Basically, I’ve learned I can tweak my results to make it look like I get a lot of traffic or a little, which serves no purpose. But I can also compare my sites to previous days, which I actually do find helpful. I can learn what days my sites are heavily hit, which days are good days to upgrade code because no one’s there, and so on and so forth. What you have to figure out is why you need stats. Statistics are meaningless for a site like ipstenu.org, because there’s no money to be made here. For jorjafox.net, I find that they help me understand trends and as that site averages about $.75 a day in ads, it’s beneficial.
Google Analytics and SiteMeter are both ‘yesterday’ code, however. I don’t get to see the current status of my site until the day after. Most of the time that’s okay. If I really am desperate for pageviews and such, I have other tools on my server to figure that out (and Google Adsense can be brute forced into helping). But sometimes you want to watch what people are doing as they’re doing it, in real time.
With Woopra, I can sit and watch people ping the heck out of my sites and see what they do as they do it. It’s a little Big Brother, but honestly, if you didn’t know that someone can tell who you are when you visit their website, it’s too late for you. Woopra lets me watch as people from different countries sneak in and out, where they come from and where they go to when they leave. Like I find that the majority of my hits come from the Gallery (200 pageviews an hour, give or take), and most of the referrers are from the main site or the wiki. This is all stuff I knew, but it’s nice to see them in live tracking.
Do you need this stuff to run a good website? No, not at all. But if you’re starting to move your site from ‘good’ to ‘moneymaking’, then these are things you have to start to study and understand. Like that it’s okay to have an 11% drop in pageviews at noon, because the average at the end of the day will balance out. Or that you get a lot of traffic at 3pm from youtube. All these things help you better understand the Venn diagram that is your website, and the more you know …
Well there you are, then, aren’t you?