Once you get your web site up and running, you might want to know how many people are visiting your site each day and how they are appreciating it. The majority of web hosts can help you gain access to this information (as well as a lot more) in the form of web statistics.
As you might already know, all the visits to your site are logged by the server software. Log files will contain information about the visitor’s origin (their IP address), the browser’s type, the pages that they viewed, how long they stayed, whether they came from a search engine or not, and if they did, what keywords they used to locate the site. All this information is potentially very useful.
The only problem is that raw log files are scary to look at as they can be difficult to decipher. They tend to look like long lists of numbers and cryptic words that can only reveal their secrets with the help of a statistics program. A few statistics programs are available, and you can choose from them. They take the raw server logs and parse them into readable (and sometimes colourful) charts that are a lot easier to interpret.
As part of their hosting package, most web hosts will include a stats program. This program should be available for you to access through the control panel which you use to modify certain settings on your account. Some of the popular web stat programs include AWStats, Analog, and WebAlizer. All these programs are absolutely free.
Statistics programs tend to divide the information of the log files into several useful categories. A summary of the data might be included at the top of the readout and provide you with information such as ‘unique visitors’, ‘number of hits’, and ‘number of pages’.
However, not all the information is important. For instance, the number of hits, will simply count the total number of requests for any individual part of your site, which includes graphics, script files and any other files that could be part of the page. If you have 4 pictures on your home page and 2 other files, the hit count will be increased by 7 each time someone views the page.
The amount of page views is quite important because it will tell you which pages are most popular. This will allow you to tweak your site by dropping or modifying unpopular pages and making sure that all the popular pages link to areas that you want to promote the most.
Popular entry and exit pages are also worth fine-tuning. As visitors will not always arrive at your site through the home page, especially if they’ve found your site through a search engine, you must ensure that popular entry pages contain relevant information and you must also adjust the exit pages in order to make them more appealing. Exit pages should be seen as a last chance for your visitor to buy or bookmark your site for coming back to later.
The referring sites will show you where your visitors came from. If they found you from a search engine, you will then see which keywords they used to find your site. This will be a good indicator for you to better optimize your site with the right keywords. You can also then design new content, which will be based on these keywords in order to attract even more visitors in the future.
Rather than rely on your server’s statistics, you will be able to hire a third party service in order to better monitor your web site. These services can vary, ranging from basic ‘counter’ that usually offer less information than your server does, to comprehensive client-side statistics collection.
Statistics services can be of great use to you if you are looking for more precise information about visitors. For instance, visitors from a large company may all appear to be identical due to the fact that they all have the same IP address. Statistics services can break down IP addresses into individual users.
If you are looking for more precise monitoring and niche targeting, then these services can be quite useful to you. However, the majority of site owners will find sufficient useful information in their server’s statistics.
J. M. Stevens is contributing editor at WebDesignArticles.net. This article may be reproduced provided that its complete content, links and author byline are kept intact and unchanged. No additional links permitted. Hyperlinks and/or URLs must remain both human clickable and search engine spiderable.