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Knowing exactly how many times your website has been viewed is one of the most fundamental metrics of digital advertising and online business in general. An impression counting application such as phpMyCounter provides the site administrator with an easy means of monitoring important statistics.

Page impressions, or more colloquially hits, reflect the number of visits a specific Web page receives. Site owners can use this information, along with other factors, to determine how well a particular page or campaign is performing. Ultimately, the metric is a guide for developing effective Web content, recognising market trends and of course responding to them.

What’s behind phpMyCounter

Created in 2002, phpMyCounter is no longer available directly from the developer and the official site is defunct. The last update was rolled out in November 2010. The application is now maintained by Installatron.

Since phpMyCounter is free and customizable, users can install the application on their blogs, online shops, forums, photo galleries, and more, and enjoy minimal need for management tasks. Despite its apparent simplicity and age, phpMyCounter is quite sophisticated, and compatible with Server Side Includes (SSI), PHP Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP), or Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) pages. All you need to do is include a line of code to activate it, setting the correct path to the application.

The application is available through Installatron, but it can be found elsewhere as well. Since it traces its roots back to 2002 and was not updated in years, this PHP-based application has relatively basic requirements – in other words just about any server available today should have no trouble supporting it and you need just one megabyte of storage to install it. Many hosting plans still support phpMyCounter one-click installation.

Even if they do not, you can easily install and set up the impression counter on your own. Just make sure that you have File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or Secure Shell (SSH) login credentials.

phpMyCounter features and interface

The administration interface of phpMyCounter lets users customize the hit counter with text and/or graphics and options for size, colour, and length. You may even include custom images to create a counter that matches the style of your site. In another vein, users can receive email notifications when the counter reaches predetermined milestones.

The phpMyCounter control panel allows you to choose the counter type – graphical or text. Notifications can also be easily set up, but only email notifications are supported.

The ‘Color Theme’ category allows you to choose a predefined colour theme or create your own. You can also use custom images in lieu of colour themes. The ‘Count Length’ and ‘Counter Size’ boxes allow you to tweak the appearance of the counter even further, by setting the number of digits you want to display and the actual size of the counter, in pixels.

The control panel also allows you to change the password or reset the counter if necessary.

Beyond simply counting impressions, phpMyCounter offers visitor tracking data to help you refine your site. Use the information you collect on your visitors to better meet their needs and expectations. Of course, the data can be accessed from any computer in real time and the script is relative straightforward to use, which still makes it popular in some hobbyist circles despite its age.

Alternatives to phpMyCounter

In case you’ve used phpMyCounter on some old projects and still want to stick with it, you can still install and use it on most sites.

However, you may want to think twice about including any sort of web counter on a new site, especially if you plan to monetise it. The first problem with hit counters is that they simply look outdated. Few sites still use them and most of them were created years ago. This may leave a bad impression on your visitors. Another problem is that the use of some types of counters could be penalised by search engines.

So what’s the alternative? There are a few relatively sophisticated yet easy to use solutions on the market, but Google Analytics is the most popular one. Integration with AdSense and the availability of plugins and dashboards for popular platforms like WordPress can be extremely useful in the long haul.

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