What clicking tracking services should I use?
April 17, 2006 11:23 PM   Subscribe

Clicking Tracking: there is MeasureMap, PMetrics, BlogBeat, Crazy Egg, but Google Analytics is apparently the best. What other tools and services for tracking your visitors would you suggest? I am about to start a new web design blog, but I don't know which tool I should use. Which are better? Which would you use for blogs and which for "normal" web-sites?
posted by volandmast to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It really depends on a lot more specific information that what you've mentioned here. You're talking about either log file analytics or an inline observer who will actively track all activity on the site.

The former is a lot more popular for most sites since the webserver application (and that's an important piece of information) keeps pretty decent logs of who/what/how people are accessing your site. I've used analog in the past and while the graphs may not be a pretty as some of the tools you mentioned, it's free and does the job.

The latter approach really depends on what blogging software you decide to use or if you're going to write it yourself. Inline observers are dependent on the code that run your site and alongside each action on the site they record this information in a log file/database etc.

So, we need to know what webserver/platform, what blogging software, hosting company, services provided by said hosting company etc. before you can get more detailed information about a product like this.
posted by purephase at 5:15 AM on April 18, 2006

Short Answer: Many of the current "hip and cool" web tracking services use javascript or magic images put on each one of your pages. I as a paranoid systems administrator type consider both to be bad things. They make assumptions about the client (in this case the reader's webbrowser) complying to get your data. Worse of course would be clients that intentionally screw with the data. Use something like Analog, Webalizer, or AWStats (this last one is my preference).

Longer answer

The javascript way (which Google Analytics uses at least) is a javascript command put into each of your page. The way it is supposed to work, is that when a reader opens the page in a web browser, the web browser will parse the javascript which will tell the browser to send out a bit of info to the tracking service. Possible problem with this: if the reader is reading your blog through an rss reader, it likely won't process that javascript. It could also be that javascript is disabled on the reader's web browser. It could also be that the user has disabled scripts from remote sources. It is also of course possible that the client's web browser simply can't do javascript (as is the case with many small devices like phones and pdas).

The magic image way is really no better than you processing the logs from the webserver yourself. You put a link to a tiny 1 pixel image on your pages. Each time your page is loaded, that image will be requested from the tracking services webserver. The tracking service will then crunch their logs and show you the same info your webserver logs will show you. This is however an option for tracking stats if you don't have access to the webservers logs. There are some adblocking packages that consider images from companies that provide these tracking images to be considered ads and should be removed, thus eliminating you recieving data on those people.

Other random tidbits:

One bit of caution; many people get obsessed over web traffic data for their websites, don't be that person. See web traffic analysis as a way to get general information about the types of numbers you are seeing, not as an authoritative source indicating X different people read your blog.

rss feeds can be cached various places, thus affecting the numbers you are seeing. For example Bloglines makes a single request for your feed for any subscriber to your blog at Bloglines. It is possible to see the number of subscribers for many of the online rss readers.
posted by fief at 7:21 AM on April 18, 2006

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