Posts Tagged Clicky

Ten things to do first when creating a new website

Alright, so you’ve got your CMS (website software) installed and set up, and you’re looking at your new front page.

Now what?

Here’s my suggestions for the first ten things to do to get your website “off the ground” as it were. It’s recommended that they be done in some kind of order, as you will get the best results with one after having done the others before it.

1. Edit your front page

This should go without saying. Change the default content to something a little personal talking about you and your new site. State what it’s about, but don’t go overboard with the keywords or ads. A new site is a new site, but a new site rife with “keywords” and ads will scream “stay away!”

Don’t worry about themes at this point, unless you have something specific in mind. The search engines won’t care what kind of theme you use and they’ll re-index as things change. There will be plenty of time for theming later.

2. Get an XML Sitemap plugin

XML sitemaps are sitemaps specifically designed for search engines to use to crawl your site quickly and effectively. They contain a list of every page regardless of whether or not it’s linked from another page, and the page’s last update. Even better, most XML Sitemap plugins will automatically “ping” (or notify) the search engines when you create a new page or update a page. A must have for fast indexing.

3. Get your webmaster accounts

Google, Yahoo, and Bing offer webmaster tools for site owners to submit, verify, and specify XML sitemaps for their sites. Once you complete this step, search engines will usually begin crawling your site within a day.

Make sure to complete the verification steps at each site.

Here are the direct links: Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, Bing Webmaster Center

4. Get a good stats system

Server logs aren’t a good indicator of site traffic unless you’re getting less than a handful of hits each day. Even then, once you start getting some traffic, you’re going to want to see specifically what pages are popular and with what visitors. Even inbound searches will show you what you’re doing right so you can keep focusing on the important stuff.

I recommend Clicky. The stats are real-time and it’s free for one site.

5. Get some inbound links

Chances are you have at least one friend with a website. Ask them to put up a link to yours. This is good for two things, traffic and search engine ranking.

Visitors to the other site may see a link to yours and click on it, and search engines will see the link from the other site to yours and “follow” it to yours, helping your search ranking.

Of course, it helps if the sites are on the same topic as yours.

6. Make it your own

Start playing with the theme, layout, and color options. Make it your space and your style. Darker themes are more suitable for personal sites, lighter themes for more professional. Use colorful backgrounds that show off your skills if you are an artist (painted or drawn art, music, etc. If you create something, show some style).

7. Start adding real content

Nothing is going to turn away visitors faster than the words “Coming Soon” or “Under  Construction.” Post something up, if only a few paragraphs. Talk about yourself, the reason and aim for your site, and what you’re working on. Link to your user profile on some social networking sites, put up pictures. Above all, make sure it’s original content! Users know when you steal from other websites, and it will immediately discredit you.

8. Make yourself available

Add a contact form, your email address, a Skype or Google Voice button if you have them. If a viewer wants to get in touch with you, they should be able to. If you’re a business, your address and/or telephone number are also a must.

9. Add interaction

Add a comment box or guestbook. Let visitors comment (even if it’s negative). You may learn something. Respond to the comments to show you are involved and that you care.

10. Update often!

A web site is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. Look at your site regularly and add new content, update out-of-date content, and play around with the layout. Out-of-date content is a turn-off for most web visitors. No one wants to spend time reading a post that is obsolete or out-of-date. Keep it fresh and keep it coming.

Have experience launching a website or any advice to share? Did you try these tips? Did they work for you? Have something to add? Please share it in the comments!

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Clicky Web Analytics

I had written a previous post roughly comparing a few web analytics programs, using some criteria that was important to me, and I had purchased a license for Mint to use on one site. Having two sites, though, I wanted them to use the same analytics package, so I shelled out the extra $30 for a second Mint site license.

That was the easy part. The real pain came when I actually set it up. I had to install a second copy of Mint (because it’s a per-install/per-domain license) so I had to install a second copy, copy over all my plug-ins and configure it, making sure I used the same login and password (so I wouldn’t get them mixed up) and configure the software alike with the first install.

Then I realized something: I had to go to each domain’s Mint installation to view stats. I couldn’t view the stats for both sites in the same view. (Though there is a plug-in for that, but it gets installed to a single domain install — I’d have to install it to both installations and mirror the setup again — What a pain!)

So, out $30 for the new license and realizing after the fact it wasn’t a good fit for my setup, I went to Piwik, which is an Open-Source, self-installed web analytics package. You install it to a single location and set up tracking for all your websites from it. It’s a fairly good piece of software, but I ran into several nasty show-stopping bugs: zeroing visitors in the database and an issue with PHP and the archive.sh cron job (not even mentioning the still-unresolved ever-growing database issue). I want an analytics package I don’t have to fight with to get good information out of. I want to spend my time using the information I can gather, not spend the time fighting with my analytics software.

Then I tried out Clicky Web Analytics. I have to say I am extremely happy with the service, and the pricing. No software to have to think about (or keep up to date), pricing is extremely fair (in fact, the best I’ve seen with 1 site being completely free), and the feature set is unparalleled. Real-time stats, including content, search terms, referrers, individual actions, a customizable dashboard, even iPhone and Android-specific mobile versions. A full API, RSS feeds, and site widgets round off the service offering, and that’s just at the free level. Paid versions (starting at $5/mo or $30/yr for 3 sites) get even more features, such as advanced data segmentation and the ability to name visitors using either the web interface or a CMS plugin.

The real icing on the cake with Clicky? They provide a non-js tracking code (in the form of a 1×1 transparent pixel) that you can insert on sites that don’t support javascript (like WordPress.com, Craigslist, eBay, MySpace, etc) so you can track pageviews even there!

I really recommend that you check out Clicky, even if (especially if) you only have one site to manage — it’s free.

Clicky Web Analytics

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Web Analytics Reviews

I wrote this piece after going through several analytics packages in search of the best fit for my sites and needs. Here’s what I came up with…

What I’m looking for in an analytics tool:

Ability to track:

  • Page views / Visits and visitor counts (the usual)
  • Referrers / Searched terms from search engines
  • IP addresses (for access spam control)
  • Logged in user names (What my users are looking at)
  • Near-realtime stats (as close to realtime as possible, not having to wait until the next day)
  • Integration with Drupal/WordPress as a maintained module (less important)

The tools:


Google Analytics

What it does

  • Tracks page views / visitor data / search terms

What it doesn’t do:

  • IP addresses
  • Logged-in user name
  • Near-realtime stats

Cost: FREE

Traffic limit: 1 million page views per day.

Other thoughts: Some think that stats collected are used by Google to adjust search results.


Woopra

What it does:

  • IP addresses
  • Logged-in user names++
  • Page views / visits and visitor counts
  • Chat with your users##
  • Real-time stats
  • Referrers / search terms
  • Integration with Drupal

What it doesn’t do:

  • Clicking on the ‘chat’ function would crash the app.
  • Clicking on the ‘analytics’ once crashed my app for several hours

Cost: Free to Expensive$$

Traffic Limit: Depends on pricing tier

Other thoughts: Requires desktop app install (Windows / Mac / Linux [Java-based]). At 3,000 monthly page views for the free package and 10,000 for the $5/mo package, this is the pricey end of analyics packages. Considering all the bugs I had with it, I would consider something else. Unlimited sites, pricing plan is per-site.


Clicky

What it does:

  • IP addresses
  • Page views / visits and visitor counts
  • Real-time stats**
  • Referrers / search terms
  • Integration with Drupal

What it doesn’t do:

  • Logged-in user names

Cost: Free to expensive$$

Traffic Limit: Depends on pricing tier

Other thoughts:

Stats are near-realtime as they are displayed on a webpage. A refresh takes care of loading the newest stats. Free plan is good for 3,000 page views a day. $5/mo plan is good for a lot more. Pricing plan is tied to your account. Limit to the number of websites you can track.


Piwik

What it does:

  • IP addresses
  • Page views / visits and visitor counts
  • Real-time stats (via the Live! plugin)
  • Referrers / search terms
  • Integration with Drupal

What it doesn’t do:

  • Logged-in user names

Cost: FREE

Traffic Limit: As much as your webserver/database server can stand.

Other thoughts: This is a self-hosted software, which means you have to install it on your webserver or hosting account. Free / Open source. Though the usability and feature-set is impressive, there are a number of serious bugs which can be show-stoppers for the non-technical or easily-frustrated user. Database grows over time and requires manual purging. Can put a serious load on DB servers on high-traffic sites. No limit to the number of sites you can track. Set  up login/password access for others to view stats.


Mint

What it does:

  • IP addresses
  • Page views / visits and visitor counts
  • Real-time stats**
  • Referrers / search terms
  • Integration with Drupal
  • Logged-in user names++

What it doesn’t do:

Come free.

Cost: $30/site

Traffic Limit: As much as your webserver/database server can stand.

Other Thoughts: At $30/site this can be expensive in multi-site operations, but this is a very well polished software package. Database growth is kept in check as detailed stats are only held for 6 weeks. Totals are kept forever. This happens to be my software package of choice.


** There’s a catch.

$$ Cost varies according to traffic / number of monitored websites

++ Requires Drupal module

## Though this is a feature, I never got it to work correctly.

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