How to Analyze Your Web Site Traffic (Part 2 of a 3 Part Series) Copyright 2002 by Herman Drost
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the different terms used to describe web site traffic language.
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 page designer has ability to seed base number or to alter counter such that it adds more than 1 each time.
2. Trackers – tracking software details 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 number of visitors -- it can break visitor statistics down by date, time, browser, page viewed, referrer, and countless other values.
Examples: Hitbox (http://www.hitbox.com) Sitemeter (http://www.sitemeter.com) Extreme-DM (http://www.extreme-dm.com)
Counters and Trackers often require you to place a button or graphic on your site in exchange for 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 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 primary ones.
Here is a sample of a raw access log file entry:
Access log Analyzing access log will give you information about who visited your site, which pages they visited, and how long they stayed on site. This is useful information in determining whether or not your site is working as you intend. The record below shows visitor's IP number or hostname, date and time of request, command received from client, status code returned, size of document transferred, and browser and operating system visitor was using.