There are a multitude of analytic tools and services out there that allow you to analyze the traffic coming to your website. Other than the most well-known Google Analytics, there are a few other great and innovative tools that can help you gauge the success of your website, it’s design and improve your SEO.
Throughout my search for alternative analytic tools, I found a handful that I particularly liked. That is not to say that other analytic tools not mentioned here are bad; these are just the ones I like the most. I should also note that I did not look at any analytic tools that are provided as a paid service; I only tried those that offered a demo or a free trial.
Website analytic tools have come a long way since the days of Webalizer. Google took the lead by purchasing Urchin Tracker and releasing Google Analytics as a free service for all users. Google Analytics (abbr. GA) is one of the most impressive analytic tools on the web. It gives you great charting capabilities, reports on all the details you need to know about your customers (including where they are coming from, what browser and computer they are running, etc…) and has a few marketing tools for goal conversion, analyzing ad words, etc. Perhaps one of the most useful features is the custom reporting and custom graphing features (called ‘Advanced Segments’) which allow you to graph specific data and even overlay it with a graph from the past).
GA is definitely one of my most favourite analytic tools. Having said that, there are a few shortcomings. For one, all the data provided by Google is averaged. This can be very useful for general purposes but the data becomes skewed when trying to find out more specific details. This is especially true for trying to find out the visitor path (a list of pages which the customer viewed on the website). This could be very useful if you want to track individual customers and see how they browse through your website. We will see later how this could benefit us greatly. I should mention here that the Google Urchin 6 does provide that feature (with a few others), but it’s not free and definitely not cheap. Another feature that I thought was missing in GA is real-time monitoring. While this may not be the most time productive feature (especially if you just sit there watching the numbers go up), but it is nice to see what traffic a blog post is driving at the time it happens rather than a day later.
What Google Analytics lacks, GetClicky will follow (for the lack of a better phrase). I was rather impressed with GetClicky (abbr. GC). GC provides their service free of charge as long as the daily pageviews are under 3,000. For pageviews over that, GC gives a free trial of their premuim account. GC is a real-time service and has some great features. While GC’s graphs are just simple Open Flash Charts, the way the data itself is presented to the user is very useful, especially if you want to analyze keywords and visitor click paths for SEO purposes. GC lists all the user’s most relevant information in a table format (and sometimes in a Cloud format, depending on the data presented). On the right side of the table is the referrer URL; in the case where users come to your site through search engines, this is followed by the keywords users typed in to get to the website and a direct link to where they found the keyword on the search engine – for example, if they found your link on the second page of Google, the direct link would take you to that page. This is very useful for measuring which keywords your visitors use and how they rank (this is realistic data as opposed to the predicted data you would get from Google’s Webmaster Tools).
Another interesting feature (and in some ways better than Google) are the maps. Instead of using dots on a country specific map to mark where the visitors are coming from, GC splits up the visitors into provinces/states/counties. This a much cleaner way when viewing visitor hits from a more general location, for example the United Kingdom (where most traffic would be from around London), in GA, this would look like thousands of dots on top of one another, with very little useful information.
I also like the way that GC makes use of icons for browsers, operating systems, country flags, etc. They use just enough icons to give the interface a good balance without overdoing it like some other analytic tools I’ve seen.
Just like GA, GC has tools for campaigns and goal conversions. While these are just a few of the free services offered by GC, there are a whole bunch of other services I would love to try out (such as the spy feature).
Crazy Egg & Click Density
Last, but probably the most exciting, are a couple of websites I found that use a heat map to capture where and how users surf the website. The ones that I’ve tried were Crazy Egg and Click Density, but I am sure there are many others. You can try out their demos and see for yourself. Data is usually presented in a visual way: either a heat map, click map or confetti map. The maps show you where the users come from (especially in the case of the confetti map) and where the users go. This can be useful to visually analyze the data and see how your users are browsing the website. You can also use the confetti map to see users that come from places where you advertise and see whether those users end up buying your product (this could also be easily accomplished with GA or GC, but not in such a visual way).
There are many options for analytic tools out there. I encourage you to go and try some out. If you find something as decent as Google Analytics, GetClicky, Crazy Egg, Click Density or even a paid service analytic tool, please let me know.