How to Read Web Stats

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Wednesday, 29 February 2012 20:15

How (and Why) to Read Your Web Statistics

Although many business website owners are aware that they have access to a variety of statistics and analytics about their website, some of us have no idea how to access them or how to interpret them once they do. This article will explain how to do both. Since proper analysis of web statistics can contribute to the success of your business, all website owners should give some attention to reviewing theirs.

Traditionally, the main types of programs used to create website statistics were log analyzers that process the information in the web servers' log files. These log files are created automatically by your web server. When pages on your website are viewed, they (along with all other files associated with those pages, such as images or linked documents) are recorded in the log files as hits. A hit is defined as a connection made from a web browser (the person viewing your site) to the web server (your site). Each record, or hit, stores the visitor’s IP address, the page, and the page that referred them, along with a variety of other details. Then, when the log analyzer program runs it uses those files to create reports for you to view. The technology of generating analytics is becoming more sophisticated all the time but these same basic principles still apply.

How Do I View My Statistics

This is easy, simply contact your hosting provider and they will give you a link and a login that will allow you to access all the statistics associated with your website.

Tracking Your Visitors

Tracking the visitors to your site is an essential part of any business. Simply knowing how many visitors you get is not really enough. You probably want to know more about these visitors and their behavior, such as:

General Statistics

All web analytics packages have similar basic features that can give you a lot of valuable information. These general statistics can give you insight into your visitors’ habits and behavior. They can also help you fine-tune your site and help you make smart decisions about advertising. The following are the basic statistics tracked and what they mean:

Site Tuning

The page counts, entry page and exit page reports tell you where your visitors are going on your site. By knowing their viewing patterns you can fine tune your site. If, for example, you find that most of your visitors are entering on page x and leaving on the same page, then you can safely assume that page x needs some enhancements to keep the attention of your visitors. Furthermore, if you are trying to get visitors to go to your "close the sale" page, but see that many visitors are actually not getting there, you can modify your site to encourage more of your visitors to click to that page.

Referrers and Search Phrases

By looking at the Referrers and Search Phrases, you can see what people are actually looking for when they come across your site. This may be much different than what you expected. Here is an example that I borrowed to illustrate the point. Let’s say that you have a site that sells RoboMaid 3000, the robot that can clean your house for you. Now, you might have decided to put a lot of advertising dollars into the search phrase "walking robots," and you also placed your banner ads on other robotics sites all over the Internet. But, after checking your stats, you realize that visitors to your site were actually searching for "robotic house cleaner.” By knowing these search preferences, you can change your focus to different keywords and place your banner ads on more targeted sites such as home cleaning sites.

In conclusion, basic website statistics are not only readily available but are also a good source of useful information that, with a minimal amount of study, can be used effectively to improve the performance of any website. In an upcoming article, I’ll discuss some of the more advanced statistics and how those too can be used to your advantage.

~ Steve Barnes