your site, do it, and do it now. I promise you’ll thank me for it later.