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How to measure web traffic

In today’s Marketing Over Coffee (the best marketing podcast) we got on to the topic of web analytics. There are a few different methods to see how your site is doing and each of them have some benefits and drawbacks.

  1. Analytics as a Service (AaaS – that’s not a real acronym, but I like it) – Services such as Google Analytics. With these solutions you put a few lines of javascript on each webpage (or some providers use a tiny 1 pixel by 1 pixel image, or a banner for their own brand). This is the king of quick and easy and since it’s web based if they roll out new features everybody gets them as opposed to having to upgrade your own program installed on your own machine. This method is not really good at telling you how busy your server really is though. It can’t tell if images are being pulled from other websites and doesn’t tell you as much about your feeds such as something like feedburner.
  2. Which leads us to: Spot solutions – there are tools like feedburner or MyBlogLog that give specific metrics for feeds, blogs whatever.
  3. Server Side – There are many solutions you can install on your own servers to monitor how busy those boxes are. This is very useful to see how much bandwidth you are burning, and see how many errors your site is serving up. Some of this can be difficult to configure, and since they may not be frequently updated they may have a problem separating search engine or other “fake” traffic from real humans.
  4. Custom – Check out the podcast for more on this, if you have some jedi skills you can use a graphic image and set up scripts on your server so that when it is called you capture the details and throw them in your own database. This would be a do-it-yourself version of #1 but is completely stealth mode – for places like MySpace that don’t want you to install and AaaS services, this is a workaround.

Have fun measuring!