Once your website is constructed, optimized for search, and launched, you next want to be sure to know how to gauge incoming traffic. How many people are visiting your site daily, where are they coming from, and what are they doing once they are on your site? Do people linger as they visit, or pop on and jump off immediately? Are they finding you via Google, or coming to you from other sources? Moreover, as you collect results on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, what can you do to increase your numbers, and consequential sales of your book?

In my experience assisting website owners with search engine optimization, I know it is not unusual for some people to be eager, almost anal, about website statistics. Some people check them daily, and sometimes panic when a day yields half the visits than normal. Some days might show a spike in traffic, which leads to a scramble to figure out what was so special about that day that bought so many visitors. Where design, content, and optimization play important roles in building a website, statistics are also important as they can assist you in adjusting your site to increase traffic. If your website is hosted by a specific company, chances are you already have the ability to view stats. If you use a free host that only offers such benefits as a premium, you may have to install a free program to help you track the numbers.

No matter how you do it, it is necessary to know what statistics to look for and what they mean. Here is just a short list of things to look for as you study your site's incoming traffic.

Hits – In checking daily or monthly totals in your statistics program, you may notice a section called "Hits." Depending upon your site's activity, the number of hits to your site may be quite large, but do not get too excited yet. You may see some websites brag about getting thousands of hits daily or monthly, but this statistic does not necessarily refer to actual site visits. Here's why:

Take a look at any webpage, and what do you see? Most often, you will see a page of content, maybe a few pictures, maybe an inline video or other Flash animation. On the outside, the page looks like one file, but in actuality it could have several files come together to create the page. When you visit this page, every single element displayed is counted as a site hit. An HTML file with five pictures will count as six hits – one for each JPG or GIF file, one for the HTML. So you see, this number can be misleading in terms of overall site traffic and popularity. It may be a good number to know as you track, but other statistics will provide a clear view.

Page Views – Page views refer to the number of webpages overall visited on your site. Say you have five webpages total on your site – a main page, three pages for three books, and a contact page. In the course of a month, you find that your site generated 600 page views. This means that the five pages of your site were collectively visited for a total of 600 times. Now, if your statistical program is more advanced and allows to see more detailed results, you can determine which pages were visited most often. If, for example, 400 people visited the front page, and the remaining 200 were divided among the others, you may think you need to optimize the other pages to get traffic. Possible, but you should also consider an overhaul to the front page. When you think how the number decrees as people move deeper into your site, it is possible that the content on the front page is not compelling enough to encourage visitors to click deeper. Another statistic, Views Per Visit, can better help you determine how many people are digging deep into your site as opposed to jumping off for various reasons.

Visitors / Unique Visitors – These are actually two different statistics. Where Visitors refer to the number of overall visitors to your site in a given period, Unique Visitors tallies the actual number of individuals who come to your site. Say in a month your site bought 400 visits overall, and of those 100 were unique visitors. This means that 100 people made multiple stops to your site that account for your total visits. It is handy to track the number of unique visitors that come to your site, as it can help determine the site's general exposure in search and other web resources. The more unique visitors means more individual people are coming to see about your books.

References – Naturally this is an important one to know. Referrals are the actual links or URLs from which people are coming to your site. They may be links from search results in Google or Yahoo, links from your publisher or book reviews, or links from other sites that have information on your site and work. The more varied list of URLs is lets you know of your rising link popularity, while the gradual charting of numbers from search URLs can help you indicate your rising or decreasing exposure in search.

Average Site Visit – More advanced statistics programs may offer statistics on the length of individual visits to your site. This is a good one to watch to determine the "stickiness factor," of your site – the longer a person remains, the better. If you find your average visit length is thirty second or less, you may wish to consider looking into how to improve your site to keep people on longer. Can you add more text or graphic content, more incentives for people to stay?

Statistic Programs

Depending upon your hosting program, you may have a built-in stats program that lets you view the above and more. Some may come with a specific package, while more advanced programs require fees. If you do not have a built-in access or can not translate the information, you want to consider a third-party software. Some may require you to place code on each page you wish to track, but for many the code will not compromise the design. Once you do figure out how to read the program of your choice, do more than just read the information. Learn where your visitors goes, how long they stay, and adjust your site accordingly to bring in more traffic. After each update, study your stats again for major changes. For many visitors, this is likely the only exposure to your books that they will have, use the stats to help determine how to keep them coming to your site.