The Magnificent Seven of Free(!) Web Analytics Tools
So you’ve set up your website and your business is ready to start generating revenue through a new channel, but how do you keep track of how such of that revenue is due to your site’s performance? The answer, of course, is by studying your site’s analytics. We understand if you don’t have the budget to afford a behemoth like Adobe SiteCatalyst (formerly known as Omniture), but fret not, there are plenty of free apps out there for that too!
Comparing enterprise-level solutions (such as the aforementioned SiteCatalyst) to any of the ones I’m about to introduce, is kind of like debating which is the better film between Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven. Both have their own (exceptional) merits, but while Kurosawa’s original is the more complete (cinematically speaking), it requires a lot more effort to take in. On the other hand, the US remake is a lot easier to digest while telling pretty much the exact same story. And just like the mercenaries in either picture, the following applications work for free and get the job done really well. So without further ado, I give you the “Magnificent Seven” of free web analytics tools.
AWStats: a free real-time log analyzer, this server-side app is designed to process server logs. In other words, you will need to install it locally on a server, which eliminates the need to access your data through the Internet. You’ll also need to be able to run a recent version of Perl scripts from the command line or a CGI (Common Gateway Interface). Like most tools on this list, it allows you to monitor page views and visitor information. Needless to say, I would recommend AWStats for those of you who are pretty tech-savvy only, otherwise just stick to G.A.
ClickTale: the free version of ClickTale offers a few useful features and includes tracking 400 page views/month on one domain. The feature they are most known for, though, is the heat maps that overlay your actual web-page and show you its visitors’ actions. It is also the only tool that allows you to record and watch a visitor’s path. ClickTale was made for those of you who can’t stand staring at numbers all day and are more visually-minded, preferring to look at pretty pictures. Just like with G.A., you don’t need to install anything on your server, just add a few lines of code to the pages you want to monitor. It actually acts as a nice complement to G.A., without causing any interference.
StatCounter: by using a unique combination of log analysis and cookies to gather your site’s visitor information, StatCounter’s data accuracy is better than that of most apps out there. On top of that, it tracks browsers instead of server requests, so even though the visit count may look lower, the stats will be more realistic. The free version allows up to 250,000 page loads/month, or a log size of 500+ page loads, which makes it a great tool for low traffic sites and start-ups.
Woopra: this young application allows you to track over 40 events such as usernames, IP addresses, browser information, visitor funnels, location-based data and much more.
Clicky: the free version of Clicky will let you track up to 3,000 page views each day on one website, while the data mined will be available for 30 days. It offers individual visitor tracking, filtering and a few other features, but some of the more advanced ones are unfortunately reserved only for paid customers. Bonus: their customer service boasts a response time to email questions of just 60 seconds. Talk about a quick draw!
So there you have it, 7 neat little tools to monitor your website’s performance without breaking your bank. Remember though, whichever you use, what matters most will be the metrics you choose to analyze and what you do with the insights they provide you.
Are you already using any of these tools? If so, what do you think of them, and if not, which of your favorites did we miss?
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