When it comes to dealing with facts and their interpretations the use of statistics has always had a bad press. This is often summed up in the sentiment reflected in the phrase “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” But the internet is made up of trillons up trillions of bits of data and the only possible way of getting a proper understanding of what is going on and be able to make useful sense of that information is through statistical analysis.
Statcounter GlobalStats is a free service which shows through a series of graphs which are updated four to five times a day key metrics, both regional and worldwide, that are of tremendous practical use to webmasters and other interested parties.
The original Statcounter service began in Ireland as a result of a conversation that the founder Aodhan Cullen had with a client in which he was asked, “The website’s great but is anyone looking at it?” This was 1999 before Google Analytics was available. Aodhan couldn’t find a cost-effective solution for his clients so he built one himself. At present, Statcounter monitors 3 million websites which receive more than 15 billion hits per month.
“What Google Analytics did was alert many people who didn’t know about analytics that they existed. We, in a weird way, got a bit of a boost from it because people didn’t know what Statcounter was and they would say, “Oh that’s a Google Analytics alternative.”
“We have quite a few advantages over Google Analytics as well. One, being that we are real-time so you see instantly what’s happening on your site. Two, we provide full customer support where we can help you [directly.] Whereas with Google Analytics you are left alone to look at their knowledgebase or find someone else who knows what to do. Also, we are user-friendly. A lot of people say they couldn’t get their head around Google Analytics. They don’t have that much time to spend on their analytics and ours are easier and quicker to digest without having to have a Phd in statistics.”
So how did GlobalStats come to be?
“GlobalStats came about because as a web analytics service we have all this global information in house. This global information is the aggregate of all the information we collect on all our individual sites. We would look and see that Firefox was putting up a good fight against Internet Explorer or whatever. It just came to us one day that this information as well as being of interest to us could be of interest to people outside as well. So we decided to make as much information as we could available to other webmasters.”
Jenni explains further, “[With Statcounter] you put the code on your own site and you get information about what is happening and you can get it immediately. You can monitor if your advertising is working. How are people finding you. Are they finding you via the search engines and so on. If you’re not getting any Google referrals maybe you need to look at the the SEO for that particular search engine.
“The problem is with many people when they are launching their site is that they don’t have the information yet. You need something to guide you in the first instance, so this is where our GlobalStats comes in.”
How would people make practical use of this service?
“You can look at the popularity of different browsers in different countries and regions. So, if we are talking about Ireland you can see which browser versions you need to optimize for. For example, many older sites haven’t been optimized for Firefox or Chrome and as can be seen (below) they are a substantial part of the Irish market. Those websites need to be updated so they are correctly visible and properly rendered in those browsers.”
“You can check out which mobile browsers are popular. In the mobile browsers for Ireland the Blackberry isn’t really significant whereas it is quite significant in the UK. So if you are an Irish company and thinking of moving into the UK market you will need to make sure that your site is rendering OK for the Blackberry in the UK.”
“If you look at our Social Media stats one of the things we have noticed is how significant in Ireland Stumbleupon is. It’s not one of the websites you think of when you think of the top Social Media sites. In terms of referring traffic it is second only to Facebook.”
“Twitter is one the very popular sites at the moment but it seems that people aren’t clicking the links from Twitter to the same extent they are on Facebook and Stumbleupon.
“[Stumbleupon] has been neglected. At certain times Stumbleupon has appeared higher than Facebook. It seems to be a really key resource in terms of referring traffic. If you don’t have a Stumbleupon button you should probably think about getting one.”
We asked Jenni about the most important metrics she thinks people should be keeping an eye on.
- Referring information in terms of which search engines you are ranking in. If you are only getting referring traffic from Yahoo and it looks like you are not in Google you should sort that out.
- Exit links: If you have advertisers on your site you can check how many people you are sending to your advertisers. That is useful information for being able to renegotiate your rates if you are sending your advertisers a lot of business.
- If you have paid text links you need to know how they are performing.
- If someone has just pasted your link on a forum or board they then go to that forum and engage with them there. For example, you can then post a 5% discount coupon to maximise the traffic from that community referral. That is only really works if you are getting your stats in real-time.
- A key one that a lot of people don’t look at is converting key words. Let’s say you are selling a product. You might get a thousand people who come to your site but only a hundred buy then it’s the key words for those people who buy your product that are really valuable. If you can find a trend of keywords that actually results in purchases you can focus your ad budget for optimizing for those converting key words.
- Download statistics: You can see what people are interested in by seeing what they are downloading. Your brochures, your pricelists and things like that. If people are downloading the order form but you are not getting any orders then ask what is going. Are the prices not right, etc.
“There are still so many people out there who still don’t know that website analytics exist. Everyday of the week we have people contacting us. There is still a vast untapped user base that could use analytics information. So we are trying go focus on reaching as many people as we can as well as improving the service for our members.”
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