So long as we’re near the start of a month, there’s no better time than taking a good close look at your blog’s statistics. We want to know who’s visiting, where they’re coming from, how long they’re staying, and much much more.

By watching your statistics carefully, you can learn all sorts of interesting information about your blog and your audience. For example, by studying those reports I’ve learned:
1) That my traffic drops off dramatically every weekend. People tend to visit during the week, and my busiest day is Tuesday. This means that if I have something I want to publish that I really want people to read, if I publish it on Tuesday morning I have the best chance of reaching the most people.
2) Despite the fact that I work exclusively in Firefox, and do all my design and planning in Firefox, over 2/3 of my readers are still using IE. This means that I absolutely MUST double check all of my design and theme work in IE to ensure that I know what most of my readers are seeing.
3) That I get as many hits by people searching for “Jeopardy Questions” as I do for most other search terms combined. Not sure how useful it is, but it certainly provides some insight to what’s hot on your blog and how people are getting there.
4) The vast majority of my readers come, read an article and then leave. Most don’t stay and explore the site very often. Based on this, I can either A) try to take actions to make my site more sticky, or B) optimize my site for in-and-out users.

You get the idea. You can never have too much data about your site and it’s easier than you might think to get good data. If you’re using a hosting company like Bluehost (my hosting company) or Dreamhost, you more than likely already have access to great site traffic tools like Webalizer and Analog. Just go into your control panel and look around for them. Often you need to turn them on before it will start collecting data for you.

If you don’t have access to those tools, you can install them for free provided you know your way around Unix. Otherwise, you can take advantage of tools like Sitemeter. Just put their widget somewhere on your site, and it’ll start logging traffic for you. Some of the stats are available to the general public. It’s how SiteMeter advertises for itself. But most are kept private.

Of course, in addition to these tools, there’s the Big Daddy of the traffic tracking world, which is Google Analytics. While I’m not sure it is any more or less accurate than the others, it certainly gives you the prettiest reports, and a wide variety of ways to manipulate your data. It isn’t too complicated to set up, but you do need to be able to edit your HTML theme to do so. Just register there and they give you a block of code to insert into your site. Once you do, it’ll start tracking your data.

You should definitely be using at least one tool to log your site traffic, but since different tools monitor and report in different ways, I do recommend using 2-3 of them. Since there’s no cost involved, it’s just a matter of setting them up once and then checking them periodically. Plus those graphs are good for the ego and can be highly motivating. For example, the days when I do post a new blog, I clearly see a bump in traffic, which is always incentive to post more often!

Are you already logging your site traffic? If so, what lessons have you learned from it? Are there any other tools that you recommend? And how often do you actually check your traffic statistics? And if you’re new to blogging, all the more reason to start tracking early. It can be quite fun and informative to watch your numbers grow over time!

For more information on this challenge, you can visit ProBloggers post on the same subject.

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