to Analyze Your Web Site Traffic
Getting traffic to your web site without analyzing
it, is like being blindfolded in a crowd. You hear voices, but you
don’t know which direction they are coming from or who they
are. Without analyzing your web site traffic, it’s difficult
to improve your web site marketing.
Know Your Traffic Language
You should be aware of the different terms used to describe web
site traffic, so as not to be confused about your web site visitors.
Here are the main terms used:
Visit – these are all requests made by a
specific user to the site during a set period of time. The visit
is ended if a set period of time (say 30 minutes) goes by with no
further accesses. Users are identified by cookies, username or hostnames/ip
Hit – this is a request to the server for
a file not a page. Your page can be made up of different files,
resulting in a number of hits for that page. Each of these requests
is called a hit.
Counting hits is not the same as tracking pageviews. It takes multiple
hits to view a page.
Pageview/Impression – this is the number
of times a page is accessed as a whole.
Unique View - A page view by a unique person within
a 24 hour period.
Referrer - A page that links to your site. By
looking at your referrers will tell you who's linked to your site.
This can be particularly valuable for seeing where your search engine
traffic is coming from.
User Agent - This refers to the software used
to access your site. Sometimes known as a "browser" or
"client", the term user agent can describe a PHP script,
a browser like Internet
Explorer, or a search engine spider like GoogleBot. If you can identify
what software is being used to access your site, you'll be able
to tell if users are abusing it, and when the search
engines last crawled your pages.
Ways to Track Your Visitors
1. Counters – these are heavily used on web sites by newbies
but appear unprofessional. It is very common to go to a page and
see something like "You are visitor number 12345 to this page".
These numbers cannot be trusted as the page designer has the ability
to seed the base number or to alter the counter such that it adds
more than 1 each time.
2. Trackers – tracking software details the path a visitor
takes through your Website, so they do more than just count your
traffic: they track it. Tracking software tells you more than just
the number of visitors -- it can break visitor statistics down by
date, time, browser, page viewed, referrer, and countless other
Counters and Trackers often require you to place a button or graphic
on your site in exchange for the free use of their service, which
is not ideal for most site owners. So try to avoid using
these services unless you don't have the ability or expertise to
execute tracking scripts of any kind on your own server.
3. Using Your ISP’s Statistical Package - Your Internet Service
Provider (ISP) keeps log files which record every single "hit"
(request for a Web page or graphic) on your Web site.
Analyzing log data can give you a good idea of where your site
visitors are coming from, which pages they are visiting, how long
they stay, and which browsers they are using. Before signing on
with a hosting company, make sure they offer access to raw log files.
Even if you don't need them immediately, sooner or later you'll
be glad to have them.
There are also different types of log files - access, referrer,
error, and agent are the primary ones.
Here is a sample of a raw access log file entry:
Analyzing the access log will give you information about who visited
your site, which pages they visited, and how long they stayed on
the site. This is useful information in determining whether or not
your site is working as you intend.
The record below shows the visitor's IP number or hostname, date
and time of the request, the command received from the client, the
status code returned, the size of the document transferred, and
the browser and operating system the visitor was using.
nas-112-52.slc.navinet.net - - [29/Jan/2000:17:17:12 -0500] "GET
page.html HTTP/1.1" 200 23443
MSIE 5.01; Windows 98)"
The referrer log contains referral information - the source that
referred the visitor to your site. If the referrer was a search
engine, you will also find the keywords that were entered to find
site - very useful information. Here are some example records. The
record below shows that the visitor followed a link from somedomain.com
to the index page of the site.
http://www.somedomain.com/page.html -> /
This record shows that the visitor came to my site from a search
engine link. Notice the keyword data is included in the record.
http://search.yahoo.com/bin/search?p=design+tips -> /
This log provides information on which browser and operating system
was used to access your site.
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible;MSIE 5.01; Windows 98)
The error log obviously provides a record of errors generated by
the server and sent back to the client. The record below shows the
type of server, date and time of the error, client identification,
explanation of the error code generated by the server, and the path
file that caused the error.
apache: [Sun Jan 30 10:09:57 2000][error] [client 184.108.40.206]
File does not exist:/u/web/mydomain/favicon.ico
As you can see, log files contain a wealth of information about
how your visitors are using your site. Now we will talk about how
you get the relevant data extracted from the log files and compiled
into a useable format.
4. Web Traffic Analysis Software - These are programs that analyze
your server logs and then create traffic reports accordingly. The
quality of the reports generated will depend on what software you
actually use. Some log analyzers are free and come preinstalled
on many hosting accounts, while others can cost a good deal of money.
Webalizer ( http://www.webalizer.com)
The Webalizer is a fast, FREE, web server log file analysis program
which produces usage statistics in HTML format for viewing with
a standard web browser. The results are presented in both columnar
and graphical format, which facilitates interpretation. Yearly,
monthly, daily and hourly usage statistics are presented, along
with the ability to display usage by site, URL, referrer, user agent
(browser), search string, entry/exit page, username and country.
Here's an example of the Web Usage Statistics:
The Web Trends Analyzer produces essential reports on web site visitor
patterns, referring sites, visitor paths and demographics. You can
learn, for example, which sites and keyword searches have referred
the largest number of visitors to your site.
It presents data, detailed and in-depth, in an organized and concise
tabular format with full-color graphs.
This Log Analyzer is priced at $495 and is licensed for a single
web server hosting content with a maximum of 50 domains.
Web traffic statistics provide very valuable information about your
web site. You can make better marketing decisions through them telling
- Which Web pages are most popular and which are least used.
- Who is visiting your Web site.
- Which Web browsers to optimize your Web pages for.
- Which Web search engines are most useful to you, and which are
the least useful.
- Where errors or bad links may be occurring in your Web pages.
Web traffic analysis allows you to determine what marketing strategies
are successful, then to change them accordingly, to boost your web
traffic and sales.
Herman Drost is a Certified Internet Webmaster
(CIW) owner and author of iSiteBuild.com
Web Site Design and Low Cost Hosting (http://www.isitebuild.com)
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