Understanding your Web Statistics
SBD provides a powerful analysis tool free with every website we host. By adding /stats/ to the end of your domain name (e.g. http://www.yourdomain.com/stats/), you can view your site statistics (you’ll have to put in your username and password first). We use a program, Webalizer (also check out the Webaliser Quick Help), on the server hosting your website to analyse the traffic flowing to and from your site every night at midnight. It then displays the results on your browser window.
But how do you read those results and what do they mean?
The most crucial thing to know about your site is whether people are visiting it or not. You would think that that is a pretty straightforward request. But it is not as simple a question as it seems. Because your browser can’t tell you exactly who visited your site, it does the next best thing and tells you about the location of the visitor and what kind of request that location made to your host server. These requests are stored in a log and Webilizer reads that log and organises its results by the different requests made to your server.
So the easiest way to read your statistics and understand them is to know what the different requests mean. You will find that when you understand this short set of basic terms, your statistics will help you determine the effectiveness of your website and recognise trends. This information can help you make strategic upgrades to your site or decide what pages to leave unchanged because they are so effective.
Below is a list of terms and their definitions. These are the column titles and chart headers you will see when arrive at your statistics page. If you choose to look at the statistics for any given month, you will find a more detailed analysis, but these basic terms of reference will remain the same.
Below: An example of the Webalizer interface. Each catagory is explained below.
Any request made to the server which is logged, is considered a ‘hit’.
The requests can be for anything… html pages, graphic images, audio files, CGI scripts, etc… Each valid line in the server log is counted as a hit. This number represents the total number of requests that were made to the server during the specified report period.
Some requests made to the server, require that the server then send something back to the requesting client, such as a html page or graphic image. When this happens, it is considered a ‘file’ and the files total is incremented. The relationship between ‘hits’ and ‘files’ can be thought of as ‘incoming requests’ and ‘outgoing responses’.
Pages are, well, pages! Generally, any HTML document, or anything that generates an HTML document, would be considered a page. This does not include the other stuff that goes into a document, such as graphic images, audio clips, etc… This number represents the number of ‘pages’ requested only, and does not include the other ‘stuff’ that is in the page. What actually constitutes a ‘page’ can vary from server to server. The default action is to treat anything with the extension htm, html, php, phtml, shtml or .cgi as a page.
Each request made to the server comes from a unique ‘site’, which can be referenced by a name or ultimately, an IP address. The ‘sites’ number shows how many unique IP addresses made requests to the server during the reporting time period. This DOES NOT mean the number of unique individual users (real people) that visited, which is impossible to determine using just logs and the HTTP protocol (however, this number might be about as close as you will get).
Whenever a request is made to the server from a given IP address (site), the amount of time since a previous request by the address is calculated (if any). If the time difference is greater than a pre-configured ‘visit timeout’ value (or has never made a request before), it is considered a ‘new visit’, and this total is incremented (both for the site, and the IP address). The default timeout value is 30 minutes (can be changed), so if a user visits your site at 1:00 in the afternoon, and then returns at 3:00, two visits would be registered.
The Kbytes (kilobytes) value shows the amount of data, in KB, that was sent out by the server during the specified reporting period. This value is generated directly from the log file, so it is up to the web server to produce accurate numbers in the logs. In general, this should be a fairly accurate representation of the amount of outgoing traffic the server had, regardless of the web servers reporting quirks.
Note: A kilobyte is 1024 bytes, not 1000
Top Entry and Exit Pages
The Top Entry and Exit tables give a rough estimate of what URL’s are used to enter your site, and what the last pages viewed are. Because of limitations in the HTTP protocol, log rotations, etc… this number should be considered a good “rough guess” of the actual numbers, however will give a good indication of the overall trend in where users come into, and exit, your site.
Getting Even More from your Web Stats with NetTracker
What you’ve read so far has covered the basic information about how the data collected by server logs is translated into useful information to help you understand how much traffic your website is getting. However, we’ve really only scratched the surface at this point – There’s a lot more to be gained from your web statistics to help market your website, understand where your visitors are coming from and how to attract more visitors.
SBD now offers a comprehensive tool to help you do just that. Available for $15 per month in addition to your hosting package, NetTracker empowers you to manage your website’s success through investigative web analysis. Track individual visitors, chart curent trends, analyze how much time visitors spend browsing your website, how many pages they visit, and much more – NetTracker lets you fully understand who is coming to your website, how long they’re staying and where they’re going, enabling you to market your site and drive the traffic you want to it.
Contact us for details on this exciting product.