Logs track all accesses to your files. Since they aren't in a spectacularly useful format (a huge list of every access to everything, in date order, isn't very readable), you need to use a log file analyser program to make sense of them.
You may have seen counters on some Web sites. These are generally easy to set up and may be acceptable for a personal site. However, there are several disadvantages.
- Most counters are funded by advertising
- Readers of the site do not need to know how many people have viewed it
- You may not want to advertise that only 50 people ever saw your page
- Counters slow loading unnecessarily and may irritate your visitors
- Most counters are unreliable
All quality Web hosting providers provide log files, usually daily logs. These files give information about every single HTTP access for a file from the site.
You should be able download these from their server, and analyse them using special software. Alternatively, some providers may run log analysis software automatically for you, so that you only have to visit a Web page which has the log information.
If your hosting provider doesn't give you log files at all, change hosting provider. Be prepared to pay at least a little for quality Web hosting.
Log file analysers
Log files are not very useful in their raw format. You need to use a program to analyse the files and convert them into a statistical report. The report will contain useful information, such as how many accesses there were to a particular file (say your front page) on a particular day.
A popular log file analyser is Analog. This is a free, flexible, and good program which is available for most different types of computer, but be aware that it was originally designed for Unix, runs from the command line, and is insanely difficult to configure. If that doesn't sound like your kind of thing, search the Web for alternatives. (Be warned: some are expensive. You might have to pay for ease of use.)