How a Visitor Counter can help you develop your Art Site
A good Visitor Counter can do more than tell you how many people have visited your site. It can also record statistics about your visitors and therefore help you to determine a lot of things about your site and the people that visit it. You can use that information to determine what demographic you attract to your site and how they got there by looking at the entry search phrases and the entry links they came from. You can see the pages they visit, the links they exit to from your site, the amount of times they return and their visit length.
You also can get a good geographical sense of your market, since the IP numbers are recorded, giving the network (amazing how many people surf from their work computers) and the city and country your visitors come from. In fact, about the only thing you can't determine is the visitor's name, but sometimes there's enough information to make an informed guess even on that, if it's someone you know and they come often.
So, other than determining who is visiting your site, how can all this information help you develop a more user friendly site?
Search phrases are especially useful. They can tell you what phrases bring up your site in a search (and if those phrases gave them what they were looking for) by seeing the pages they then visit and how long they stayed to look. Use this information to keep the most relevant pages in search engines by using those keywords. Use a site map to enable the bots to find your pages easily and get them up on the search engines.
Your viewer's operating system information can tell you which browsers you support and if pages are too slow loading. The use of a thumbnail gallery will help slower dialup viewers see your page quicker.
As an artist you can't create art just to please others, but knowing what artwork is most viewed can give you an idea of what work reaches a bigger audience and that can help you in the marketing arena.
If you keep a blog like I do, then it also helps you to know what topics people are interested in. It can provide ideas for new topics and allow you to keep your content interesting.
Visitor counters are sometimes provided by your website host, but often the information is sketchy and not all visits are logged. I use a free counter called Stat Counter that allows me to use it as an official visitor counter for all to see and I also have (and use) the option to use an invisible counter that just gives me private access to logged information on each page of my various sites.
Lastly, a stat counter can also work as an extra security measure. Every single visit is logged and and all that information is grouped together under the same IP address. If you see that perhaps you have over a hundred page visits a month, for several months, from the same IP, with exits to every available link that has reference to you, the site owner, it's a red flag that someone has more than a healthy interest in your artwork and has crossed the line to an obsession with the person who owns the site. If this scenario happens to you remember that an IP address is as good as a signature, and you have it all on record if needed.