Are they worth it?
Free web analytics, sometimes referred to as enterprise class analytics, are great for start-up sites, non-profits groups, blogs, etc. They are not as all encompassing as the big guns like Omniture SiteCatalyst, but they can provide you with the basic information you need to start generating traffic, and hopefully converting that traffic into revenue.
If all you need is quick and dirty numbers on how your website is doing but don’t care for the extra bells and whistles, we suggest checking out xinureturns.com. Enter your URL in the box and the page populates with information such as Google PageRank, Syndication, Social Bookmarks, Backlinks, and more. The information is very basic and does not include information about individual visitors or conversions, but it gives you an overall picture of your website status.
If you are looking for something more comprehensive in your web analytics solution, check out these great options: (in no particular order)
Google Analytics has become synonymous with free web analytics and is likely the first service that springs to mind when you first read “web analytics.” This package is surprisingly comprehensive for a free service.
Google Analytics allows you to track page views, visitor information, and conversion rates. You can also set goals that can help interpret data by comparing several factors at once. For example, you can calculate how many of your conversions (completed purchases) were generated by females between the ages of 18 and 24 who live in California.
Setting goals can also help you to monitor revenue per click (based on pay-per-click campaigns), return on investment, and profit margin.
Adding Google Analytics to your site is easy too. All you have to do is place a short piece of java script on each page you want to monitor.
AW Stats is a free real-time log analyzer. Unlike Google Analytics, AW Stats is a server-side application designed to process server logs. This means that the program is installed locally on a server, probably in your office, instead of having to access your data via the internet.
Because this is a log analyzer it comes with some interesting requirements such as; you must be able to run Perl (Perl 5.00503 or higher) scripts from the command line or a CGI. If you don’t know what the command line or a Perl script is, we suggest you stick with Google Analytics.
AWStats allows you to monitor page views (most viewed, entry pages, exit pages, etc.), visitor information, visits from bots, browser information, OS information, and more.
If you are pretty tech savvy, or have someone in your office that is; look at AWStats as a server-side web analytics solution.
The free version of ClickTale offers several useful features and includes tracking 400 page views per month on one domain. This solution is more for visually minded individuals who prefer to look at pictures more than sheets of numbers. ClickTale offers the unique ability to record and watch a visitor’s path.
They also offer heat maps consisting of aggregate data collected over a period of time. These overlay your actual webpage to show you visitor actions like which links visitors clicked most often.
Piwik is an open source (GPL licensed), PHP MySQL web analytics software. This is nice because it means that you own the information mined by Piwik. With web based tools the company gathering the information may own that information and simply shares it with you as long as you are a client.
One cool think about Piwik is its features are built inside plug-ins, which means that if you are a developer, you can designs custom plug-ins to mine and display custom information about your site visitors and their actions.
With Clicky’s free service you can track up to 3,000 page views each day on one website. Information gathered will remain accessible for 30 days. This solution offers individual visitor tracking and filtering and a few other minor features, but all of the really cool stuff is reserved for paying customers.
If you have any questions about what this service offers, email them. It only took about 60 seconds for us to receive an answer to our question via email. That is pretty impressive support.
StatCounter uses a combination of log analysis and cookies to gather information on returning visitors, first time visitors, unique visitors, page views, etc. Because these two methods are used together, the accuracy of visitor information is better.
To make this information even more accurate, StatCounter tracks browsers instead of server requests. This may make the visit count appear lower, but it provides more realistic visit stats.
StatCounter also offers a paid service if your site does more than 250,000 page loads per month, or you want a log size of more than 500 page loads.
Overall, the free service offered by StatCounter is great for low traffic sites and start-ups.
With Woopra you can track over 40 statistical events including usernames, IP addresses browser information, visitor paths, geographical information, and more.