Free website statistics : Google Analytics vs Statcounter

Most website hosting these days allows you to track things like amount of visits and hits that your website has received. This can be a useful indicator as to how popular your site is, but quite often these statistics do not go into enough depth. What for example if you wanted to know:
• how many unique visitors your site has had
• what search engine key-phrases they used to find your site
• where they came from
• what path did they take through your site

Understanding things like this will help you build up a picture about what is happening and how you can improve the amount of visitors, enquiries or sales that your site gets.

There are many different statistics packages around. The two that this article investigates are:
• the new Google Analytics software: www.google.com/analytics  
• Statcounter www.statcounter.com  

Both of these packages can be used for free, can export their data, have web based interfaces and both use a piece of hidden Javascript code to monitor pages – so why would you choose one over the other?

Google Analytics

This is a brilliant, aesthetically pleasing stats package. It has all the bells and whistles you could want and it produces fantastic, live graphs using Flash. The major unique sell point for this one in my view is the concept of goal tracking and monitoring organic (free) searches against pay per click campaigns. Analytics interface can be a little daunting and tricky to use at first, but you soon figure it out with the aid of the help references. This package is very much goal focussed so you can track what percentage of your vistors made a purchase or enquiry and focus on improving weaker areas.

StatCounter

This package is simple and powerful. The interface does not look as slick as Analytics, but it allows at a glance to see things like unique visitors, search engine phrases used and even allows you to see the exact path each visitor took through your site. It is very powerful and easy to use, but the limitation of the free version is that it only allows so much data to be recorded. If you check your stats every couple of days, this is fine, but obviously it would not allow you to look back historically over the last week, month or year. Easy solution to this though – you can pay for more log space and this starts at about $9 a month, so it is very affordable.

Conclusion

For pure slickness, you cannot beat Google Analytics, but I feel that this package is more suited to an e-commerce site or one that depends on a pay per click campaign. If your site does not sell products and is smaller, then StatCounter would be my choice because of its ease of use and ability to see exactly what path people take through your site. It is a case of horses for courses, but both packages are exceptionally useful for understanding more about your website and its return on investment.

Article by Alex Fenton | View all posts

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