StatCounter.com, a free, but powerful web statistics program, is different from server side stats collection applications in that you use special coding right on your website to gather information about your traffic and visitors. Although the service is offered free-of-charge, upgrades can be purchased for nominal monthly fees depending upon the number of page loads, with half a million being the first level of payment. All of the information is collected and then stored in a password protected account, that you can access anytime in order to retrieve valuable stats on your site's traffic.
Some of the more important features of the program that will aid you to upgrade and tweak your site's performance are:
- identifying the keywords that brought your visitors to your site in the first place,
- the most popular pages summary which helps you to understand what users are looking for when they come to your site,
- inbound links that drove traffic to your site - these are the links that come from outside websites that talk about your site and provide a backlink,
- countries from where your traffic originates which will help you with geographical-targeting for optimum sales conversions,
- the number of pages that are accessed by visitors, as well as exit and entrance pages,
- the unique, returning and total number of visitors,
- and the search engines that provide traffic, as well as how much in a given period.
Additionally, the service offers both Visible and Invisible tracking which might be a good idea if you do not want others to know what program you use. Also, each feature can be reviewed in summary mode or magnified, to drill down to certain aspects that are the most important to your analysis. What is most impressive is the fact that the company does not force you to place their ads on your website. In fact, the only ads, from which they generate revenue from you, are the advertisements inside your personal account. You can choose to ignore them or to investigate further.
While some webmaster view these types of free programs as juvenile and ineffective, the site is highly recommended. Despite the fact that serious money-makers feel that to make money, you need to budget for "real" paid applications, it has received the Five Star Award from Internet Magazine, and the Five Cows Award from Tucows. The owner has devoted six years to the project, and actively solicits requests from users for new features. To add to the benefits of the program, the service offers a forum, a regularly updated blog, and support for the product. It is indeed a project that is continually enhanced and always in development.
To demonstrate the ability of the tracker, and to help webmasters make a decision about using the service, a full demo is available on the website. Everything you see in the sample site is what you get free for life as long as you stay under nine thousand page views per day. Setting up an account is done in four easy steps including registering, creating a project, adding the snippet of code to your website, and watching your stats as you learn how to analyze the information.