Use Sitemeter to watch who is visiting your blog. The tool literally counts visitors to your site and gathers rough demographics. With it, you can usually see how they reached your site and what they used in their search engines; this can help you fine-tune your pages to better serve your readers.
Update: Since this article was originally written, I now am using a product called StatCounter. See this article for an overview -- but this article still explains why you want to track statistics.
I've been experimenting with Google's Blogspot.com and have enjoyed publishing articles both in a printed newsletter and here on Blogspot. Yesterday, out of curiosity, I added a SiteMeter (sitemeter.com) to the site and yesterday, I received my first report.
Sitemeter reported 8 hits.
Five hits were from locations in Russia, Asia and NewZeland. Equally interesting, they only viewed the two pages I had posted that night. They were probably harvesting email addresses for spam.
Next, a person from Romania was on the site for 40 seconds, reviewing a recent article on hard-disk backup programs. Blogspot showed a new comment was posted at that same time. Here is the message they left, with some of the details obfuscated for obvious reasons:
I protect my files and emails with a very easy to use data backup software called xxxxx Backup, the destination is a 500gb WD harddisk, but the company stated that an online feature is under work also. Give it a free trial here. I also got my hands on a 30% discount coupon from them, during the order process enter this coupon code: xxxxx-xxxxx.
What a life-like comment. In that 40 seconds, they recognized the topic of the article, and recognized anonymous comments were allowed and they inserted an appropriately-targeted advertisement. I later learned they hire people to manually read the articles and they insert targeted comments, by hand; this is how they get past the Captcha phrase:
On the good news, the remaining two people, one from California and the other from New York were apparently real users. Each spent 7 minutes, with Sitemeter reporting the following information about the New York visitor: (Click image for a larger sample view; back to return. This illustration is from a user in Saco Maine, USA.)
(His) ISP is ChoiceOne.Net, out of Pittsford, NY and he is running Windows XP, and Mozilla FireFox. I could see he entered my Acronis-Disk-backup article and then glanced at the Disk Cleanup article before leaving.
The "Referring URL" often shows what webpage they are coming from and almost always, this is a Google search. Clicking this link shows exactly what they typed while searching and this gives me a clue on how close my page is to the visitor's search.
FireFox users often turn off the Referring URL, so this information is not always available. But the Maine user had his on and I could tell they used Internet Explorer 6 and in Google's search, the typed: "microsoft office word lost fragments .tmp vanish". Here is the exact page they were in when they found the link to my article.
Periodically, I visit Sitemeter's statistics page and randomly choose visitors to see where they are from and what they are looking for. Based on their searches, several of my articles were modified so the results are more relevant. Often, I have re-arranged the content of the article, making what they are searching easier to find. For example, my article on Vista Network problems and A-cronis vs G-host generate a surprising number of hits. Because of this, I have continued to improve and tune the articles, based on reader searches.
Installing Sitemeter on your blog:
Sitemeter's knowledge base has great instructions, including a video demo, on the exact steps needed to install sitemeter on your site and for this reason, I am not repeating them here. Basically, copy-and-paste a paragraph of Java code into your [blogspot] template design and you are set Direct Link
My compliments to Sitemeter for building such an interesting and yet slightly disturbing tool and compliments to Google for their most excellent blogging tool.
Other Articles you may be interested in:
StatCounter (a competitor)
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Taming Browser Cookies
Stopping the most annoying Vista UAC Nags
Recommended Firefox Add-ons
Vista's Mountain Wallpaper