Web traffic software is an application or online service designed to measure the activity of visitors to a website and break it down into trends. It allows website owners to measure both the overall success of the site, to learn which content appeals to more people, and to learn more about the type of people who visit the site. Choosing the right web traffic software depends on the detail of information you want, the frequency of updating, and the time and money you have to spend.
Most web traffic software works in the same way. The user inserts a small section of code on every page on the site. This code means that every time somebody visits the page, information is sent to a traffic monitoring service. The service then collates and processes the data, with the website owner able to log into an account and see the results.
In some set-ups, the user does not add code or get the results online. Instead the user downloads logs of visitors from the company that hosts the website, then uses a standalone application to analyze this data. This can offer more control over the analysis, but can be more work.
The costs of web traffic software can vary immensely. Freeware software or services carry no charges, though the user may have to look at advertisements when checking results. Shareware or trialware allows limited access without charge, for example a breakdown of the last 500 visits to a site, but charges a fee for unlimited use. Paid web traffic services can involve a one-time payment, a monthly fee, or a varying fee depending on the amount of data involved. Which is the best options depends on both your budget and the type of traffic analysis you require.
The ideal situation with web traffic software is to get answers to the questions that you consider important, without being bogged down in unnecessary detail and complexity. It's important therefore to decide what you actually need from the software. For some people, just getting the number of visitors to each page may be enough. For others, it may be vital to know what operating system or browser visitors are using, which can influence the technology used on the site. Other site owners may be more interested in the location of visitors as this could influence marketing plans.
The most recent development in web traffic software is real time monitoring. Previously, most traffic analysis was carried out on batches of data, for example each day's set of visits, meaning reports always covered up to the previous day. Some services now available will constantly analyze data, meaning users can see results up to the current second. This can be useful for time-sensitive sites such as news sites that track which articles are popular so they can be better promoted. It's even been rumored that some sites publish a story twice with two different headlines, wait to see which attracts more visits, then drop the other one.