By S. Housley
General web statistics give pertinent
information about website visitors. Webmasters
analyzing these statistics have a better understanding
of who their website visitors are and how they
perceive the website. A lot can be learned by
evaluating navigation patterns, most-viewed
pages and exit pages. Deciphering web logs could
easily become a full-time job. The information
that can be gleaned from close log scrutiny
is extremely valuable.
When a visitor comes to a website,
the site has just a few seconds to grab the
visitor's interest. Slow-loading pages or broken
graphics will send visitors and potential customers
looking elsewhere. In order to make sense of
web statistics, consider using a log analysis
program. These programs tend to format the information
in an easy-to-understand way, often providing
graphs or visual representations that make understanding
and seeing patterns that much easier. The downside
to using software for web log analysis is that
webmasters can easily be confused about what
the actual results mean and which results matter
the most. The information contained in the log
file should be analyzed in conjunction with
Let's take a look at some of the
critical areas. How many unique visitors visit
the site each day? This statistic, by itself,
is not terribly important, but when compared
to a previous week's or month's logs, patterns
will generally emerge. Sudden declines in site
visitors might be indicative of downtime or
dropped links, while sudden increases might
be indicative of a successful ad campaign or
improved search engine ranking. This assumption
can only be made if sales for the corresponding
time period have increased as well. Traffic
alone is not the goal; qualified website traffic
that converts a visitor into a buyer is generally
the goal of most webmasters. Web statistics
on their own do not always paint a true picture.
Webmasters need to use logs to validate advertising
campaigns and track where traffic is coming
from. While details in a log file alone are
not conclusive proof of an ad campaign’s success
or failure, general assumptions can be made
based on the patterns. General statistics will
help determine who your visitors are and what
habits they have.
Specific areas to take a close look at:
How long are users staying on the website
or a specific page?
This question addresses a website's "stickiness".
Stickiness gives webmasters an indication of
how important their content is. If users return
on a regular basis or remain on a specific page
for an extended period of time, generally the
content is considered valuable.
Site entry pages?
What pages in a website are visitors coming
into? Is a specific page on the site drawing
an unusually high amount of traffic? Do users
come back to the website? Is there a reason
for a visitor to come back to the website? Generally,
content that is refreshed often will attract
return visitors. What specific areas on the
site are of interest to web visitors, and can
those content sections be expanded to increase
the overall value of the website?
Site exit pages?
What pages in a website are visitors leaving
from? If a specific page has a large number
of visitors leaving the site, perhaps the content
needs updating. It is critical that you consider
the source of the traffic. Are visitors coming
to the website through a pay-per-click campaign
with a landing page that does not relate to
the initial search terms? Directing visitors
to content-specific landing pages will help
reduce quick site exits.
Who is making the referral?
What kind of website is sending traffic to your
website? Assumptions can be made based on the
quality of the referral source. Let’s face
it, if a crack site is the leading referral
generator to a software site, it is unlikely
that the bulk of visitors will be interested
Are visitors attempting to access pages
on your website that are no longer active? Be
sure to check logs for any pages or graphics
that are generating errors for visitors.
Number of unique visitors?
Don't get too hung up on the number of "hits"
a website has, as this can be interpreted differently.
Sometimes logs interpret graphic access as a
hit. A more accurate reflection of traffic can
be seen by tracking unique visitors.
There are a number of inexpensive
yet quality log analysis applications available
for download from:
By evaluating web logs webmasters can continuously
improve their site and measure their success.
Online or off, tracking results is critical
to achieving success. If you don't track, you
don't know what works. How can you improve what
you don't measure?