Measure web site traffic

Analyzing data can help you refine your web site to reach your target audience.

Web analysis gives you an inside view of the activites of your users.


It’s difficult to gauge your site’s effectiveness because you don’t know who is visiting the site or which pages they are visiting.


Utilize software to analyze the log files maintained by your web site.


Each time someone visits your web site, a log file collects information about the visitor and how he or she uses your site. For example, your web server stores data about which pages the visitor viewed (along with which files – such as text files and image files – were called up to construct the page) and the page from which the visitor was referred (such as an external link from another site or search engine, or an internal link from within your own web site). A log file also contains personal information about each visitor, from his or her IP address and the browser and platform he or she uses to the date and time of his or her visit. In addition to log files, web servers can collect data using page tags, network packets, or cookies.

Analyzing Data to Identify Patterns

When properly analyzed, the data your web server collects can be answer a number of questions, including:

  • How many people visit our web site each day?
  • How long do people stay on our site?
  • How many return visitors do we have to our site?
  • Which times of the day or days of the week do the most visitors use our site?
  • Which of our site’s pages are most frequently viewed?
  • How do people find out about our site (from which sites are they referred)?
  • What kinds of computers and browsers do our visitors use?
  • Are there common patterns of navigation through our site?
  • Which pages have errors?
  • Which pages are slow to load?

Analyzing your server’s logs involves combing through volumes of data; as such, the information can’t be directly cross-referenced with the learning of individual users. In order to measure individual learning, it’s necessary to implement surveys.

Methods of Data Log Analysis

Generally speaking, there are two approaches to analyzing the data your web server collects: running software on your web server and using an outside service to analyze the data. If you have a considerable investment in hardware and software, along with the staff to support its maintenance, licensing and running analysis software on your own server may be the most cost-effective route to take. Outsourcing the data analysis, on the other hand, provides you with a subscription-based service that doesn’t require considerable start-up costs or in-house technical staff.

Using Analysis for Site Evaluation

In studying the results of your log analysis, it’s crucial to understand which data supplies you with information you can use. The most important measures of traffic are “page views,” which is a count of how many and which pages are visited, and “visitor counts,” which is how many individuals visit a page or site. In contrast, the term “hits” is frequently used to describe a measurement of visitors to a website, but what exactly constitutes a “hit”? If your web page has several buttons and images, a “hit” may be recorded every time a text file or image file is accessed. If there are a dozen elements in your web page, a dozen “hits” will be recorded each time the page is loaded for a single viewing.

There are a number of ways that your log analysis can be used to evaluate and increase the effectiveness of your site, including:

  • Ease of navigation – You want to help your visitors quickly find what they are looking for. If you know which pages are viewed most frequently, you can create links on your home page and other landing pages that can direct visitors to that information.
  • Improve dissemination – You want to make sure that your target audience finds your site. Your log analysis will show you how visitors are finding your site. If visitors are not being referred from other sites, you can engage in marketing efforts to drive traffic to your site. You may, for example, email other sites and ask them to link to yours, publish relevant articles with links to your site in blogs or other public forums, or judiciously develop descriptive page titles that include the keywords people may be searching for. For example, adding the page heading, “Why are egg yolks yellow?” may draw more visitors to a page about carotenoids in egg yolks.
  • Understand visitors’ interests – If you utilize an internal search engine, you can analyze what visitors are searching for by looking at their search logs. If visitors frequently search for information that isn’t available on your site, you can incorporate additional content that will meet the needs of your users.
  • Ensure usefulness – The purpose of your site is to educate and assist your visitors. Your log analysis can tell you whether or not your site draws repeat visits and multiple page views (indicators that individuals are spending a lot of time on your site). If not, you have the opportunity to re-evaluate the content of your site and develop a strategy for increasing its usefulness.
  • Streamline content – Your log analysis can tell you which pages receive very few visitors, an indicator that the content isn’t relevant to your users’ needs. You can use that information to modify or remove pages that are infrequently visited.

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