How to Interpret the Statistics on Your Website?

In the early days of the Internet it was common to visit a web site and see a counter informing you that “you are the 118,456th visitor to this site”, and various webmasters would proudly talk of how many “hits” their sites were getting. Now, things have changed and you will mostly find counters on amateur sites, and wiser webmasters now know that the term “hits” doesn’t really mean much.

A hit is a request to download a file from your website. An individual requests your URL when they visit your website, but they also need to download all of the graphic files that are present on your page in order to view it. One user could be requesting 25 different files from your page, giving you 25 hits.

Early Internet counters tracked only requests for the specific page on which the counter was located. They provided no information about how visitors interacted with the site’s other pages. Those counters often did not differentiate between a “unique visitor” and total visitors. Contrary to total visitors, which could even be just one person visiting the page repeatedly, unique visitors are the number of distinct users (as determined by their computers’ unique IP numbers). (I used to frequently check my first website to see how I was doing!)

What is the current, appropriate method for collecting statistics, and which statistics are the ones that really matter?

All visitor activity is logged by web servers. A visitor to your website downloads all of the files you have there. The log records all of these requests as well as other crucial data, such as the referrer page (or the last page the user visited before entering your site), the user’s operating system, the screen resolution they are using, the search terms they used to request your site, and many other details that could make the difference between your success or failure on the Internet.

If you were to look at the raw logs of your website, you would find a lengthy text file with the dates of each entry and a few interesting items, but the amount of data would make it difficult for you to organize them effectively. (a line of text for each file requested). Programs that analyze logs can carry out this task for you. Downloading the log file from your server is one method of using them. You should be able to get the file’s location from your host and download it with an FTP program. The analysis program is then fed with the log file, and the output is produced. There are numerous programs that carry out this task. I got started with an easy-to-use program called Open Web Scope, which is also available in a free version. Alternatively, your host may have an analysis program preinstalled on the server, and the results may be able to be seen online (some hosts have the Webalizer program installed for their client’s use)

What should one look for when analyzing the logs, then?

You should check the daily unique visitor count. This will give you a general idea of how you are doing and a sense of how many people are visiting your site.

Another indication of overall activity on the site is the number of “page views” per day.. Page-views, as opposed to hits, refer to particular HTML files or pages that were requested. It is reasonable to assume that the average visitor to your website views 10 pages, given that you get 200 unique visitors per day and approximately 2000 page views each day.

The amount of bandwidth utilized, or, to put it another way, the total amount of data transferred each day, is another sign of general activity. The number of visitors, the number of files they view, and of course the nature of your website will all affect this. The data transfer on your site will be higher than on a site with plain text if it has lots of graphics or if you can download e-books or mp3s. If your bandwidth is limited, it’s crucial to look at this statistic. It is also a good number to look at if you are merely interested in the site’s overall activity and are not concerned about this.

It is advisable to look at the specifics and learn more about how your visitors are using your site and how they arrived at it after you have seen the overall activity.

What are the most and least visited pages on the website is one of the things I am most curious to see. This specific piece of knowledge can be used in a variety of ways. The top ten results, for instance, should include your order page. Maybe that is why you aren’t getting any revenue from the site if nobody is getting to your order page. Or, by perusing this list, you might come across some unexpectedly popular pages, after which you can add more similar content.

Related to the popularity of pages is the “click path” through the site. You can see the order in which visitors browse the site’s various pages, and this knowledge could be useful to you as you set up your website. Related to this are the “entry” and “exit” pages. Where do visitors enter your website? You might be surprised to learn that many visitors do not access your main page. The majority of your traffic might be coming from your inner pages, but by identifying the most used entry points, you can set up additional pages, optimize them, and use them to draw in more visitors. People have to leave your site sometimes, but it is important to know where the exit points are, and the “exit pages” stat will show you where these pages are.

How did they find your website in the first place? You can find out this information from the referrers list. A website that a visitor visited just before arriving at yours is known as a referrer. First of all, you can see that if you have 100 unique visitors per day and 50 of them come from a referral, that means 50 of them most likely typed in your URL directly, clicked on an email link, or used a bookmark, while the other 50 came from search engines or links on other websites. Which search engines are bringing you traffic can be found here. You’ll learn which of your links on other websites are working well. You can start working on improving your overall promotion strategy by taking a close look at your referrers.

The search terms that were used in the various searches are yet another intriguing fact about the referrers. This statistic gives you an idea of what website visitors are looking for. With the help of this data, you can determine if the people who are using your specific product or service are the right kind of people.

Finally, there is technical data about your visitors. What sort of browser and which OS (Windows, Mac, or Linux) are they using? What resolution do they use for the screen? To meet the needs of the vast majority of your visitors, you must ensure that your website can display properly.

Numerous log analysis software programs can be used to obtain this information, and some trackers that you can add to your website (such as also provide some of it. The best way to get the full picture, however, is to analyze the logs because trackers frequently only provide information about one page (where the tracker has been pasted in). You might be able to improve your website’s profitability and success by gathering and comprehending this data, understanding it, and making changes to your site accordingly.

© All rights reserved. 2002. Copyright Donald Nelson.

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