Merlin's Web Statistics Wishlist

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People -- for whatever reason -- ask my opinion about web statistics packages a lot. To make it easier to capture and share stuff I think is cool or that I would really would love to use, I'm using this page as a parking lot.

Contents

[edit] Reasons for Detailed, Timely Statistics

  • Understanding sudden "flash mobs" of traffic can help webmasters adjust ad delivery and product marketing, and can suggest a need to move content around to take best advantage of the change
    • Think: books about a recently dead celebrity/pope/politician; there's a shelf life for these things and the earlier you realize the opportunity, the better you'll do
    • If I get a sudden spike in traffic from a source whose readers are likely unfamiliar with my site, I like to add a new post or very visible nav item that bubbles up interesting recent content
  • Learning the patterns of your visitors helps you plan content in a way that suits their needs and builds your audience.
    • Good stats help me learn when given types of content and features receive the best reception
    • Will I launch my biggest post of the year at 2:00am PST on a Saturday night? Uh. No.
  • Sudden traffic changes can wreck havoc on a shared server account
    • although it's certainly "the right kind of problem" to have, big bandwidth spikes often require fast intervention to avoid problems (including account deactivation). Sysadmins also apparently hate surprises that come in the form of "20" CPU usage. Believe me, I know.
    • conversely, it's good to know if you're paying for more bandwidth in a given month than you actually are using
  • Following the zeitgeist -- it's gratifying to see how an idea travels through blogs and the web in general -- understanding your place in the conversation, even at an abstract level, can quickly tell you much about what others think of your work
  • Good old-fashioned ego-surfing - Everybody loves a hug from the interweb.

[edit] Feature Wishlist

  • "Interesting referrers" - ala Summary - Bubble up spikes and drops in traffic that suggest something interesting has recently happened; make it easy to notify me quickly
  • New, changed, and deleted inbound links - Ala "interesting referrers" use algorithms and elfen magic to determine when a new inbound link to the site has likely been generated. +1 if you can differentiate "blogroll"-style links from nonce one-offs and blog posts.
  • Roll your own rules - Let me programmatically describe the kinds of events that are important to me (a sale, a lead, a 20% spike in traffic (per-inbound-domain), a Digg)
  • Notifications out the butt - Let me select which kinds of events lead to what kinds of notifications (email, IM, RSS, etc.)
  • Temperature gauge - Give me a graphical widget I can put on my site that alerts me (and my visitors) to where interesting stuff is happening on the site; what's hot.
  • Time over Time delta - Compare a snapshot of traffic between now and some other time period
    • "You're 10% below your normal traffic for a Monday at 9:00 am"
    • "You're 22% above your 'Monday-Wednesday' traffic today over the same period on the week of Dec 13-15, 2004"
  • Custom, save-able trend lines - many trend lines for date ranges that I choose and for factors that I can flip on and off and save as custom menus; let me set up my most important growth goals then get automagic updates on how I'm doing (and the factors that are driving it)
  • Why is this happening? - Express important changes over time based on things the stat engine notices
    • "Boing Boing isn;t linking to you as much"
    • "You're getting a lot more traffic these days from forum posts"
    • "You appear to have been added as a default link in XXX site's default setup"
  • Tell me what's important - related to above, be smart enough to advise me on what works
    • "You sold more foo widgets when you blogged about bar"
    • "Your highest-traffic tag is 'foo' although it attracts only 28% the comments of posts tagged with 'bat'"
    • "Your highest inbound traffic from "Authoritative" sites is to your posts in Foo category"
    • "Post more comment-centric articles on Thursdays"
    • "On Sunday afternoons, you get very low web traffic but have an inordinately high rate of RSS subscription; the opposite occurs on Mondays around lunch"
  • report broken urls

[edit] Observations

  • By and large, I want the depth of Apache log analysis software as a hosted solution (though I go back and forth on this)
  • My day to day needs don't require a lot of wizzy AJAX beating the crap out of MySQL; it's important for scale to shunt any extremely heavy lifting into nightly or, say, even 10x daily data runs.
    • I love Mint, for example, but it's way too hard on my database to use in a high-traffic environment. (IMHO)
    • Ditto Measure Map, but I shudder to think what hosting an app like that would do to someone on an entry level hosted account. Def. better hosted by Google

[edit] Good Apps

Stats packages I use and/or like

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