Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Secret New Graphical Counters and How You Can Use Them

A year or two ago (I can't remember how long ago it was), I added support for over a dozen different, new graphical counters. Do you remember the announcement about that? If you don't, it's because it was never announced. Support was built in for the counters, but the new graphics were never officially added to the code wizard. The reason for this is that code wizard is a somewhat complex beast and I'm hesitant to toy with it and break things. I am going to release an updated version of the code wizard which will give you full access to the new graphics (it's currently in the works) , but until that time comes, you can take advantage of the new designs with just a little bit of hacking.

Here's a list of the counter styles currently available to you:

(You'll need to scroll waaaaaaaaaay down the page due to some layout issues...)

Counter GraphicCounter Style

How do I use these new styles?

It takes a bit of hacking, but it's actually pretty easy. If you're creating a new counter:

  • Go to your dashboard page
  • Select Generate HTML
  • Select Counter & Tracker Code
  • Select Odometer style
  • Click through all of the steps until you get the counter code
  • Examine the code you've created for these characters: Style=Odometer
  • Find a counter style from the list above and replace Style=Odometer with Style=57chevy (or Style=odometerblack or some other style you'd like to use -- just make sure you use the style names exactly as they are provided on this page)
  • Make sure you replace the style wherever it comes up in the code. If you are using JavaScript and HTML look closely and you will see it in there twice
That's all there is to it. You may now use this new code to create graphical counters in any of the styles above.

How do I alter an existing graphical counter?

If you're altering an existing graphical counter it's pretty similar. Look for Style=Odometer and replace it with the new style of your choosing. If your counter code doesn't contain the Style=Odometer part, you should be able to add it to your code. Just be careful to put it right after the ? (question mark) or right at the end of the code. Unless you know what you're doing, you'll want to avoid putting it right in the middle of the code, since you don't want to get too creative or you might demolish your current counter code and render it unusable. Having said that, it's a pretty simple process. Make sure you copy your old counter code to a backup file before you start making changes and you should be fine to hack on the code to your heart's content.

Please note that the first style listed (odometer) is not a new style, since it was already available, but it belongs in this list because it's the same style of counter as these new ones.

New Feature: AdWords Tracker Code

I've had a few inquiries lately about how to track Google AdWords (and other) advertising. It was possible to do this quite easily using multiple landing pages and the usual counter code, but that doesn't fit every use case. Sometimes you want to direct multiple ads (or even all of your advertising) to the same landing page. However, you may still want to distinguish which ad brought which traffic to your site.

In response to this, I posted a Google AdWords code generator. It can be found on your Dashboard page under the Generate HTML menu.

You only need to fill in 2 boxes:

  1. The full URL to the landing page on your site which your ad will lead to
  2. A name by which you'll be able to identify this ad's traffic in your stats. Usually something like campaign_name/ad_group/ad_name is good enough. It just needs to be something that makes sense to you. Not everyone has the same way of organizing their thoughts, so I'm not going to force any naming conventions on you here.
You'll be provided with helpful stats in examining your click traffic and you'll have some ammunition when trying to keep Google honest. After all, we all know that click fraud is out there. It's not a problem that has been solved.

Please note that this wizard can be used with other advertising programs as well. It's only called the AdWords tracker because of the popularity of that particular product. If you use the AdWords code successfully with other ad programs, please let me know which service you were using and how things worked out for you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How To: Using the Summary Feed

The new Summary Feed is now live and available via the API. It's still in beta mode, but it's available to Premium accounts as of right now.

What is the Summary Feed?

The Summary Feed is an RSS feed which gives you very basic information about your traffic on any given day. It will tell you the number of hits received so far, number of hits expected and the number of hits per hour. The purpose of this feed is give you a quick overview of how your traffic is progressing on any given day.

It generally looks something like this:

1970 hits since Midnight CST
2074 projected hits by end of day

86.41 hits/hour

The Summary Feed is essentially the same feed as can now be found under RSS on the Options menu. The RSS section of the Options menu will likely be retired in the near future, so if this is a feed which you are currently using, you're encouraged to move over the API Summary Feed.

If you're unclear about the API or how RSS feeds work, please see the Tripwire How To article.

To find the Summary Feed:
  • Choose Options
  • Choose API
  • Click on the Watcher link
You'll be able to find the Watcher feed URL on this page. It takes just a few minutes to get this set up once the API is enabled you're comfortable working with RSS feeds.

How To: Using the Watcher Feeds

Watcher feeds are now live. Just like Tripwire, these feeds are still in beta mode, but they're available to Premium accounts.

What are Watcher Feeds?

Watcher feeds are a little bit like your daily and page log files, but they're distributed via an RSS feed. If you're not familiar with the WunderCounter API or how RSS feeds work, please have a look at the Tripwire How To. This article will explain all of the basic concepts you'll need to understand.

Watcher feeds are RSS feeds which keep you updated on the last X hits to a particular page (or all of your pages) over the last 24 hours. Currently the last 100 hits are reported. That number may change in future, but that's what we're working with right now. Using this feature you'll get a summary of all traffic to a certain page (or all pages). So, unlike Tripwire, you don't need to tag any IP numbers as all IPs are affected.

Who would find this feature useful?

Because watcher feeds provide a lot of data, they're probably not useful to everyone. For instance, if you have a high traffic site, you may not find all of the RSS items to be particularly useful, because there will be many of them. However, even high traffic site owners may want to monitor activity on certain pages (like pages which have been recently added) or very important pages (like payment pages). Sites with lower traffic may benefit from a watcher feed which reports on all traffic as it will give you immediate feedback as to the type of traffic you're getting on any given day.

So, whether or not you get loads of traffic, I encourage you to play around with this feature and see if it's useful to you.

How do I get started?

  • Choose Options
  • Choose API
  • Click on the "Watcher" link
On this page you'll find a list of all the available Watcher feeds for your account. There will be a feed for each page + one feed which is a combination of all of your pages.

Once again, if you're unfamiliar with RSS feeds and how to use them, please read the Tripwire article to get yourself started.

How To: Using the Tripwire Feature

The new Tripwire feature is now live. It's still in beta mode, but it's available to all Premium accounts as of right now.

What is Tripwire?

Tripwire is an IP alert system. Basically, you can select IP numbers which you'd like to track more closely and be notified when these IP numbers return to your web site. It's easy to set up and use and it takes your WunderCounter experience to a different level. You can be notified of important happenings without logging in to your account and you can be kept up to date even when you're on the go, if you have access to RSS feeds on your mobile phone.

How do I set it up?

First, you'll need to enable the API for your account. API is just a fancy way of saying that the WunderCounter now has a standard way of communicating with other services (like web sites, software etc). You'll need the API in order to get the Tripwire alerts.

  • Click on the Options menu
  • Choose API
  • Agree to the terms
Now, you'll need to select one or more IP numbers, you'd like to be alerted about. There are 2 ways to do this. The first way is to manage your IP tags.

  • Click on the Options menu
  • Choose IP Tagging
  • You can enter an IP number here and choose "On" for the Tripwire value
  • Or, you can choose an existing IP tag. In this case just click on the Tripwire value (on or off) and use the edit box that comes up to change and submit the value
The second way is to tag IP numbers directly from your log files. For example, if you go to your dashboard page and select today's date, you may be able to find an IP number with a "tag" label beside it. Click on the word "tag" and then fill out the tagging form. Give the IP number some kind of label, like "Dave", "person I don't know" or "my ex". You get the picture. Choose Tripwire "On" and then submit the form. Now you've got IP tagging and Tripwire enabled.

How do I get Tripwire alerts?

First, you need to copy your Tripwire RSS feed URL.

  • Select the Options menu
  • Select API
  • Select the Tripwire link
  • Copy the URL which is displayed on this page

If you're already familiar with RSS and RSS readers, you can skip this section. Just add the URL to your favourite RSS reader and you're ready to go.

If you're unfamiliar with how RSS works, it's still not difficult to set up. For instance, if you're a Mac user (OS 10.5 and higher) and you use the built-in Mail program to read your email:

  • Start (or choose) your Mail program
  • Select the File menu
  • Select Add RSS Feeds
  • Copy the Tripwire Feed URL
  • Click the add button
Your Tripwire alerts will now appear in the RSS section. If you selected show in inbox, your alerts will now appear in your inbox, just like new messages.

If you are using Microsoft Outlook, please view this article on How to Add RSS Feeds to Your Outlook.

If neither of these options applies to you, a simple Google search will help you locate some RSS reader clients which you can use -- many of these programs are free to download.

If you have any questions about the WunderCounter API or have any feedback at all, please don't hesitate to let me know.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Feature (Tripwire): Beta Testers Needed

Just today I've rolled out a new WunderCounter feature. I'm calling it Tripwire. Tripwire is basically an IP alert system. It's something that has been requested a few times going back several years, but I've only now had the time to do it the "right" way.

Basically, the feature works hand in hand with IP Tags and will only be available to Premium users for the time being. There are currently 2 ways to tag your IPs:

  1. By choosing IP Tagging from the Options menu
  2. By clicking a tag link when viewing your log pages
When creating or editing tags, you'll be able to turn Tripwire on or off for any tagged IP. Turning Tripwire on for an IP will flag that IP number so that you can receive alerts when this user returns to your site in future. Turning Tripwire off will (as you've probably guessed) turn off any notifications.

The Tripwire notifications will be initially be available in the form of an RSS feed. This means that you can use your favourite RSS reader (or even Outlook or your OS X Mail program) to alert you when flagged IPs hit your site. This can be handy when tracking the habits of any IP you are interested in, whether that be a friend, neighbour, ex boy/girlfriend etc. Hey, you've got your reasons and you don't have to explain anything to me. ;)

I'd like to have this beta tested for a couple of days by a few users before this becomes available to all Premium users. So, I'm looking for a few Premium users to test this out. If you're interested, just send me a note using the contact page and I'll add you to the list of beta testers. All you need to do is try out the feature and then let me know about any problems you encounter, what you like, don't like etc. It's all about getting some constructive feedback.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Myspace Photo Page Trackers

The other day, a WunderCounter user asked me if it's possible to track Myspace photo pages by putting the counter code in an image caption. My response was that if you can get HTML in there, you can get the WunderCounter in there. It turns out you can do it, so thanks for the tip, Lori!

So, here is how you would go about it.

First, log in to the WunderCounter and generate some Myspace tracker code. (You can do this by choosing Myspace Trackers from the Generate HTML menu). Copy the Myspace code to your clipboard.

Now, you need to get the code into your Myspace photo page(s).
  1. Log in to your Myspace account
  2. Select My Photos from the Profile tab
  3. Click Edit Photos
  4. Select one photo from the page you'd like to track and click on the image caption. If the photo has no caption, click on the edit caption link.
  5. Copy your WunderCounter code into the caption and save it
That's all you need to do. Now, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • If you have multiple pages of photos, you'll need to tag at least one caption on each photo page in order to track all of your pages
  • Putting tracker code into the caption may not leave you much room for something meaningful which people can read. You may be able to get around this by using a very short page name for your counter. Keep in mind that you can enter any page name you like when creating the code, so you can even use something short like myspace_photos_1 when naming your page
  • If you're using some sort of slide show on profile page, the slide show may spit out the WunderCounter code when it runs. That's probably not what you want. Really, the slide show shouldn't spit out raw HTML as text, so I'm going to say that the problem is with the actual software. However, if this is a concern, you may not want to use the counter in your photo captions.
That's pretty much all there is to it. Let me know if it works out for you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

WunderCounter on

I've just become aware that the WunderCounter works on profile pages for the social networking site What's very cool about this site is that the full JavaScript counter works on it. Now, I don't have a Zorpia account, so I can't tell you exactly how it's done, but I came across a functional version today so I know that it's possible.

Kudos to for not locking down the profile pages to JavaScript like so many other social networking sites have done!

Friday, November 7, 2008

What Happened to the Facebook Tracker?

This article is an explanation of why you can no longer track Facebook Note views. However, I should point out that you can still track links in Facebook notes. For more information, please see the following posts:

Facebook Link Tracking in Facebook Notes
Tracking Facebook Links Outside of Notes

I do get a lot of questions about Facebook tracking and whether it's possible to track a Facebook profile page. Right now, the answer is "no". Some of you will remember that there was, at one point, a Facebook Note Tracker on the WunderCounter, but since Facebook has made some changes, it no longer works.

It's a pretty basic problem. The WunderCounter is really a tiny graphic, which needs to be loaded by a web browser. When you insert it into a web page (like a Myspace page), it gets loaded by each visitor to the page. In an effort to exert maximum control over how pages look and behave, Facebook has decided to cache the images displayed on their pages. It really speeds up page loads, but it gives you much less control over your page content. Personally, don't like it, but if you look at the load times for a lot of Myspace profiles you can see why they might want to do that.

So, if you add an image to a Facebook note (like the counter), you'll notice that a Facebook server will download the image once (this is the caching) and then you'll never see any more tracking stats on that note. Originally this was not the case, and it was possible to get an idea of how many people were reading your notes by tracking the accesses, but Facebook has tightened this up recently.

Having said that, I believe it may be possible to use the WunderCounter when tracking pages of a Facebook application, but that's something for Facebook developers rather than regular users.

So, don't blame me -- blame Facebook!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How to Track Pages (Part II)

OK. So now we know how to add a tracker to the blog template. That's nice and clean and it's under the radar. If folks don't look at the code, they won't know the tracker code is there. The problem is that it's pure HTML and it won't give us the level of detail that we could get with a JavaScript counter. That's where the gadgets come in.

First off, let's create some tracker code.

  1. Log in to the WunderCounter
  2. Choose Generate HTML -> Counter & Tracker Code
  3. For this example, I'm going to choose an Odometer style counter. You can select whatever style suits you best, whether that's graphical or invisible.
  4. Copy the code to your clipboard
So, we've got our code. Now, let's look at the blogger end of things.
  1. Make sure you're logged in and able to edit your blog
  2. Choose the Settings tab
  3. Select Page Elements if it's not already selected
  4. Click Add a Gadget
  5. Choose HTML/JavaScript from the list of available gadgets
  6. Now, you'll need to add a title and content for your gadget. For this example, I've given my gadget a title of WunderCounter
  7. Now paste your tracker code into the content box
  8. Click the Save button and you're done
You should now have a WunderCounter gadget which appears on your blog pages and tracks your visitors with referring URLs and all of that other good stuff.

If you want your tracker to be a little less obvious, you can rename the gadget and add some other content to the content part of the box. Another possibility is that you can add the tracker code to one of your other gadget boxes. In my case, I'm happy to let people know that there is a tracker on the page, so I'm not going to put any effort into concealing it, but it's certainly not difficult to do if that's important to you.

How to Track Pages (Part I)

If you're interested in tracking pages, please see this related post, which shows you a much more effective way of tracking pages:

How to Track Pages (Part II)

As I set this blog up yesterday, I naturally thought it would be helpful to track the page views. I had never added tracking to a page and there are no specific instructions up on, so I'll post a quick tutorial here. For the purposes of this tutorial I'm going to use the "Myspace" style tracker. Now, this tracker can be used on sites other than Myspace, so don't worry about the name. It's the right tracker for our purposes.

  1. Log in to the WunderCounter
  2. Choose Myspace Trackers from the Generate HTML menu
  3. Enter the URL of your blog (e.g. in my case)
  4. Submit the form and copy the code that is displayed on the following page
That takes care of generating the code. Now, log in to your account. Once you are on your main blog edit page:

  1. Click the Layout tab
  2. Select Edit HTML
  3. Now inspect the HTML source of your template, looking for the <body> tag.
  4. Paste your tracker code somewhere after this tag
  5. Click Save Template
Now, load up your actual blog page. You should now have an invisible tracker in your blog header. To confirm this, refresh your WunderCounter dashboard page to make sure that your page hits are showing up. If you don't see any hits, make sure you haven't blocked your own IP number. (Check under Options -> Account Options -> Don't Count My Browser if you have a Premium account.)

This is a pure HTML counter, so it doesn't provide referring URLs, but it will provide you with a lot of helpful tracking info. There is, however, a way to add JavaScript trackers to your account and that will be the topic of the next post.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Why start a blog?

So, I've never really been big on blogs. In fact, I really like this shirt, but lately I've come to realize how blogs can be a really handy way of getting a message out. It's not as invasive as email and it can actually be better at getting a message across. Plus, you can easily archive the posts, making them available for future readers. Don't get me wrong, I'll still send out the occasional email, but posting a quick news item here is much, much easier than sending out an email to 10,000+ addresses. Mailing on that scale has its own special headaches.

So, that brings me to the WunderCounter blog. I wanted a quick way to get little news bits out to folks. I do like to post items on the dashboard page so that people see them when they log in, but I've found that some people either don't see the notes or find them easy to ignore. I'll continue to post important messages on the dashboard, but the dashboard doesn't allow you to comment back, so that's another thing the blog has going for it.

I think what really brought me around is the fact that in the latest Mac OS (10.5), RSS feeds are built in to Mail. I've found it to be ridiculously easy to add a few blogs to that section of Mail and the layout, which is a lot like a regular email message, gives me an easy way to get a quick overview of new posts on blogs that I care about. I believe Outlook has something similar built in, but since I'm not a Windows guy, I can't really comment on that. If you're using the latest version of Mail, just select File -> Add RSS feeds and specify the custom URL of the blog feed you're interested in. Hopefully you'll choose to follow this WunderCounter blog and you'll pick up some helpful information along the way!