There’s no debate whether or not our online activities are tracked, they most surely are. It’s not even a single party that keeps the score; your ISP, website owners, advertisers and NSA know the reason you switched to Private Browsing Mode yesterday at 22:12. If the cool kids are doing it, why shouldn’t you? Here’s how you can get to ‘know’ your website’s visitors IP address.
The first thing you want to do is go about creating an account over at Google Analytics. Why would I want to do that, you ask? Well, in my own experience, the service provides a tremendous amount of data, has a great user interface, is easy to install on any website, and, more importantly, is completely free of charge. It’s undoubtedly the easiest, cheapest and fast way of getting your visitors’ information, including their IP address or hostname.
If you already use any of the Google services, you can easily sign in with your existing credentials. The process of setting up your website with Google couldn’t be easier. You will be prompted to create a profile. A profile is basically a metaphor for a folder, where you can keep track of various aspects of your websites’ traffic. Each different domain will have its own separate profile. Select ‘Add Profile for a new domain‘ and enter your domain’s address and timezone.
The next page will generate a bit of code that you’ll have to insert in the header or footer of your website’s template. You have to do this because you want to keep track of visitors across your website, not just the homepage. This way, no matter where the user navigates to (eg. mysite.com/secondpage), you will know about the total time spent, the pageview/unique visitor ratio and exit funnels.
How you add the code to your website varies dramatically – and requires the knowledge to manually access and edit your theme files. You probably set your own website up, so you must know how to do this. If you don’t know how, don’t panic, and instead search Google for ‘[service type] + edit theme OR Google Analytics‘. For example, ‘WordPress edit theme Google Analytics‘. There are plenty of guides out there that will show you how to add this bit of code.
In the latest version of the self-hosted WordPress, I only need to click on ‘Appearance‘ in the sidebar, ‘Editor‘ and choose from the right side list ‘footer.php‘. As a golden rule, insert the code before the last ‘</body></html>’ tags. They’ve also got a lot of support material over at the help page, which you might want to check out if in doubt.
Twenty-four hours later and you’ve got the first taste of website statistics. Be prepared to spend the rest of the evening looking at various graphs of source locations, connection speed, ISP, browser capabilities, operating systems, browsers, time on site and more. After that, the only problem that could arise is that you’ll wish you could install a tracking code in your girlfriend, in order to be plot the ‘visitor loyalty’ chart.
If you want to view individual IP addresses of your website’s visitors you need to click on Visitors>Network Properties>Hostnames, from the right sidebar, as illustrated in the screenshot above. There you will see a list of IP addresses and how many times each has visited the website. This can prove useful if your site is being attacked (defaced, DDOS-ed, etc.), as you can determine who your attacker is, or at least his proxy.
More views and information is accessible through the sidebar on the right: Visitors, Traffic Sources, Content and Goals. They’re pretty much self explanatory. The Visitors tab will contain information about – you’ve guessed it, the people who accessed your site. Traffic sources will identify who sent you traffic, be it a search engine, a referral or just organic. The Content tab will dutifully tell you how each page is doing when it comes to attracting eyeballs. Finally, Goals is used by e-commerce folks and companies to measure conversions, a fancy word for a sell.