Have you ever tried running in the dark? I know you can’t – I have tried. It is the same with running a website. If you don’t know what is happening inside your site, you won’t be able to steer it towards success. Unfortunately, very few of us tend to pay attention to analytics and depend on guesswork and intuition. But, it need not be that way. With some free analytic tools you can know how the clock ticks inside your website.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a great tool which you as a website owner or master must use to gather information about the traffic coming into your site. This free tool provides you with all the information you need about visitors coming to your site. It will help you in knowing where your visitors come from and how they behave when inside your site. You can even analyze the pages each person visits, buttons which they click and the path of exit. You can get fine grained information about the region from where your visitors arrive and even the exact IP of their network. Google Analytics is an awesome tool to understand the dynamics of a website.

I have known web masters who spend the entire day analyzing their traffic. But, what’s more important is to respond effectively and fine tune your site. Here is great example of how a website managed to change the profile of visitors, using Google Analytics. For a website I worked for earlier, I found that the traffic was coming mostly from Asian countries whereas the owner wanted an American audience.  I found that most of the images used were Oriental which we later changed, giving it an American look.  I was not surprised to find that we started getting more traffic from US and Europe. We even changed the content to suit American taste. This is what I call proactive adaptation. Without Analytics we would never have known about our traffic, let alone modify our web strategy.

Alexa Ranking

This is another huge site for gathering information about web traffic. I have used it to find out more about my competitors. Once, traffic to my site jumped dramatically without any reason. When I went to Alexa I found that my rival’s traffic was down to zero – possibly because their servers had gone down. Without Alexa we would never have known the reason for this sudden upsurge in traffic – probably we would have celebrated our success with a glass of Sherry, thinking we had arrived, only to realize later that we are back to our old numbers.

Analytics is therefore critical to see what is going on inside our website and plan into the future. Running a website without Analytics is as good as groping in the dark.