Know Your Visitors

Most Bloggers, and other publishers of websites, don’t just write content, blindly. They like to know who reads the content too.

Some folks learn about their readers from the comments left by them. If the website is a blog, and if comments have been enabled, then some readers will feel moved to leave comments about specific posts. Both Blogger and WordPress, and probably other blogging services, provide for comments. For regular websites, and for blogs without comments activated, you may be able to use HaloScan. HaloScan provides commenting on non-blog websites, and on blogs where more control (and separate from Blogger connections) is desired.

Other folks may prefer a GuestBook for their website. There are quite a few free GuestBook products available, such as UltraGuest. GuestBooks are different from Comments – Comments are generally left for a specific post, while GuestBook entries apply to an entire website.

Both Comments and GuestBook entries suffer from one major flaw. They require active feedback from the reader. Why is this important? Simply this – very few visitors will feel inclined to leave any comments, good or bad. During a typical month, I might see a dozen entries left in my UltraGuest account. During that same month, both SiteMeter and StatCounter will record hundreds of unique visitors, and thousands of page views, on my websites.

Both SiteMeter and StatCounter are free services, and both provide invaluable information about the visitors to your websites. To understand the difference between these complementary yet competing products, and what they can tell you about your visitors, you need to know about the difference between unique visitors and page views.

A unique visitor is a single person, viewing many pages in the website, during an arbitrary time period (generally 1/2 hour, for both products). A page view is generally one article or post being viewed, whether from cache (on the reader’s computer), or retrieved from the website, by any visitor. Analysing both types of information is essential to proper knowledge of your readers, and how they view your websites.

And this is where SiteMeter and StatCounter differ, and thus complement each other. SiteMeter records unique visitors, while StatCounter records page views. SiteMeter limits itself by unique visitors – the free SiteMeter service will show you information about the latest 100 unique visitors to your website. StatCounter limits itself by page views – the free StatCounter service will show you information about the latest 100 page views from your website.

Both SiteMeter and StatCounter provide a limited amount of complementary information. SiteMeter provides first and last page viewed, for 100 unique visitors. StatCounter aggregates information about the unique visitors, for 100 page views. But both are equally useful. Fortunately, both are equally priced – free. And both will provide more data, for various fees.

The idea here is that, by using their services effectively, you can improve and tune your blog or website, get more visitors, and better search engine placings. This in turn leads to still more visitors. With more visitors and page views, you will feel encouraged (and maybe become more able to afford) to purchase expanded service from either, or both, product. This will lead to still more visitors and page views.

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2 Responses to “Know Your Visitors”

  1. Sandra Says:

    Hi,
    very interesting post – as the one on making visitors happy – question for you:
    I use Sitemeter on 2 blogs – and it seems to me that I get stats on both page views and visits – unless I misread/misunderstood you (or the stats), your post claims that only Statcounter provides page VIEWS, whereas Sitemeter provides stats on page VISITS. Are you sure about this?
    http://not-so-desperate-yugowife.blogspot.com
    http://izmir-blog.blogspot.com

  2. Chuck Says:

    Sandra,

    Let’s try again.

    SiteMeter provides information about unique visitors. The free service limits itself to the last 100 unique visitors (statistically unique anyway). SiteMeter will identify the first, and the last, page viewed by each visitor.

    StatCounter provides information about individual page views. The free service limits itself to the last 100 pages viewed. StatCounter will also try and group pages viewed by unique visitor, but its information is provided primarily by pages viewed.

    A unique visitor is one person, viewing any number of pages from your website. By knowing about the people, and about the pages viewed, you can get an more accurate view of your visitors.

    Now neither the unique visitors, nor the individual pages viewed, are 100% accurate, for several reasons. So there will always be differences between the SiteMeter and StatCounter displays. I’ll try to write about those issues later.

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