How to Analyze Website Traffic
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed
the the different terms used to describe web site
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 values.
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 "http://www.mydomain.com/page.html" "Mozilla/4.0
(compatible; MSIE 5.01; Windows 98)" Referer Log 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 your 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.
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 to the file that caused the error.
apache: [Sun Jan 30 10:09:57 2000][error]
[client 188.8.131.52] 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.
In Part 3 of this article series, we'll
discuss Web Traffic Analysis Software.
About the author:
Herman Drost is a Certified Web Site Designer (CIW),
owner and author of iSiteBuild.com Affordable Hosting,
Site Design and Promotion Packages http://www.isitebuild.com
Subscribe to his “Marketing Tips” newsletter for more
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