Author Website Tech: Statistics

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This month-long series of blog posts will explain author websites and offer tips and writing strategies for an effective author website. It alternates between a day of technical information and a day of writing content. By the end of the month, you should have a basic author website up and functioning. The Table of Contents lists the topics, but individual posts will not go live until the date listed. The Author Website Resource Page offers links to tools, services, software and more.

Track the Growth of Your Author Website

WWW under construction building website

You’ve gone to a lot of trouble to set up a website. Don’t you want to know how many visitors the site gets? You can find out this and much more by the use of a statistics and analytical package. And fortunately, WordPress makes this easy with a couple plugins.

Statcounter. Statcounter is a simple, easy to understand statistics and analytics package that records information in real time. You don’t have to wait until tomorrow to see what traffic is like today. I like this one because of its simplicity. First search Plugins/AddNew/Statcounter. Install and activate the plugin. Go to Statcounter.com and set up an account. Follow their instructions for configuring the plugin with your account information. Sit back and watch the numbers roll in!

Besides general numbers, I especially like to look at the Visitor Paths.This tells me what websites a visitor sees in what order. And I love to look at the Recent Visitor Map, which shows the location of your visitors. Or, look at Country/State/City/ISP. Today (the day I wrote this post) 62.5% of my visitors were from the US, and people from 35 different countries visited this site. Notice that there are NO personally identifiable bits of information here, so the Privacy Policy is still accurate.

Note that I have a free account, which means: Each projects comes with lifetime summary stats as well as a free log size of 500, i.e. a detailed analysis of the last 500 pageloads on your website. When your log is full, it continues to operate; the oldest entry is replaced with the newest entry that comes in. So, that number (62.5% of recent visitors are from the US) only refers to the last 500 visitors to my site. Statcounter is real time and as the globe turns, you can see the progress of daylight across the globe by looking at your visitors locations! Cool, huh?a

Location of visitors to Fiction Notes

Location of visitors to Fiction Notes. Click to enlarge.


Google Analytics. Another common option for website statistics is Google Analytics, and it’s a free powerhouse. You should set this up, but it might take a year or two to learn the ins and outs; in fact, I’m still learning. Yes, of course, there are WordPress Plugins for this. Search Plugins/AddNew/Google Analytics to find a couple dozen plugins. Some will only add in the required code, but some add bells and whistles. Try out a couple until you find something you’re comfortable with. Sign up with Google Analytics and follow their directions and tutorials to get everything set up.

Do you need both stat programs? Here’s the dirty little secret about stat programs: they never agree. Your CPanel may be set up with server stats, which will differ from both of these programs. Generally, they will be close, but there are all sorts of reasons why they may not agree. When I set up my account seven years ago, Statcounter was the only program that recorded information in real time; Google Analytics only added that feature recently. I could probably go with just Google Analytics, but it’s so complicated–complete and wonderful, but complicated–that I still stick with Statcounter for simplicity. When I really need to dig into stats, though, to figure out something about my traffic, I rely on Google Analytics. For me, it’s a win-win to use both. But you don’t have to! There are many other stat programs, too, so find what works best for your website and your needs.

The best thing about stats? You can track the growth of your website from just a few visitors the first month to that first exciting day of 100 visitors and onward and upward to 1000 a day or more.

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