Web Analysis Services: SmarterStats vs. Google Analytics

An important part of maintaining and optimizing your website involves keeping an eye on your traffic. You need to know what users are looking for when they come to your site, how long they stay, the last page they visit before they leave, and the average amount of time spent on your site. This information is irreplaceably helpful when it comes to highlighting areas that might need improvement or successful page designs you might want to emulate throughout your website. The two most popular services for this analysis are Google Analytics and SmarterStats. The main difference between the two is that Google Analytics is a script-based analyzer, while SmarterStats is a log-based analyzer. What does this mean? We have complied a comparison of facts to help you make the educated and informed decision that will best service your website’s specific needs.

Features unique to SmarterStats:

SmarterStats has the advantage of being managed and installed on your own server and can still be used on firewall-protected corporate internet, reassuring you that you are receiving the whole picture of the statistics. It is able to reprocess historical data from log files and locally process or reprocess log files. It reports on spider and bot activity, server errors, and status codes. SmarterStats provides access to raw data for custom report building, uses SEO reports for analyzing search engine ranking, and offers analysis of competitor reports.

Features unique to Google Analytics:

Google Analytics is able to collect information through tags and uses its integration with Google AdWords to gather more information. It provides Real Time user data, goal configuration and tracking, and visitor flow report.

Features shared by SmarterStats and Google Analytics:

Both analysis services are able to report on paid search campaigns, banner and traditional marketing campaigns, and offer geo-targeted reporting. They analyze visitor session and navigation paths. Additionally both services offer free versions of their programs. The SmarterStats free version limits the use to a single site and one SEO campaign. Google Analytics free version has a limited amount of pageviews it will track. Larger sites with high traffic are required to purchase more of a package.

When it comes to accuracy, Google Analytics can misrepresent or underreport some statistics. The two services process data at different intervals, with Google Analytics using a 30-minute window while SmarterStats uses a 5-minute. Google Analytics only records data on pages with a tracking code. When it all boils down, SmarterStats is more accurate because it reports every request to the server instead of just what tracking code tags.

Website Performance Optimization

Ideally, your website is your greatest tool for marketing and sales.  It is the face of your company and typically the first thing your viewers/future customers will see.  It is essential that your website’s performance is professional and top-notch, as sub-par performance can easy frustrate today’s tech-savvy audience and cause them to move on to the next option.

A landing page cuts out the middle man.  That way when a viewer reaches your site through a second party ad or a search for a specific phrase, instead of being directed to your site’s main page, they will instead end up on the page with the topic they were searching for.  The landing page goes the extra step in customer convenience.

Make sure your homepage is clear and concise.  Its job is to convey the intrinsic message of your site and then direct the viewers to the appropriate pages.  Either an overload of information or too little information will result in a confused viewer.  Let them know what your site it about and then designate clear pathways to more specific pages.

Social media is, without question, an excellent way to boost performance.  But this is more involved than merely including links to your Facebook or Twitter pages.  If you have interactive content, blogs, or newsletters, include the option to share the content on those social media platforms.  This is an easy way to interact with your viewer and let them share their interest.

Along the same lines as interactive content, give your viewers a reason to return.  A regularly updated blog, user-generated content, or several pages that change on a weekly basis (at least) will keep your viewers returning to check out new information.

It is important for you to stay up-to-date on your traffic, the average amount of time spent on your website, the last page visited before leaving, your conversation rate etc.  SmarterStats monitors traffic habits and helps you locate areas to adjust or improve on.

Speed is another intrinsic part of maintaining reader interest.  Some general tips for speeding up your performance: reduce image size, use a content delivery network, take advantage of caching, and minimize HTTP requests.  For this last tip (minimize HTTP requests), you will need to download every file (CSS, JavaScript, and images) your site uses to the browser.  Condensing all CSS files into one single spreadsheet will also have great benefits for the speed of your website’s performance.

 

SmarterStats major upgrade completed

We are very pleased to announce that we have upgraded our SmarterStats services to the latest version available. This major upgrade brings many new features, performance enhancements, more in-depth reporting and SEO tuning features to help your websites perform at their best, and obtain the best SEO ranking! This was a seamless upgrade and all existing stat sites have been reprocessed by the upgraded SmarterStats engine to take advantage of the new and improved features.

For more information about what is new in SmarterStats upgrade, please see the SmarterStats “What’s New” page.

If you have any questions regarding this upgrade please contact our support department.

Thank you again for choosing ASPnix as your Windows web hosting provider!

ASPnix Monthly Newsletter – September 2009

Here at ASPnix we have come up with some ideas to help you guys keep up on current and upcoming events. We will be sending newsletters like this each month to provide you with the most up-to-date information on our services, upcoming specials, upgrades and any other information within ASPnix.

This month really marked the launch of the ASPnix 3.0 hosting services with a new and improved and vastly updated control panel, improved and dedicated billing system, new mail server version with many improvements and optional services, and the upgrade of our SmarterStats web stats monitoring service.

Massive Network Upgrades!

This month we will be performing a major upgrade to the ASPnix hosting network. This upgrade will provide us with a multi-provider backbone infrastructure, higher network throughput, and better latency across multiple providers. Our new multi-provider network provides our network with connections to the outside work beyond the Level 3 network. This will also provide us with better redundacy incase the unthinkable happens.

These new providers include:

  • Level 3 Communications
  • Time Warner
  • XO Communications
  • Cogent
  • And others!

Our network upgrade will also introduce new routing hardware to insure that you get the fastest possible connection to our servers network, this hardware will also allow us to provide a network with 100% uptime.

More information about this upgrade will be announced in our blog, and community forums!

Microsoft Hyper-V Upgrade

We will be upgrading all Hyper-V systems to the latest Server 2008 R2 release. This release of Server 2008 is built on the same Windows NT kernel as Windows 7, making it faster and more stable then the initial Server 2008 build. Server 2008 R2 also ships with an upgraded IIS 7 dubbed v7.5. The new IIS7.5 provides better stability, improvements with FASTCGI, and core upgrades.

Server 2008 R2 also has better IO handling, decreased boot times, better processor management for better performance.

New Control Panel Launched

If you have loaded our control panel you have undoubtedly noticed that we upgraded our control panel system to Parallels Helm 4. This control panel marks another milestone in the ASPnix 3.0 services along with a few other upgrades and additions we will discuss later.
Helm 4 was a highly anticipated control panel with several thousand development hours and is a leading control panel for the Windows hosting platform. Helm 4 was rewritten from the ground up in Microsoft’s .NET Framework, a completely new network engine to allow Helm to communicate across the world to any server in any datacenter, and a new module / API to allow for a completely customized hosting control panel solution.
We adopted Helm 4 as our new hosting control panel solution for many reasons:

  • We have been with the Helm control panel solutions since day 1.
  • New API / module system promises the ability to control anything anywhere.
  • Many new features that with Helm 3 was simply not possible.
  • More advanced billing system for reseller clients.
  • Support for newer services natively rather than in compatibility mode.
  • Adding Helm 4 like features in Helm 3 was simply not feasible as ASP and COM has its limitations (especially with newer services)

We do understand that Helm 4 has bugs, issues , and missing features like the Full Trust add-on that our Helm 3 had (this was also a custom add-on), but we are working on these and they will be available soon!

New Billing System Launched

Rather than sticking with Helm’s built in billing system (it is a very nice billing system for a control panel) we decided to go with a dedicated billing system called WHMCS. This new system provides us with many new features that we have longed for including automated domain registrations, transfers and renewals, and automated billing. We had many complaints that our old billing system (Helm 3) did not do automated billing, this has been extinguished with WHMCS as it supports automated credit card billing, and PayPal subscriptions. This system also provides you as a client to manage your registered domains (if they were registered through WHMCS), all your services under 1 billing account (if you have more than 1 hosting service with us). This new system also has a very advanced fraud detection and prevention system in place to help weed out the naughty orders, thus keeping our prices low!
As with all upgrades and new services there will be kinks here and there, if you find one please report it to us!

Mail Servers Upgraded

This month we have upgraded our mail servers to the new and highly anticipated SmarterMail v6! With this upgrade has come many new features and improvements that you as a client and us as your provider have been wanting now for a long time! What sort of features?

  • Microsoft ActiveSync support (This is available now for purchasing) More info below.
  • Super high 97% spam blocking rate out-of-the-box
  • New antivirus engine with higher performance for faster mail delivery and server loads.
  • Message archiving system compliant with HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley
  • Advanced Outlook synchronization
  • Better POP3 performance to enhance download speeds.
  • Mailbox migration wizard to aid in importing mail objects from other mail servers.
  • Mailing lists have the ability for automated removal of subscribers on bounced messages.
  • Mailing lists now include unsubscribe links
  • Preview message attachments

There are many, many more features, bug fixes, and enhancements that are part of v6 you can view the full list here http://www.smartertools.com/SmarterMail/ReleaseNotes.aspx
So what is Microsoft’s ActiveSync? Simply put it is a way to push content between your desktop and your Windows Mobile or iPhone handheld device. Synchronize emails, calendars, events, and contacts automatically! This technology also uses less battery life and resources then traditional methods like POP and IMAP. The technology available in SmarterMail is available only for Windows Mobile devices and Apple’s iPhone.

How can I get ActiveSync? ActiveSync is available for $10 USD per month per email account or mailbox you wish to ActiveSync with.

SmarterStats Upgraded

This one has been a long time coming and a much needed upgrade as SmarterStats v3 has not been updated or touched in almost a year. SmarterStats v4 brings many improvements, and features to the table including:

  • View IIS logs from web interface.
  • All charts are now outputted with Microsoft’s Silverlight.
  • Higher level of statistics drill down to now including city names.
  • Redesign in Microsoft’s .NET v3.5 Framework
  • AJAX based call-backs for improved performance without popups.
  • Enhanced and updated browser recognition, including Google’s Chrome, Apple’s iPhone and others.
  • Improved efficiency by caching browser and spider types.

And again, much more has been added and improved, for the full list see herehttp://www.smartertools.com/SmarterStats/ReleaseNotes.aspx