Let's get it out of the way up front: You're a fool if you don't include Google Analytics in your toolkit as a way to track your website's traffic. The advantages are almost too numerous to list. A de facto industry standard, its reports are often taken as gospel by advertisers. Google Analytics also has robust multi-user features (so your Web developer can also keep an eye on traffic, for example), and it syncs well with AdWords, making it easy to see whether your paid ads elsewhere on the Web are getting results.
But maybe you just don't like Google. Maybe you don't like the famously complicated interface that Google Analytics features. Or maybe you just want to double up on tracking tools so you can ensure Google is giving you accurate information.
Alternate tracking services are legion, and while most of them are inexpensive, only a few are actually free. Here's a look at four noteworthy alternative tracking tools, all of which I tried out in production on my own wine and spirits blog, Drinkhacker.com. While most do have a nominal cost, all of them offer free trials with no credit card required to sign up. (Full pricing is discussed below.)
Clicky is a well-designed and comprehensive tracking tool. It tracks a large and robust amount of information by default, and its intuitive dashboard provides a snapshot of hourly traffic, top referrers, top pages viewed, and meta information like the total time spent on the site and bounce rate. It's easy to navigate, with just about everything you need available at a glance on a single page. The "Spy" button is a particularly engaging (if not entirely practical) way to see what users are doing on your site in real time, offering up a scrolling list of the pages they're visiting and a world map plotting their locations. However, digging deeper into the tool can often send you scrambling to the Help system for a better understanding.
Clicky's social media tracking is weak. You can track specific Twitter searches, but only with a premium account. Multiple users are supported, including up to 10 on the free version. Results seemed perfectly accurate, with less than 2 percent variation against Google Analytics.
WordPress users should take note that Clicky isn't compatible with Jetpack. If you use the WordPress plug-in for Clicky, it replaces Jetpack's 48-hour tracking information (as seen in the WordPress admin bar) and suspends WordPress's internal tracking system. You'll have to disable the Clicky plug-in to get the old stats back. No matter what CMS you have, though, copious plug-ins are available to integrate Clicky into a huge array of blog publishing and other CMS tools.
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