Google has some awesome tools available and free for use. Firstly as most people know, there's Gmail - 6GB of space and growing, POP and SMTP access etc. Most importantly for me, unobtrusive advertising. Yahoo on the other hand has tons of irrelevant and annoying advertising. So, Google 1; Yahoo 0. Then there's iGoogle - a nice portal which can be used to house all your bookmarks, email, calendar (another nice product), RSS news feeds etc.

Something that I recently discovered while trying to submit my blog to Google's index was Google Webmaster Tools. You can host your websites with Google pages and use Google Webmaster tools to trace their indexing of your pages. It works by you embedding a randomly generated value within a meta tag on the default page of your site. This functions as an authentication mechanism which verifies you as the owner of the site. Once verified, you can view a number of stats collected while Google's crawls your site such as top search queries, what Googlebot sees, indexing stats subscriber stats etc. All in all, there's a bit of useful information there. Yahoo has a similar process of submitting pages except where Google's verification is instantaneous, Yahoo's takes 48 hours and doesn't seem to give you as much info. (My page hasn't been indexed as yet by Yahoo so I'm not really sure though as there is no data as yet.)

But, the really good one is Google Analytics. It's a tool to "help you learn even more about where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site. The new Google Analytics makes it easy to improve your results online. Write better ads, strengthen your marketing initiatives, and create higher-converting websites. Google Analytics is free to all advertisers, publishers, and site owners." (The first 5 million page hit statistics are recorded for free. I think that you have to pay thereafter.) Analytics works by embedding some Javascript in each page (or an include for dynamic pages) which downloads some other script which then sends data to Google on page load which is then stored. There's tons of data in reports to view - Browser type usage, page visits, unique visitors, benchmarking, average time on site, traffic sources and the geographical distribution of your visitors. Most of the data is presented on graphs, charts, maps or tables. This seems like a really good tool to maximize your site traffic and best of all - free.

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