How to see your website traffic

seewebsitetrafficThis is a question we get asked a lot, and we thought it needed a post! After we finish an author client website, it’s good to go. We generally don’t install website traffic stat tools unless specifically asked, because the stat tools people use vary widely.

We recommend StatCounter, which is free and fantastic. If you want a more comprehensive look and expect a lot of web traffic, then we recommend using StatCounter in conjunction with Google Analytics.

statcounter-logoHow to Install StatCounter

StatCounter is ridiculously great. Mike was using it for a long time before he told me about it and it’s so good that I was like, “Mike! You’ve been holding out on me!” To use it:

  1. Go to Statcounter.com.
  2. Sign up for a free account.
  3. You’ll be asked to fill in the URL. At this screen, choose “Invisible Tracking.” You don’t need everyone seeing your traffic stats.
  4. Click “Add Project.” Keep this window open. You’ll be coming back to it in a moment.
  5. Go to your WordPress dashboard. Click Plugins.
  6. Click Add New. Type in “StatCounter” in the Search Plugins box. Choose the one called “StatCounter – Free Real Time Visitor Stats.” Install that.
  7. Now, hop back to your StatCounter. It should be on a page called “Choose an Installation Guide for your Website” with a long list of website types. Scroll down and choose WordPress.
  8. Click the second box on the next page, “WordPress.org.”
  9. Capture the project id number, in bold, and security code. Go to your WordPress dashboard and under Settings, click StatCounter. On that page, you’ll enter the project ID and security code. I recommend just keeping both windows open and copy and pasting.
  10. In WordPress, hit “Update Options” and you should be good to go!

Now, to see what your traffic looks like in StatCounter, you can go through your WordPress dashboard or you can go to Statcounter.com. Either way, click on the “Recent Visitor Activity” link on the left hand side. This one is my favorite. You’ll get a list of the town, Internet provider, and IP address of people who visited — and what page they were looking at. There’s loads of other things you can see too, like download activity and visitor paths (which other pages they looked at).

Another interesting stat to see through this? What devices people are using to visit your site. For my site, sierragodfrey.com, for example, 51% of my visitors are using a desktop screen to visit me. Only 12% are using mobile devices. For our Atmosphere site here, we know that most people access the site on Apple devices. It’s fascinating stuff.

logo-gaHow to Install Google Analytics

The standard version of Google Analytics is free for any Google Account. You’ll receive a code with a UA number (looks like UA-123456-22); you can either copy the provided code and put it in your site’s header or you can input that UA number into any number of plugins that help activate it for WordPress sites.

StatCounter is a very effective tool for low-traffic (sub-100 visits per week) as it lets you break down individual users with detailed information. Google Analytics works better at analyzing trends across larger sample sizes. It comes with a much larger selection of reports and filters to help you drill down specifics such as:

  • Audience browsers
  • Desktop vs. tablet vs. mobile percentages
  • Behavior flow from page to page
  • Real-time views of what people are looking at
  • History of internal search terms (again, only useful for much larger or heavy traffic sites)

In general, the most important data you’ll glean from Google Analytics are general audience behavior — your bounce rate (the percentage of users that leave, AKA bounce, after one page view), the length of sessions, whether your site attracts returning viewers or new viewers, and the most popular pages/actions, along with how they get there and where they went to. You can also set up custom experiments to track specific actions.

Hopefully, you’re a massive author getting a ton of traffic, and in that case, Google Analytics provides plenty of insight in the facets of your site that are the most engaging. Forward-thinking authors can use this info to devise strategies for launching contests, ebook giveaways, and other promotions.

Do you use a website statistics tool? What do you like to see when you look at stats?

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