3 good free ways for web analytics



The Piwik Team
The Piwik Team (Photo credit: Matthieu Aubry.)

Suppose you set up a website. Let’s pretend it’s a self hosted WordPress site. This would allow you to use a content management system. Then you can add, delete and modify your own content, without resorting to a web master, designer or programmer. But your also faced with the task of keeping tab of visitors, etc. and finding ways to increase engagement and promoting traffic. What do you do?


Google Analytics

This is still a great tool, run by a big name international company. They do own the majority of web searches. The only downside is that the analytics are not in real time. This means you need to wait until the next day, to view the results. But you can customize different report segments and all is needed is a segment of JavaScript code. There are even a couple good WordPress plug-ins to do this.


This tool has come a long way. It gives you real time, self-hosted analytical data. It’s driven by PHP and MySQL, which are the same elements that WordPress uses. I would recommend to keep up on all the latest, production versions – which is what I recommend with self-hosted WordPress sites. It’s really easy to set up. There’s even a good WordPress plug-in for Piwik.


This tool is written in Perl, which is a popular scripting language. It uses the Apache log file as the input feed. Some hosting sites have this installed and you don’t need to do anything. Otherwise, you need to run the Apache log through it. This differs from the JavaScript, client-side solutions of Google Analytics and Piwik. But it gives another way of analyzing the data.

Which is the best?










Actually, I would go with all three. There are commercial solutions ou there, which also offer free version. But the free versions are limited in the log file size they handel. For Awstas and Piwik, you are only limited by the hosting company. For Google Analytics, it would take quite a bit to break it.

You can view these three tools are giving different perspectives. The resources needed to run them are very small. If you run WordPress, it’s assumed you have a backup strategy in place. It’s best of the hosting company can back everything up, on a daily basis. Otherwise, it takes up either your time or a dedicated tech resource.

When I used to run WordPress client sites, I made sure all three tools were in place. And the clients and I were happy with the analytical results. The two open source solutions have been around a few years and they have a solid community behind them. This is important for open source software. And Google Anaytics will not go away, anytime soon.

Have you had any experiences with these three tools? If so, I would like to hear about them. If you have another tool you’re using, then share why it’s better than the three mentioned.

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