Using StatCounter for Website Analytics

Summary

StatCounter.com is a great service for learning more about your website visitors. The user data is anonymous. You only get the IP address of the visitor, and some information about their browser and computer, but nothing personally identifiable — necessary information collected by all websites as part of managing multiple site visitors and page requests. What’s nice about StatCounter is that it turns this information into meaningful charts, graphs, and maps. The service matches up IP addresses to location (down to the City), and can also provide insights into what search results were used to find your site. The service is free for viewing all details of the most recent 500 visitors, with an unlimited history of summary data.

Projects

Once you have a StatCounter user account, you will setup a Project for each website you have. The process is fairly simple. At the end, you’re given HTML code to paste into your blog or website. For WordPress.org self-hosted sites, there’s a plug-in you can use, and then provide the codes required to personalize that installation.

Project Dashboard

There’s a kind of project dashboard (overview) for each project. On the left column you’ll see various available links and options. The Summary page shows an overview of your site visits for the past seven days. Click the image below for a sample.

20141113we-statcounter-project-overview

Popular Pages

One of the more helpful pieced of data are the reports showing which pages of your site(s) are most popular. This can guide you into providing content based on visitor interests.

Recent Visitor Map

The recent visitor map is a presentation of website visits based on location. This can be helpful for identifying where your site visitors are coming from, and if applicable, write to their interests.

Global Visitors and Bot Crawlers

StatCounter provides an abundance of data. Sometimes it isn’t quite clear how to interpret some of it. The table below shows a few visits to an Iowa City Scrabble Club website.  Click the image for a larger view.

20141114fr-statcounter-website-traffic-data-hits-visits-stats

You’ll notice that one of the entries is identified as a Bot Crawler. These are automated systems that update search engines such  Google, Yahoo, and Bing. You can probably ignore these. Although, there won’t be too many of them since there aren’t too many search engine services around that have the computing power to scan all the world’s websites. Mostly you’ll see Google, Facebook, and Yahoo — perhaps once a month.

However, the other visits shown above include three from Brazil — all from different cities in Brazil. Two people were using Google Chrome version 35.0 and the other was using version 36.0. By all respects, these seem to be legitimate site visitors.

You might be wondering why someone in Brazil would be interested in a scrabble club many miles away. They certainly aren’t going to attend the next meeting.

It’s actually quite common to get website visits from around the world. As you can see from the table above, these aren’t all search engine bots.

It’s very common to get website visitors from around the world. In fact, it would be hard not to. With so much content on a website, there’s going to be something that rises to the top of some search people are performing. The maps below show worldwide visitors to the Iowa City Scrabble Club website.

How would you explain all these visits? Are they search engine crawler bots? Really? All of them? There certainly can’t be hundreds of search engine companies around the world.

These maps are actually quite typical for a healthy website.

In this particular case, one factor for additional global traffic is that the website graphic design work, the header image, and some of the other custom designed images, have risen in popularity in the Google images search results. If you do a Google Search for scrabble club, and then click the Images link. You’ll see that the Portland, Tulsa, and Iowa City Scrabble clubs have images showing up — drawing from among the 9 million websites in the world.

This is just one example of many how unknowingly, a website can start getting visitors from around the world.

Exclude My Visits

StatCounter can exclude your own visits and page loads, but  you need to configure this manually by telling StatCounter what your IP address is or to install a blocking cookie in your browser.

The limitations are that cookies may get erased, and IP addresses sometimes change, but in general it works. You may need to update it from time to time. Follow the steps below to choose either IP Blocking, Cookie Opt-Out Blocking, or both.

IP Blocking

  1. Open a web browser tab/window and visit one of the websites that can tell you what your IP address is, such as whatismyip.com. Other similar sites can be found by Googling “what is my ip address.” Make a note of this address.
  2. Login to StatCounter.com.
  3. Go to the main Projects page.
  4. Click on the wrench icon to the right of your project name.
  5. Click on Edit Project Settings.
  6. Under IP Blocking, enter the IP address from Step #1 above.
  7. You may want to choose the option to “Apply IP Blocking to all projects” so all your projects are updated with your IP address.
  8. Click the Update Project button.

Cookie Opt-Out

  1. Login to StatCounter.com.
  2. Go to the main Projects page.
  3. Click on the wrench icon to the right of your project name.
  4. Click on Create Blocking Cookie in the list to stop StatCounter from counting your visits for the current project.

Note that the Cookie Opt-Out option/link in the left column refers to having StatCounter cookies disabled for your project for all visitors. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether you track your own visits or not.

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