Wednesday, March 05, 2003

What's REALLY Happening on Your Website?
by: Barry Harrison

Your Website offers your business a unique benefit you may not
be aware of -- valuable information about your visitors is captured
in the site log files. If you know how to interpret this data, you
can use it to improve your visitors' experience, build site traffic
and increase sales.

Log files are the main source of data on visitor behavior. Every
time someone comes to your site, the log file (on your host's
server) records information like the keywords they used, the
pages they visited and how long they stayed.

Even a small site generates a huge amount of data. You need a
tool to analyze and present it in a way that makes sense. Some
Web hosting companies offer a log analyzer as part of their
hosting package, so be sure to check with your host. WebTrends
[] and Urchin
[] are two of the best and most widely used Web
analytical tools.

More than any single statistic about your site, watching the
trends and "before and after" measurements are key. Let's say
you identify a problem with the site navigation or you've modified
the copy on your home page-- your log file measures the results
of any changes you make.

To get the most out of your logs you'll want to understand the
following terms:

1. Unique Visits
A visit to your site by one person (no matter how long they stay
or how many pages they view) is considered a unique visit. If they
leave and return, that counts as another visit. On a typical site
almost half of all visitor sessions are caused by "spiders" or
robots, so you need a tool with advanced visitor tracking to filter
them out.

2. Hits
Often misunderstood, a hit is a request made to the Web server.
For example, if you go to a Web page that contains ten graphics
files, you make 11 hits on the server: one for the page, and ten
for the graphics on the page. Unique visits are a much better
measure of site activity than hits.

3. Page Views
Another good measure of site activity, it's the number of HTML
pages served. If your visitor goes to ten pages on your site, ten
page views are generated. You will want to compare page views
from week to week, and month to month to see significant

4. Average Page Views per Visit
Think of this as the "depth" of each visit. Most visitors to your
site will only see a single page (generally your home page)
before they click on to the next site. This is normal. Web users
are goal oriented. They scan pages to see if they contain or link
to information they want. If they don't think they're on the right
track they'll abandon the site. But visitors who view multiple
pages are clearly interested. The challenge is to convert them
from browsers to buyers.

5. Most (and Least) Popular Pages
Which pages do your visitors request most (and least)?
Monitoring these stats identifies usability and navigation
problems on your site. If visitors are not clicking through to a
page that's important to your business you can address the
problem (by modifying the navigation or the position of a link,
for example) and then measure the result of the changes.

6. Referring pages
Each time someone visits your site, their browser sends a
"referrer" which allows you to track where they came from.
This is important because it tells you who links to your site
and what search engines visitors use to find your site. It
allows you to track the effectiveness of promotion and
advertising. Referring sites may also contribute to your traffic
by increasing your link popularity rating with Search Engines.

7. Top Keywords and Phrases
Pay close attention to the keywords and phrases that are
(and aren't but should be) included in your site statistics.
These are the words people are actually using to find your
site. This information will not only help you better serve and
sell to your audience, it can also lead to higher Search
Engine rankings.

Web logs contain valuable information about your site. By
understanding the general trends and the specific activity
that's taking place, you can make better business decisions.
Web log analysis allows you to determine what's working --
and what's not. And that's a huge benefit for any business.

Barry Harrison, author of "REDiTIPS eMarketing Newsletter"
is a partner in
Resolve Digital, Web Strategies for the Real World.
Visit his site at


Post a Comment

<< Home