Keeping track of statistics is very old hat for Webmasters. And Page Hit Counters were among the first of wide-spread popular uses in server side scripting applications. This is where the server runs a program which is activated by code embeded inside the the web page. In this case, it was a page hit counter. When a browser requested the page, the embedded instruction would cause the server to run a simple math instruction before completing the page transfer.
Using Stat Counter as a Stat Tracker
Viewing Results by Country (or select Region, City etc.)
It was the advent of the browser cookie or http cookie that made it easy to amass data of the visitor's journey through a website.
We have authored a seperate two part article regarding other current methods used for tracking visitor behavior that are in use today which can be much more intrusive than the common HTTP cookie. Most popular of these other types are the flash (adobe) and silverlight (microsoft) cookies. We don't use tracking cookies in our flash animations, but there are many governments, organizations and businesses that do. Many use more than one tracker.
Get PHP-MySQL training if you wish to fully master the individual component parts of HTTP cookie based tracking or to develop your own stat tracking database. Learning how to create and maintain a database with formulas to graphically display relevant information is a sought after skill with fringe benefits.
Armed with statistical knowledge, the webite owner has an advantage in knowing where to begin when seeking to further optimize their web site for search engines.
The service we currently most recommend and use is provided by StatCounter.com (US alexa rank under 100) and is a free tool which delivers much of the data that we need or would want.
The cookie information is also not permanently kept for your perusal so it is not too invasive on your visitors. The free version only keeps a history of the last 500 hits. If 500 is not quite enough history for you, then $5 per month buys you an increase to 5,500 hits .
But for many, 500 hits will be just fine plus it also doubles as a great good old fashioned WebSite Hit Counter. You can find our hits counter under the alexa widget on our home page.