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Monday, October 20, 2008

You have no secrets

Reader-submitted question: Do tell what tracker you use! I've always wondered how you could "tell" what people visited your site when how and why.....Share your secrets, oh wise one.

I use a couple of tracking sites, but the one I use most often is Sitemeter.

The software tells me a lot. For example, you might be someone like this:
This person from Toronto has come to my site through Google Blog Search, and she's looking for information about herself. If I mention her name, she'll be back. And none of us need that, do we? I think we can all agree that we don't need any more lousy grammar, swearing or incoherent threats. Let's just ignore her.

The software isn't perfect. It can estimate the length of time you spend on my site, but it always under-estimates that time. That's because it uses link clicks to know that you're still there. If you don't click any links, it thinks you stayed for 0 seconds, even if you looked at the page for an hour. It can't tell if you get my posts through an RSS reader, although I have a separate tracker for that and know I have a few dozen subscribers. It doesn't count people who read my posts at NWT Blogs, either. I'm not sure how many people visit that site or subscribe to that feed.

I really like to look at my stats. They tell me what people are looking for and what they like to read once they're here. The Being David Hasselhoff contest consistently gets traffic. (Yes, I'll do another one in a few months.) Lately, I have had a lot of interest in my posts about the American election. The Fleetwood Mac fetishists are always around, too. This information helps me to write things you will want to read.

Over time, I recognise IP addresses. For example, I can tell when someone from CBC visits, but I can't tell which location the person's in: all CBC-ers have the same IP address and are logged as being from Toronto. Before I figured this out, I thought I had a stalker in the Toronto Broadcasting Centre. (Hmmm. Maybe I do.)

This person from Spain came by the other day and discovered a photo of David Hasselhoff sans underwear:
I can't blame him for staring at the image, reloading the page over and over for five minutes. Who wouldn't?

A reader e-mailed me last week, concerned that I would think she was a loser because she accidentally left my site open while she did the laundry. Please let me reassure you that I don't think any less of people who stay on my blog for long periods of time. Heck, I usually have it open in a tab. I only mock the people who show up and do a ton of searches for words related to themselves. (Egomaniac alert!)

Yes, I can see you when you do this, and I can tell that it's you.

Stats are very useful, but I also use feedback from readers to decide what to write about. I love comments, and some readers choose to e-mail me or call instead of leaving comments. You guys are amazing people, and you have made this blog what it is today.

Thanks for your question.


Torq said...

I have been wondering about the zero second thing. I was getting the impression that most people who stumble on my little location immediately close out the window. Wait, it's THAT guy talking about Hume's Guillotine, bleck!

I seem to be getting an inordinate number of hits from edu sites. I am a bit concerned that people are stealing all of my precious pearls of wisdom and are using them to get good grades on their term papers. Of course, I am sprinkling all of my posts with dishonesty, so little do they know that they are going to be getting a big F!

Megan said...

Zero seconds just means that the person didn't click any links. This particular program can't tell if you leave the tab open.

Uriel gets a lot of visits from universities, too. I assume they're students looking for information for term papers. I always wonder what they think of her.

You should put up a disclaimer: WARNING: LOGICAL FALLACIES FOUND HERE. But I guess that would only work if the students understood that that's a problem.

KOTN said...

I thought the "journalist" who shall not be named lived in Calgary these days...

Megan said...

Nope. She's back in Toronto. Sitemeter doesn't lie.

I do get searches for "[name of "writer" withheld] fiance" from Calgary, though.

Gifted Typist said...

Stats packages are the blogger's crack cocaine

Anonymous said...

I had also wondered about the zero second thing as well - so thank you for explaining that.

I use sitemeter too - I decided to after I had a spot of stalker trouble a few months back. But someone told me that people can use "invisibility cloaks" that hide the fact that they were there or keep their ip address secret and then they don't show up on sitemeter. Is that true?

Megan said...

Well, you can use a proxy server, but you still show up on Sitemeter. (I saw a lot of them when I was running the Best NWT Blogs contest.)

If you only read my content through a feed reader, you don't show up on Sitemeter, but you do show up in the tracker I have for the feed.

I'm not sure what an "invisibility cloak" would be. It's certainly possible -- I'm no computer expert -- but it seems like a lot of work for very little payoff.

A. said...

If I mention her name, she'll be back.

It's like saying the name of the title character in "Candyman." That was a very bad movie by the way, just like somebody is a very bad -

- hey, moving along!