Years ago, getting high quality stats software meant shelling out major dollars. Things have improved a lot for webmasters, and bloggers in particular. Free statistical counters are available left and right, but not all of them are created equal. Different packages have different features, and come with different learning curves. How do you choose the best one for you?
1. Evaluate your site
Are you maintaining a personal blog purely for your own satisfaction, with occasional friends dropping in? In this case, you probably don’t need anything fancy. A basic stat counter with daily pageviews/visitors log will do. However, if you’re a professional blogger who get (or planning to get) tens of thousands or even more hits a day, you’ve got to have to a comprehensive package. You’ll need all those number-crunching muscles to help you analyze the traffic coming in.
2. Evaluate your self
What’s your level of familiarity with web stats? Is this your first time, or do you have previous experience? Are you at ease looking at graphs and analyzing tables of data or do they give you a headache? How much are you willing to learn? Some statistical tools are quite intuitive, so using them is as easy as 1-2-3. Others demand a little more patience from a novice. A few are downright intimidating at first, but offer the most flexibility and usefulness once you master them.
3. Evaluate your needs
Ask yourself, why do you want to use a web stats service in the first place? Is it just curiosity, or is it for business? What parameters do you need to be measured? They could be anything from keywords used to search for your site, the location of your visitors, the number of hits per day, referral sites, bounce rate, or the views trend month-over-month.
If these terms are alien to you, I suggest you start small and try Sitemeter or Stat Counter. When you get used to it and feel that you’re ready to take it a higher level, try AW Stats, Goggle Analytics, or both at the same time. There are a lot of others out there, and I encourage you to experiment, but the ones mentioned are some of the most popular so you’re more likely to get advice from other bloggers in case you need any help.
If you’re serious about blogging and plan to take it from a hobby to a business, having a stats program is crucial. It’s not everything, but it’s a quantitative measure of your success – a firm ground to stand on.