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What To Make Of It A Guide To The Analysis Of Your Web Log
By: Heather Maloney

Every time someone visits your website the web server starts tracking the activities of that visitor in what is called the 'web log'. If understood, the web log can provide valuable information about the popularity and reach of your website, and much more, as we will explore below.

Be aware; the contents of the web log will not be 100% accurate so rather than using it as measure by which you pay your staff, for instance, you should use it as a guide and for identifying trends. To be able to get valid trend information, as with all statistical analysis, the longer the time period and greater the volume of information, the more useful the statistics will be.

One more thing to draw to your attention before we get started: you will need a reliable web log analysis tool in order to be able to discover the information I am about to take you through. The web log itself is just a large text file full of lines of data that describe a visitor?s steps through a site. Making sense of those thousands and thousands of lines of text requires a tool to sort the data, collate and present it to you in a useful format.

I recently conducted a review of a number of tools, and found 'Absolute Log Analyzer' from B1tStr1ke software to have the right mix of functionality, usability and value for money.

** Visits vs Hits **

The first thing you are likely to see when you are navigating through the results in your web log analysis tool is that you have hundreds or thousands of hits to your site in any given day or month. Woohoo!!! You didn?t realise how popular it was, right? The key thing here is that a hit is recorded every time an image, page or other page element is required from the web server in order to display the page to a visitor. If your home page contains 13 different elements, every time a visitor goes to that page, it will add another 13 hits to your hit count! Important tip: it is the number of Visits that tells you how many visitors you?ve had in a particular time period, not the number of Hits.

** Unique Visitors **

Clearly the number of visits may be made up of the one person visiting your site multiple times per day, it may consist of entirely unique visitors, or more likely, a combination of both. The better web log analysis tools enable you to see how many unique visitors there were to your site over a given timeframe.

If you view the number of unique visitors over a longer period of time, you can start to get a feel for your success in improving the reach of your website over time, and whether the number of visitors has stagnated.

Unique visitors must certainly only be used as a guide; if a person visits your website from home and from work, they will most probably be viewed as two different visitors. On the other hand, if a large company has many different people, from the same location, visiting your site, chances are they will all be recorded as one unique visitor.

** Return Visitors **

Another way of looking at the Unique Visitors vs. Total Visitors statistics is as a measure of your efforts to get visitors to come back again and again to your site; perhaps to obtain more information about your services or to order additional products. Where building repeat business or building community is part of your strategy, this is a very important measure.

** Pathway through your Website **

Some of the more sophisticated web log analysis tools provide you with a list of the top 10 or more pathways used to navigate through your site. This information can help you to determine whether your navigation provides quick access to the most commonly required pages, or whether your visitors have to wade through multiple links in order to find what they are looking for.

** Search Terms Used **

Details of the words or phrases used in a Search Engine which then lead a visitor to your site are very important assistance in driving more traffic to you site. If you have optimized your site for key words or phrases that aren?t being used, then it may be time to update your optimisation to more relevant search terms.

** Geographical Location **

If your web log analysis tool provides you with geographic information about the visitors, it can be used as input to business questions such as:

1. What languages should I offer on my website?
2. How is my marketing activity to those locations performing?
3. Should my content be modified to meet the needs of the visitors?
4. Do I need to undertake further marketing to broaden the reach of my website?

** Marketing Activity **

One of the key uses for web log analysis is as a measure of the success of your marketing activities. Whenever you have executed a particular marketing activity that interfaces with your website, you should check for peaks in the visits to your website, particularly on pages that are relevant to the marketing activity, to assist you to determine its success.

Important Tip: to be able to measure the success of a marketing activity clearly requires that you keep a record of the dates of your various marketing activities, and any URLs associated with the activity.

** Time of Day / Day of Week Peaks **

Another interesting measure is to view the visits to your website by time of day, and day of the week. Depending on the geographical location of the majority of your visitors, you may be able to ascertain whether you are mostly receiving visits outside of business hours or during business hours. This will help you to decide what sort of content to provide, and whether to include music and other elements that may not be so appropriate in the average office environment.

If your visits peak on particular days of the week, then you may consider changing your content on those days with specials or a call to action when you are receiving the most hits.

Conclusion

This is just a brief introduction to the ways in which you can utilise your website statistics. The careful analysis of your web traffic statistics is an important tool for improving the effectiveness of your website:

- improve the usability of your website
- provide more relevant content
- fine tune your marketing strategies and grow your business or online community
- find additional opportunities to meet the needs of your visitors

If you would like assistance in carrying out analysis of your web log, or improving the reach of your website, we would like to hear from you at Contact Point (www.ContactPoint.com.au).

Heather Maloney
Copyright Contact Point IT Services
Heather Maloney has a Masters in Technology (Internet) and is the Director of Contact Point, providing technology solutions for businesses since 1996. Heather has also project managed a broad range of IT projects for a wide range of businesses from small in size, through to multinational companies.

 


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