I posted a strange searches post the other day and a few people have asked, on and offline, how I found out what search words had led people to this dim and far-flung cupboard somewher at the back of the dazzling global repository that is the Web. The answer is a little 'widget' called SiteMeter.
SiteMeter is a neat little utility used by many bloggers. It comes in two flavours, a free to use version and a more 'functionally rich' paid for version.
SiteMeter tracks visitors to blogs, reporting on the number of visitors to a blog per day and reports on traffic by day, month and year. It also evaluates the number of page views a blog is achieving and tracks visitors to the blog.
SiteMeter lets you see who's visiting, when and from where - how long they spent on the blog and what things interested them most.
Few people appear to realise that bloggers using SiteMeter can also obtain a lot more information about visitors. Their IP address, for instance - as well as the browser, operating system, language, Java version and even the screen resolution their system supports.
SiteMeter tracks the time of visits and the visit 'path', letting you see which pages a visitor entered on and which ones they visited, left comments on and exited from. It lets you see where they came from (hence the ability to 'track back' Google searches) and where they went to on the way out.
SiteMeter also lets you analyse traffic by search engines, referring sites and so on.
It can be a slightly invasive tool in the wrong hands, but it's generally a useful and interesting way to get a snapshot of what's happening with your blog. It's also how bloggers can work out when people from corporate companies leave 'anonymous' comments on their blogs!