What exactly is a web tracker (also known as a visitor tracker or site tracker), and why do you need one?
The idea behind a web tracker is very simple and has been around for many years. Essentially you place a small piece of code on your website, when someone visits your website, that small piece of code is executed and the visitor's public details (ip address, browser, operating system, referrer, page title and url etc) are analysed and stored for reporting to you later.
The great advantage of web trackers are that they are better at tracking 'real people' as they track browsers NOT server requests. This often means a web tracker will have a significantly lower count than standard log file analysis. But it offers a more realistic figure of the visitors to your website and far more detail. At StatCounter our web tracker is provided in real-time so it's even better still.
As web trackers only track 'real people', it is not able to tell you when a search engine spider is indexing your website. For information like this you need a good log analyser.
StatCounter.com can produce far different results to standard log file analysis. This is not surprising as our system is designed to track browsers NOT server requests. This can result in a significantly lower count than standard log file analysis. But it offers a more realistic figure of the visitors to your website and far more detail and it is provided in real-time!
So how do they differ?
A big factor is the placement of the StatCounter tracking code. You can use StatCounter to only track the pages you want by simply placing it on the pages you want to track. Log file analysis will track all server requests by default.
If you have very large, slow loading pages it is recommended to place the tracking code closer to the top of the page instead of the bottom. Or a visitor may exit your page before the page finishes loading and the tracking script will never have been loaded.
Framed websites can cause a big problem for log file analysis resulting in an over-inflated count. When a visitor visits a singe page that could often be recorded as 3 visits - loading the main frame, a side frame and a footer. StatCounter does not have this problem.
Web Proxies - many users, most noticeably AOL users access the web through a web proxy. Their ip address can change on each request to your website so log file analysis could not accurately count your unique visits. StatCounter does both - we use a simple cookie and the user's ip address.
Robots - the requests made to your website by robots will be recorded in your log files but it will not be recorded by StatCounter.
Overall StatCounter provides a far more detailed, accurate count and tracking of behavior of the 'real' visitors to your website than standard log file analysis.
Try it for FREE and see how Statcounter can help you understand your visitors and grow your traffic the easy way.