Surprisingly often we have people ask us to put Hitcounters on their websites. If you haven't seen a hitcounter, it's usually a small block of numbers at the bottom of website pages, often with a heading before it saying something like "Number of visits".
The Problem With HitCounters
One of the simplest reasons hitcounters don't actually work is that they let other people know how many visits you've had! While that isn't a problem if the person watching is you, but do you really want your clients or competitors to know that you've only had 20 visits so far this month? Particularly when that may have little to do with your website's effectiveness, as a hitcounter usually only works on a particular website page. Like many things, this is obvious once you're aware of it. In 2010, people often use Social media icons (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to assess the "savviness" of a website – if you have those icons on your site it often means you're up-to-date with the more recent web technologies. The problem with hitcounters is that they act as a "reverse savviness" indicator – they're essentially a thing of the past and if you have a hitcounter it usually means you don't understand how the web works, and may in fact put many people off!
Google Analytics – the new best practice hitcounter
The good news is that there is a wonderful free tool called "Google Analytics". Provided at no charge by Google, it allows you to track and count human visits privately – and it only registers visits by humans, ignoring automated visits which can actually amount of a lot of confusing traffic over time. Even better, Google Analytics can not only track the number of visits but also how long visitors spend on your site, how many pages they visit and whether they have recently visited the website or not – in effect, how many actual unique visitors that you have had. Talk to use if you'd like us to install Google Analytics on your site, or check out the various articles on the web on how to install it. It can give you some amazing information that can make a real difference in helping your website bring you new business!