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.