The Thing About Google

I often make reference to the Google searches that bring people to my site, and I frequently receive e-mails from people asking how I know what these searches are.  For any beginning bloggers who might be reading this, I thought I’d tell you how to do it.

I use Site Meter to track my blog traffic.   It’s free, it’s reliable, and (don’t say I didn’t warn you) it’s addictive.  There are similar web counter sites out there (if you have one you like, feel free to share the URL in my comment section), but Site Meter is my favorite. 

If you haven’t installed Site Meter on your site, I’d highly recommend it.  It’s easy to do (as evidenced by the fact that I did it all by myself without calling Chilihead late at night whining "I’m stuuuuuck….").  Once it’s installed, and you have logged in, you will be taken to a page called "Site Summary".  Most of the information there is self-explanatory.   Over on the left side of the page is a header called "Recent Visitors".  Underneath it are listed all your options for finding out how people came to your site, where they are from, how long they stayed, etc.  The second line in that section says "By Referrals"; click on it.  As you look through the list of referring websites, look for sites that begin with http://www.google.com… or http://www.msn.search.com… (these seem to be the two most common search engines, at least for my site).  If you click on that particular line, it will take you to the specific search criteria that the person was using when they clicked on your site.  Make sense?

In addition to being interesting (and ohmygosh funny), it’s an important security feature, in my opinion.  It gives you at least the tiniest feeling of control to know who is visiting your site.  If creepy searchers are stringing together some otherwise harmless words into a questionable phrase (and yes, it’s happened to me and to more than one of my friends), you can make the necessary adjustments to your site (i.e., removing the words in question).   You can’t be too careful. 

22 thoughts on “The Thing About Google

  1. Michele says:

    The only problem with sitemeter is that it doesn’t record ISP addresses. You can get the last 100 but after that you don’t have a record. I use tracksy for that reason. It has a really nice table layout and I don’t have to make the data public. I have sitemeter for show πŸ™‚ and for Susan and Ang.

  2. boomama says:

    Site Meter is waaaaay addictive. And it’s not the numbers part with me…it’s the locations and the referrals.
    And this may be my next WFMW πŸ™‚ – but when I get one of those weird Google searches, I take a screenshot the computer’s IP number (on the “details” page of Site Meter) and keep it in a folder on my computer. Because if they come back and start lurking around, I want to know it. BUT, like Michele said, you can only get the last 100, so you have to be pretty diligent about checking (NOT A PROBLEM for OCD people like me).
    πŸ™‚

  3. boomama says:

    I just noticed that I’m on your sidebar. Thanks, Shannon. I’m giving you a big hug via the interweb.
    And I also noticed that I left out a preposition in my previous comment. But I’m trying to let it go. πŸ™‚

  4. LammyAnn says:

    k… I’ve had site meter for ages and EVERY SINGLE VISITOR comes up UNKNOWN for referrals…
    Maybe I did something wrong???
    …hm… wonder if chilihead is listed in the blogger phone book……….
    *sigh*

  5. Kelly says:

    Oh my, another compulsion to add to my growing list of odd computer behavior. My husband might never get another hot meal!

  6. Jodi says:

    I have the same problem as LammyAnn. I’d say 60-75 percent of my hits come up with an unknown referral. Perhaps we’re doing something wrong?

  7. Tess says:

    I use sitemeter, but I agree, the ‘unknown’ kind of freaks me out sometimes, but it might just be like an unsecured wireless connection or something. who knows.
    but with Haloscan, it does capture the ip of the commenter. I’m more concerned about nasty comments than lurkers, so for now I will stick with sitemeter and haloscan. and I’ve never had a nasty comment, so I’m hoping I never have to use that feature.

  8. Wendy says:

    Is there a way to see what someone’s URL is, if they have one? Or, is it just their location that is listed??? Thanks.

  9. momrn2 says:

    I believe it was either you or Chilihead that got me started with sitemeter as a “newbie”. Thanks! I do enjoy it but haven’t been to it as much lately. I also get quite a few blanks for referrals?? HHmmmm…..
    Thanks for posting this to help me confirm whether I was using it right or not. I never knew. πŸ™‚

  10. Amanda says:

    Yes, I have a site meter and it is addictive. I have mine set up to be invisible. There was someone from my past that I thought really disliked me but they can’t hate me too much because they read my blog. They don’t know I know but I know! Kind of cool! We are not on bad terms but don’t talk anymore. This person is the ONLY one that lives in this part of the country. It has to be her! But then again if she reads your blog, reads the comments, I have been found out and she may never read again.

  11. Jenn says:

    Hey all, don’t freak about the “unknown”. All that means is that the person typed your name into the address line on their browser (or clicked on you in their favorites list), as opposed to clicked on a link.
    For example, my site is “frugal upstate”. If you click on my name here, and it takes you to my website, then that would show up on my sitemeter as being referred from http://www.rocksinmydryer.typepad.com but if you just typed http://www.frugalupstate.blogspot.com in your address bar, then that would show up in sitemeter as “unknown”.
    Does that make you feel any better? If all of your folks coming in are unknown, it is because everyone is return visitors using your actual address.

  12. Shannon in Arizona says:

    Yeah I know all about the site meter….like it too………I think sometimes too when I visit your site how many times it shows I show up here……..lol. I even make it a point to close the page when I walk away from the computer if I have your blog up….so it doesnt say I stayed for like ever….LOL

  13. Mama Darlin says:

    Three cheers for site meter! I use it for my personal blog and my art blog. And, yes, I am quite OCD about checking just because it so much fun to see who is peeking at me!

  14. Carol says:

    The unknown referrals are usually someone who typed in the URL or else they use a feed reader to access the post. These are usually your regular readers, unless they clicked in from a comment or sidebar on a blog somewhere. Someone may have already said this, but I haven’t read all comments.
    If you want more than the last 100 (or whatever) bits of info, you have to pay. The freebie SiteMeter is limited, but still worth it, IMO.

  15. bubandpie says:

    Thanks so much for posting this information – this has to be the most-asked question among us newbie bloggers. I was lucky to have someone visit my site and leave the instructions in my comments. You have a great forum here to let people in on the “secrets” of blogdom. Good going.

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