There are a lot of different software out there to choose from, but Google’s is the most common and it’s also free. So, let’s start off by learning how to use Google Analytics to track visitor behavior.
If you don’t already have a Google account, sign up for one now. If you already have one (through Gmail or Blogger,) sign into your account.
If it’s your first time, Google will present you with a brief tutorial of their system. Go through the system the tutorial to get a feel for how the system works.
Once you’re at the main analytics page, click “Add a Website” to get started.
Follow the on screen instructions to install analytics. After giving it the domain you want to track, Analytics will give you a snippet of code that needs to be placed on your website.
If you’re building the site yourself in Dreameaver, XSitePro or through another editor, just paste that snippet of code before the </body> tag at the bottom of the page.
Make sure you put the code on the bottom of every single page of your site, not just on the home page. This will allow you to get data for your entire site rather than just one page.
Once you’ve setup the code, go back to Google Analytics. Click “edit” next to your newly setup site profile.
At the top of the page, Analytics will say “Tracking Not Installed.” Next to it will be a refresh button. Click the refresh button.
If Analytics now tells you that tracking is installed, that means everything is working properly and Analytics is now gathering data.
If it still tells you it’s not installed, wait a couple hours and try again. If it’s still not working, any number of things could have gone wrong:
– Was the domain typed correctly throughout the whole process?
– Was the code copied in its entirety?
– Was the edited HTML file uploaded, not just edited?
Back trace your steps and make sure you did everything right. If all else fails, try just re-uploading your files and hit refresh again.
The Basics of Using Google Analytics
When you get to the Google Analytics results screen, you have quite a lot of options to choose from.
Date Range Selector
One of the most important things to learn is how to use the date range selector. This tells Google what period of time to look in when it gives you data.
If you want to see all the data from all the traffic you’ve ever gotten, you can do that. If you want to just see last week’s data, you can do that too. Just select the dates.
Main Data Screen
The main data screen is the data that’s centered, taking up the most space. Analytics separates its data into different modules that you can easily take in.
The Left Sidebar
On the left sidebar is where you choose what kind of data you want to see. You’re presented with options like Visitors, Traffic Sources, Dashboard, etc.
Each link should be pretty self-explanatory. Just click your way through and see what you can learn about your visitors in each of the subsections.
Once Analytics is setup, all you really need to do is come back to Analytics and find whatever data you want, whenever you want. It’s generally a good idea to check your stats at least once a week.
Tracking With Piwik
If you’d rather not use Google Analytics, another great choice is Piwik.
Piwik is free and open source. Rather than being web hosted, you download the software and install it on your own server.
Piwik offers about the same functionality as Google Analytics, with the downside that it’s harder to setup and the upside of not having your data on anyone else’s systems. The choice of which to use is yours.