Web Site Statistics

I have written about the necessity of having a good Web Site
Analysis Program to monitor the effectiveness of your promotional
efforts. If you don't already have one I have compiled a brief list of
those programs that I am aware of at the end of this article.

The stats you have available to you will depend upon your server.
The most informative stats are compiled into a log file on most
commercial sites. These will often have the name "****.log" or
"****.gz" depending upon the operating system. An analysis
program will interpret these files and present the information in a
way that will help you understand what is going on.

If you do not have a log file, you can use a free 'stats' program like
"Site Counter" which will track your visitors and display a visual
analysis. This analysis will not be as detailed as a log file analysis
but will be vastly superior to no analysis at all. 'Site Counter,' like
most web sites that provide free code, make their money by
displaying adds to you when you check your stats.

So just what do these stats tell you?

The information can be quite extensive. Probably the most overused
and least useful information is the number of Hits. A Hit is actually
a request for a file. If you have a web page that includes 4 pictures
your log will report 5 hits when a visitor views the page. If the user
selects the Refresh button, you will suddenly have 10 hits. Another
site with no pictures will report only 1 hit as a user visits. Reporting
hits of 10 to 1 is consequently quite uninformative.

If you advertise on your site, most advertisers (as should you) will
want to know how many people visit your site. Where do they enter
and leave? Where do they go? What do they look at? How long do
they stay? Where did they come from? Who referred them? And as
much additional information about your visitors and advertising
campaigns as possible. Think of your site as a department store and
think about what your visitors are doing. Knowing this will help you
design your store and advertising to accommodate them and
hopefully improve your sales or visitor satisfaction depending upon
your purpose. Understanding your stats will tell you all this and

If you think of your site as a department store, User Sessions will tell
you how many people actually visited the store. Page Views will tell
you how many web pages (or departments) where visited. By
dividing the number of User Session with the number of Page Views
(which most good stats programs will do for you), you will know
how many pages or departments a visitor went to before leaving. If
most visitors leave after viewing one page you will know that your
site does not have much holding power. This may be fine but it may
also be an indication that your pages are not very appealing to your

Which is the main entry page to your site? You may think that it is
your home page but maybe it is not. It may not be uncommon for
people to enter your site through a backdoor page. This could be
because it is better listed in a search engine or because another site
has a link to it. A department store may have a Grand Entrance on
Main Street but get most of its visitors from the subway station
connected to the basement. In either case this may be the best place
to post a list of your daily specials. Which is the most common exit
page? Is it a good place to post a reminder to come again or mention
a page with some exciting experience that they may have missed?
Most stats programs will tell you both with the Entry Page and Exit
Page lists.

The Least Requested Page "stat" may tell you which page is least
appealing to your visitors. It may also tell you that your navigation
method is too complex for people to find it. If it is your Purchase
Page you definitely want to know. Maybe you just forgot to add the
link or you orphaned the link when you deleted or changed another

Most stats will tell you the URL of your visitor. What? You thought
you were completely anonymous? Maybe somewhat but not
completely. You can find out the country, city, URL and referral for
your visitors. This last is especially useful since it will identify the
source of many of your visitors. If it is another site with a link, you
should show your appreciation. You may also wish to find other
similar sites to see if you can get a referral from them as well. Did
you just pay $1000 for a Banner Add that referred two visitors in the
last month. Maybe you have two Adds on two similar sites but one
performs significantly better than the other. Why is one working and
not the other?

Log Analysis Programs (check with your Hosting Company. They
may already provide access to a free analysis program)

FastStats         $99.00
WebTrends   $399.00
WebSuccess $288.00
FlashStats       $99.00
Analog freeware

Site Counters and Analysis
Site Meter free
Hitometer. free or  $4.99 per month


"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright
1999-2000 Virtual Mechanics

"IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for all web site managers regardless of experience who are looking for detailed information on creating, maintaining and promoting their web sites.
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