Knowing who’s coming to your web site, what they’re looking for and what they’re finding — that’s the goal of web statistics.

Many web hosts offer bundled packages that range from lousy to okay to pretty good, but analysis that offers depth without demanding geekiness is hard to come by. The free services are either limited (StatCounter only holds on to the last 100 page views) or annoying (Webstats4U inflicts popup windows on your visitors — something they don’t really make clear when you sign up). And pay services like Mint and the free services’ premium offerings are, well, pay services. (Mint has an enormous, rabidly enthusiastic following, by the way, and if you’re willing to spring for stats, check them out.)

So until today, if you wanted free, you were kind of left scrounging. That was especially true if you’re trying to optimize your site for search engines and online advertising.

Hmm. Search engines and online advertising. Who do we know who’s leading the field on both counts..?

Google Analytics has just taken its first bow on the public stage. It’s pitched to sites with a marketing component, but any site should be able to find some use for its metrics — if only to make content easier for the world to find.

(If you do have an AdWords account with Google, and you’re the kind of person who tosses around terms like “conversions” and “ROI” with merry abandon, you’ll find Google Analytics extra useful — because it’s completely integrated with AdWords.)

Google Analytics is currently chugging away on this site, and in a few hours I should have a little more to say first-hand about what it has to offer.