Web Marketing 101: Keeping Track of Your Visitors

Keeping track of your site traffic is critical for any webmaster or web marketer. For a real estate professional taking their business online it’s going to be just as critical. At a minimum, tracking your site statistics can tell you who has visited your site, where they came from and what they looked at. It can also do much, much more.

Dustin posted at length on this subject recently, as his analysis of Rain City Guide’s traffic revealed some quite interesting trends.

To get started, there are a number of free options available to the webmaster, Sitemeter and Statcounter are two basic hit counters that I’ve tried and would recommend for very top level analysis. They offer very basic information; number of visitors, referrers and the like, and are a great way to quickly check out who’s coming to see you. Your web host will likely have some sort of traffic analysis package for you to use as well.

Performancing Metrics 

Performancing Metrics

If you want to move up to more detailed analysis, have a look at Performancing Metrics, which is designed specifically for bloggers. (It’s from the guys who also make the wonderful Performancing blog editor plugin for Firefox). What I really like about Performancing Metrics is that it allows you to track multiple web sites from one account and even gives you an RSS feed of your statistics, which you can then subscribe to and get real-time updates of your traffic. The information is also presented in a very easily digestible format and gives you a good snapshot view of visitors to your site.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

If you really want to drill down into analyzing your site traffic, try Google Analytics, which just recently opened its doors to everyone. Prior to that, it was a closed beta that I was lucky to be able to take part in for the last several months.

Google Analytics is data smack for traffic junkies. There’s just a ton of information that you can dig around in. Honestly, far too much for me to recommend it for most webmasters – I even found it overwhelming at times. However, if you’re comfortable dealing with all the numbers, graphs, charts and diagrams and crave every detail from your last hit, then Google Analytics is the one for you.

The great thing about all of the options I’ve mentioned is that they are all free. Just be ware, all of them require you to cut and paste a small line of HTML code into your site template before they can begin tracking your visitors, so if you’re on a hosted platform like WordPress.com or Blogger, you may have some problems.

Mint 

Mint

More recently, I have been playing around a paid product called Mint. Dubbed “a fresh look at your site,â€? Mint is the product of designer Shaun Inman, and costs $30 for a one site license.

Mint is a privately hosted traffic tracking package, meaning you need a free SQL database and some room on your server to host it. Once installed (just like the others, you need to place a snippet of HTML code in your site) Mint goes to work.

I really like Mint not only for its beautiful design and clear and concise way of presenting all the required information, but also the fact that it’s incredibly flexible and extendible. Because it’s built in PHP, Mint allows you to install plugins (dubbed Peppers) that allow you to customize the installation to exactly your requirement and greatly extend its base feature set. Check out PeppermintTea for all the current Peppers that are available.

Mint’s $30 price tag might be a turnoff to some. But it was definitely worth it in my books.

CrazyEgg

Finally, another fun site I’ve been playing around lately with is CrazyEgg, which offers you a unique way to track what visitors to your site do once they get there. CrazyEgg tracks the number of clicks that each link on your site receives and then presents that data is a visually interesting way.

Crazy Egg

CrazyEgg’s overlay view color codes the number of clicks on each link and with an expandable button shows you a percentage for each one.

CrazyEgg

Their heat map view, darkens your site and shows you (much like an infrared image) which parts of your site are “hotâ€? or not.

Any of these options will serve you well in tallying visits to your web site. I’d encourage you to play around with them all to see what mix works best for you.