Understanding your Web site's traffic patterns is a crucial component of your marketing mix. The information in these logs is collected as visitors find and move around your site at their own volition. So, it's "market research that cannot lie" - and therefore provides unprecedented insights that can help you to strategize not only for future development of site itself, but also for your overall business and marketing plan.
I'll describe most important sections of log report when analyzing your site's marketing effectiveness. Often, deciding what's right and what's a problem is a gut feel that you'll develop by looking at your log reports over a period of weeks or months, by trying some new tactics, and observing trends and results.
This introductory section shows overall traffic to site, including number of actual visitors, as opposed to "hits". This is an important distinction - one hit is generated for every page and every individual image that a visitor requests (e.g. a page with some text and five pictures will take six hits to download). So, ratio of hits to individual visitors can be quite high.
By way, it's also important for you to appreciate this distinction if you are selling advertising space on your site. You may be asked by a potential advertiser to prove your traffic levels, and if you happily say "millions of hits", they may look suspicious!
This section also shows average time spent on site, which should give some indication as to how engaging it is. If your site is rich in content, but time spent on it is relatively low, it may not be meeting needs of visitors it is attracting, or it may be targeted at wrong audience.
I had a client who earlier this year placed #1 in some major search engines. He was ecstatic! But his site had not been worked on for some time, and was very dry and boring. We discovered from his logs that average time spent on his site was less than two minutes - obviously indicating a problem. And to make my point again, without this evidence from logs, he would have continued to believe that his site was successful.
Most and Least Requested Pages
The most requested pages are a great barometer of "hot" areas of your site, and thus most popular aspects of your online products or services. These may be different from your original expectations, and so this information can be very valuable for overall business development decisions.
If least requested pages (i.e. ones that attract fewest visitors) contain important content, then something's wrong. Usually, it's either that their content is not interesting to your markets after all, or that site is not driving your traffic to these pages in ways that are attractive.
Top Entry and Exit Pages
If inside pages of your site are well promoted in search engines, there should be a number of top entry pages (i.e. first page that visitor sees), in addition to home page. This is a good reminder to include clear navigation back to other areas of site from every page, to ensure that first-time visitor gets a complete picture of your offerings.
The top exit pages are also an indication of your site's effectiveness - if these are not right places for most visitors to leave from, some adjustments are needed. Make sure that every page of your site has an objective, and that you clearly direct visitor to next page or to action that you wish them to take.
Single Access Pages
These are pages that a visitor views, and leaves without exploring any further. Typically, this will be home page, and I am often asked whether this is an issue. I usually give standard consultant's answer: "It depends . . ."
Your home page should quickly show different audiences for your site that they've come to right place for what they want, and where to go to find it. So you might have sections for members, prospective members, journalists, consumers, etc. The home page should do enough to engage them, and send them on to appropriate inside pages.