If you have any interest in knowing where your website traffic is coming from and what brought them to your site, you need to use some type of analytics software to learn these things.
As with any kind of software, there are free and open source alternatives to paid versions. The one pay-software for site stats worth mentioning here is called Mint and is found at haveamint.com. It’s a totally configurable way to look at your site stats. If you don’t have many web properties, the $30 per site license isn’t too bad.
Let’s take a look at the software that doesn’t cost anything but an investment of time….
Site statistics are included in CPanel which comes with most hosting packages. Once you sign in to CPanel, look under the Logs section for Awstats or Webalizer Stats. More people seem to talk about using Awstats, but if you go to Webalizer Stats and click on any month name under the summary you’ll get all the same data that is provided by Awstats. Pick one whose layout is easy to read and you’ll have your site statistics at your fingertips.
Google Analytics (GA) is geared towards marketers and can easily be integrated with an Adwords or Adsense account, both from Google. If you want to formulate a plan for meeting sales goals or increasing conversions, the big G can help you when you link your existing accounts. Some folks have written that they don’t trust Google and don’t want Big Brother knowing their every move online, so they shy away from using a GA account.
Instead, you could rely on a free alternative called statcounter. Visit statcounter.com and click on the features page. You’ll see many of the same items listed that occur in your CPanel stats options. The downside to using statcounter or GA is that you’ll have to dig into the page code and insert a few lines of code. It’s not that hard, but it does take a little time to set up. You only have to set it up once, though.
If you’re running a WordPress blog, try the stats plugin found at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/stats/ for a pretty look at your site stats.