Web Hosting Tips for Webmasters -
Understanding Web Logs; And Why it Matters
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Understanding Web Logs; And Why it Matters
By Sharon 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
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 other
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
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
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
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 in purchasing.
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.
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?
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll
http://www.feedforall.com software for creating, editing,
publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages
marketing for NotePage http://www.notepage.net a wireless text
messaging software company.