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Viewing traffic statistics allows you to see which content on your site is actually bringing visitors in. This shows you what content is working and what is not. In addition, it can show you valuable information about your visitors and their hardware and software setups. Using this information can allow you to tailor your site to accentuate the positive and support your visitors' browsers to create a more pleasant and meaningful experience.

Various statistics packages employ a couple of different methods, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Likewise, each vendor puts its own spin on the traffic statistics.

You can gather traffic statistics in a couple of ways. The grandfather in this realm is to parse your log files. Your web server, if configured properly, will create log files for each and every request and error that it handles. Certain statistics packages can parse these logs and create human-consumable information. Some packages even let you download these logs to your local machine and let it do the busy work offline.

The second method is to put a snippet, usually JavaScript, on each page of your site that reports back to a central server, which then accumulates the data and makes it meaningful to you. This method is the current trend.

Each of these packages has an available WordPress plugin. Each package also varies in its specific vernacular. You will have to determine what the truly meaningful metrics are from each package; for example: visitors versus unique visitors, and hits versus page views versus unique page views. Deriving useful information from statistics depends on your goals. If you want more viewers, and are trying to attract attention from Google searches, social network recommendations, and other external aggregators, you may be happy with an increasing number of visitors who look at only one page or spend under a minute per visit on your site. A site that aims for more discussion and community feel should have more return visitors, a longer interval between visitor entry and exit, and multiple pages viewed by each visitor.

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