Lurking on just about every web page is a web page stat counter. These little snippets of code have been around since the beginning of the internet. They serve a very simple purpose – to count and store statistics. They can store a range of different data, and at the very least they count and store page impressions, or the exact number of times a specific web site has been accessed or viewed by a user.
Tracking and analyzing traffic patterns is a very large part of website management. Having a tool to collect, store and analyze this data is absolutely vital. While many sites transparently track these statistics, some prominently display their current page count. I have to stop and ask myself why in the world a web page author would go out of his way to tell me how many people have checked out his pet rock site. Sure it seems like a pretty cool thing to have, but when you get down to it, does it offer anything useful or relevant to the visitor? Maybe your visitor will keep a warm spot in his heart for your site knowing he was visitor 666. Or maybe he’ll exorcise his computer.
I think the biggest reason many people use visible counters is to add a popularity gauge to their site. Yes that’s right some people will be more inclined to pay attention to your site and/or buy something because they think a lot of people looked at the site before them. Well at least that must be the reasoning behind this counter, right?
And to think I’ve been doing it wrong all this time! If they’re especially devious, they may even artificially inflate their stats just to make people think the site is popular. Maybe doing that would multiply their profit by really big numbers, well at least in their heads. Here’s a reality check: If your site is going to succeed or fail, your fancy little stat counter will not have played any major part. In fact when I see a visible stat counter my first though is “amateur” since I’m being presented with data that is almost always completely arbitrary to me. It’s no different than seeing a racing wing on ford focus, which is about just as effective.
Thankfully, many webmasters have learned that their visitors don’t give a crap how many numbers their little stat counter has listed. Some sites still use them, but a lot more don’t. I think the internet, for the most part, has caught on.
Emerging from the ashes of the old stat counters comes a different variation. Enter Feedburner. For those of you not in the know, Feedburner offers RSS syndication & subscription services free of charge. Many webmasters use Feedburner, including myself. I’m seeing a trend where bloggers like to list how many subscribers they have. I’ll give them credit – it’s not exactly the same as the stat counter. We are counting a different metric after all. But is it really so different? Isn’t it just a number that is used for a popularity gauge? Plus the subscriber number could be artificially inflated, you know, just like those fun stat counters.
When I’m deciding whether or not I’m going to bookmark, contribute or even give my full attention to a website, the amount of page impressions or subscribers will not positively affect my decision in any way. At least that’s my stance. Maybe having a few thousand subscribers suggests one is an authority on that certain niche, but those people probably signed up and stuck around for the content, not some number.