There are many ways to keep track of website statics like unique visitors, user browser preferences, location and other valuable information. If you already have an account with Google it's really simple to get started with Google Analytics by selecting it under "Try something new". Provide information regarding your websites and then simply paste the tracking code into your site, have Google verify that the code is correct and the rest is done automatically. Best thing is that it's free and has all the tools you need to discover the various trends of your website.
Overview of your websites
The opening screen is going to give you an overview of all your websites using Analytics which gives you a quick breakdown of current trends. Below you see some of my websites and what the trends are for the current week and comparing it with the previous week. You can also compare to the previous day, month and year depending on how long you've been analyzing your sites. Information at hand can be sorted by visits, average time on site, bounce rate, percent of change and website name. The information is valuable in knowing what kind of changes you might make on a site to keep visitors longer or where your traffic is coming from. By clicking on "View report" you'll get that more detailed information such as the type of browser one is using to view your site or what state, city or even country they are visiting from.
More Detailed Information
Right after clicking on "View report" the Dashboard for your site stats gets displayed with more valuable information. By default the date range is the same as the main Overview page and now gives you a graphical display and breakdowns of key site stats. The first stat you see is the amount of visits for each day in the date range and below that are the site usage information, visitor overview, map layout, traffic sources overview and content overview. By clicking on the down arrow on the Visits tab you can change the type of stat you want displayed here. You can choose from Visits, Pageviews, Page/Visit, Average Time on Site, Bounce Rate or the percentage of visits that are new. You can find description of each of these by visit http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics
What to look for
What kind of trends should you be looking for? Well that depends on what kind of goals you have in mind. If all you care about is getting visitors to your website then look for the Absolute Unique Visitors. But many of those visitors might have incorrectly made it to your site due to a bad search. The one trend I look at is the "Bounce Rate". The higher the bounce rate the more likely someone came to your site on accident such as bad search results. However if this number is low then chances are good search results got them to your site/landing page and they stayed and browsed. If they stay on your site then the next trend to check out would be "Average Time on Site" and "Pageviews". Those will give you a good indication of the quality of your website by showing you how long a visitor sticks around and how much stuff they checkout. It's most important to have great content that's relative to the visitor than just getting someone to visit your site. It's also great when people are coming back to your site so it's important to keep your content fresh and unique. Something noteworthy in the screen shot below is how many people are using Firefox, Safari and Chrome for their web browser. IE market share has been slipping and therefore it is important to keep this in mind when developing your website. I get frustrated when I can't browse a site correctly when I'm using Firefox. Firefox is one of the most respected browsers in the industry and I'm going to assume that Chrome is going to gain market share quickly. What's your browser of choice?
1-month view for one of my websites
Next time we'll take a look at some of the other aspects of Google Analytics and how you can use those to increase the type of visitors you are looking for. Happy New Year!