Web analysis tools
Friday, January 14, 2005 16:32
Web analysis tools provide valuable data on your site traffic and usage, which in turn can help you to improve your site and your online marketing activity. They can answer a wealth of questions, such as:
- Which sites referred users to your website?
- Which search engines are producing the most traffic for your site?
- How many repeat visitors does your website attract?
- What path do users take when navigating through your site?
- Which parts of your site do users exit from frequently?
Most packages use either a website’s log files or they record information with a small piece of code placed on each page of a website.
There is a wide range of packages available, differing greatly in price and functionality. We have summarised some of the most popular options below:
i) The Free Options
Webalizer is a simple log file analysis tool that you can load onto your web server and use to view your website statistics online. It provides yearly, monthly or daily summary information on usage, referrals and search engines and keywords.
AWStats is a more advanced log file analyser which is developed by the ‘open source’ community. It provides complete lists of referrers and keywords and also includes good information about the browsers, screen sizes and operating systems that are being used to view a site. Its main limitations are that it can be quite difficult to install and it does not provide the facility to export data to a spreadsheet format.
ii) Hosted Analysis Packages
Hosted analysis tools display your statistics on a secure website and providers charge a monthly fee for their service, meaning you can get started without a large initial expense. To set a package up, most require a small piece of code to be placed on every page of your site, which tends to be very simple to do.
The majority place ‘cookies’ on your visitor’s computer to measure unique visits and browsing patterns. However caching, dynamically generated pages, frames and firewalls can often disrupt this process, meaning that the statistics they provide may not be totally accurate in terms of volume, but are still useful for measuring trends over time.
These commercial tools provide more detailed information than the free tools and allow you to create reports based on custom date ranges and export reports to spreadsheet files, which can be very useful in many business settings.
Some of the most popular tools for small and medium sized business are LiveStats.net ($49 per month), HitBox Professional ($35) and WebTrends 7 ($35). Click Tracks ($49) is a slightly different package that allows you to view statistics superimposed on different sections of your website, making it easier to visualise behaviour.
iii) Standalone Packages
Most of the main commercial providers also offer a ‘stand alone software’ version of their packages that you can use on your own computer. There is a high up front cost to this type of solution and they tend to use a website’s log-files so can be more complex to set up. However this can be more appropriate if you work with a number of different websites or are certain you want use a tool in the long run as there is only a one-time fee and the software provides faster performance.
Most commercial packages offer a demo version or a free trial that you can test by running through the scenarios you are most likely to face before you buy.
In many cases your hosting company will provide statistics through a favoured package, depending on the fees paid or the depth of data required. If you’re not sure what statistics are available for your site, or how to make the most of your log files to develop your site, please contact us for more details of how we can help.
This article was written by the web search workshop, a search engine optimisation and marketing consultancy for UK business websites. Contact us today for a free assessment of your website.