Analytics: Website traffic map by Clicky Web Analytics

Back at the dawn of the Web, it was customary to include a little, odometer-style hit counter on your Web pages to record each pageview. Often, just checking the counter might account for the majority of its total.

From there, you would generally move on to monitor website traffic via server-based Web statistics and log file analyzers like Analog, Webalizer, or AWStats. These would take the voluminous log files recorded by your Web server and convert them into semi-interesting charts and graphs.

Then along came Google Analytics, revolutionizing Web tracking into a tidy package of clean and useful results decipherable by virtually any intelligent business owner. Google Analytics made it infinitely easier to define specific goals or “conversions” — a.k.a. sales, leads, clickthroughs, etc. — and see how to improve your website’s effectiveness in leading customers to them.

I still love and use Google Analytics, but I also have a shiny new site analytics toy, and its name is Clicky.

Clicky Web Analytics is a real time website analytics service. Its charts and graphs show you up-to-the-minute Web metrics. At any given moment, you can see how many visitors are at your site, how they got there, and what they’re looking at. You can see their locations on a Google Map, and you can find out whether and exactly when they’ve visited before. You can see their operating systems, their browser versions, and their screen resolutions. You can see their ISPs or company names, and their cities and states. There’s even a “Spy” display for tracking their paths through your site in real time, so you can see exactly which pages and links your visitors are using right now.

You can also see up to a year’s worth of crunched historical data — graphing, say, the month-to-month popularity of any given page. The viewing options go on and on. You can filter data, set up comparisons, customize your account’s dashboard, receive email alerts, and monitor Twitter chatter.

You can even create short URLs, then monitor the results from them over time. I’ll be testing that feature out with a link to this blog post.

This is not a solution you install on your own server. Your data is stored at Clicky and is kept for at least six months. You can export data from individual reports and keep it as long as you like, but practically speaking, six months to a year is plenty of analytics for most day-to-day purposes. If you want longer-term archives, there’s nothing to keep you from using a secondary (and less fun) analytics system as well.

Clicky does have a free option, but to get the most out of its features, you probably want to pay for a Pro plan. That’s currently $59.99 for a full year, which works out to just $5 per month by paying all at once. For that, you can monitor up to 10 of your websites or up to 30,000 page views per day. There’s also an affiliate plan (disclosure: I am an affiliate) built right into each account which could earn you back money via referrals.

As one example of some of the many amazing things I’ve seen in my two days of using Clicky so far, Google Maps markers in two different countries on the other side of the globe have each pinpointed Google searches for “Racine WI” along with the names of two different local small businesses mentioned here on my site. If you run either of those small businesses, that kind of information detail might be very interesting to you.

No website is perfect at what it’s designed to do. Using a tool like Clicky is one of the best ways to reveal the bottlenecks and barriers that are keeping your visitors from reaching a desired goal. With a little attention to exactly how real people are using your site right now — or today, or over the past week — you can probably discover two or three things which could be improved. How much might that be worth to you?