Traffic Spotting

The easiest way to determine your site’s Interweb success is to analyze the traffic logs.

However, downloading raw traffic logs from the web-host and writing a perl script to extract something meaningful probably isn’t what most people envisage doing on their Sunday afternoons. Fortunately, there are various excellent resources available that do this for you for free.

1. AWStats

AWStats is an open-source web analytics tool, that runs on the web-host. It is a perl mega script that parses the log files, and produces informative graphs and reports about where, when, and why users are visiting your site.

AWStats is usually installed by default by the web-host (such as bluehost). (If it’s not installed, try webalizer or something similar. If that isn’t installed either, you could consider installing it yourself, or changing web-hosts).

To use AWStats, associate the log files with it via the control panel, then click on AWStats also in the control panel and be dazzled by a bunch of impressive graphs and tables.

2. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free service which allows site tracking. It is probably one of the best free tracking tools available, is easy to set up, and produces some very cool graphs, showing the number of visitors, where they’re from, and why they’re there.

It requires adding a special javascript code snippet to the bottom of each page that needs to be tracked.

To configure Google Analytics:

  • Sign up with a gmail account
  • Create an analytics account for your domain. Google will provide you with a code snippet to add to all pages you want to track. It will look something like:
    <script type="text/javascript">
        var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www.");
        document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src=\\\'" + gaJsHost + "google-analytics.com/ga.js\\\' type=\\\'text/javascript\\\'%3E%3C/script%3E"));
    </script>
    <script type="text/javascript">
        var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("xxxxxxxx");
        pageTracker._initData();
        pageTracker._trackPageview();
    </script>

    where xxxxxxxx refers to your own Google Analytics ID.

  • Go to wordpress->Presentation->Themes->Theme Editor -> Main Index Template and paste the code snippet into the bottom of the page, before the </body> tag. Check the site still works, and check in the page-source that the snippet is there.
  • Repeat for any other pages you want to track statistics on, e.g. post.php for individual posts
  • Verify the snippet with google analytics. It usually takes 24 hours for data to start appearing.

3. Google Webmaster account

This is useful for verifying the robots.txt and sitemap.xml files. But is also another service for showing what people are searching for to get to your site, and how you rank.

Other search engines such as Yahoo offer similar services.

4. Alexa

Alexa is a neat traffic ranking site that gives your site a numerical value indicating precisely where on the Internet it stands.

It is the tool to use if you want to compare your traffic with that of your nemesis.

As a guideline your net worth is the inverse exponent of your (Alexa) traffic rank.

At <100,000 your adwords might start paying your hosting costs.

At <50,000, you’re running a successful company, or have just published your first blook.

At <1000, you can afford to buy all the houses on our street.

At <10 you control the world (unless maybe you’re Jimmy Wales), you buy islands, build tunnels, and collect helicopters.

I’m at 6,000,000. I have a way to go yet.

Maybe I’ll start writing about breasts to fast-track my rank.

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