Friday, December 09, 2005

Analyzing Your Server Logs

Your web logs are an important source of marketing information.

Looking at raw log data is meaningless unless you are a technical geek. However, most hosting companies provide free online log analysis using software such as Webalizer or Analog. Check your hosting provider’s help pages for information describing how you can access your log information.

Web site logs provide a lot of information about what’s happening on your web site. Let’s take a look at a few of the more important items:

The first thing you’ll see is an overview of the activity on your web site. The following is typical:

Monthly Statistics for November
Total Hits1283748
Total Files995728
Total Pages182778
Total Visits59002
Total KBytes11670808
Total Unique Visitors34098
Total Unique Referrers4149

Avg Max
Hits per Hour177613453
Hits per Day4279168512
Files per Day3319055594
Pages per Day60928173
Unique Visits per Day11372438
KBytes per Day389026942717

Here is what each line means:

Total Hits: A “hit” is recorded any time a file of any type is requested. For example, if a web page includes three images, a hit will be counted when the web page is requested. An additional three hits will be counted as the three images are requested. Thus when a visitor looks at that page, four hits are counted.

Total Files: This records the number of files that are successfully downloaded. If everythere were perfect, the “Total Files” would equal the “Total Hits”—every file that was requested would be successfully downloaded. But in reality everything does not work perfectly and the “Total Files” will always be less than the “Total Hits”.

Total Pages: This shows the total number of complete web pages that were accessed.

Total Visits: A visitor will typically look at several pages on the web site. The web server keeps track of visitors and only counts them once, even if they leave the web site and return a few minutes later. However, if they leave and do not return for a day or two, that second visitor will typically be counted as a new visit. An interesting metric is to track the number of pages per visit (Total Pages/Total Visits). The larger this number, the better, because it means visitors are staying on your site and looking at more pages.

Total Kbytes: The total number of kilobytes downloaded from the web site.

Total Unique Visitors: The web server attempts to identify people who visit the web site, leave and then return again, so that each person is counted only once. Although not entirely accurate, this is probably one of the more important data points. It gives you a rough idea of home many people visit your web site.

Total Unique Referrers: This number shows you the number of pages that could be identified as having a link to your web site which people clicked on to go to a page on your web site. This number includes pages within the web site itself, so looking at what’s behind this number is important. We’ll talk about that in a future post.

Per Day Data: The “Per Day” day breaks down the above information so you can see both the average and maximum numbers. You usually can see the specific daily numbers, if you wish to see daily trends.


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