Web Analytics

Approach Towards Web Analytics Technologies

Most of us know that a comprehensive study of web traffic in a website and visitor behavior is web site analytics. What is the rationale behind this procedure? Well, it is to locate the features of the website that bring in more lucrative business (better conversion)- a major factor in Internet Marketing.

So, how do we collect website statistics and web analytics data? There are two major technologies in vogue:

Log file analysis; and
Page tagging

Log file analysis: Before diving into the principle of Log file analysis, let us understand the term logfile. The practice of recording sequential data is data logging, and a server log are log file/s routinely created and maintained by a server of activity performed by it.

The first technique logfile analysis reads the logfiles where the web server records all its transactions and engagements. This includes people and bots such as Gbot (Googlebot). Web log analysis software, or web log analyzer is software used to parse log files from a web server- the popularity of the website can be assessed. Using this software who, when, and how a web server was visited is recorded. Log file analysis is generally conducted in-house. It involves a one-off software purchase or is sometimes included with web hosting packages that you purchase. Popular Weblog server stats monitoring software includes programs such as Awestats or Webalizer. It is important to note that some vendors are introducing maximum annual page views with additional costs to process additional information.

Advantages of Log file Analysis:

  • Data is already available as the web server systematically creates logfiles;
  • The web server consistently records every transaction it makes;
  • The data is in a standard format since it is on the organization’s own server;
  • Thus the organization can change programs later. A number of different programs can be used and historical data can be analyzed with a new program.
  • Log file analysis helps in search engine optimization, since information on visits from search engine spiders are also recorded;
  • Log files also contains information on failed requests;

Page tagging: JavaScript is used on each page. This is a technique to alert a third-party server when a web browser renders a page. Though page tagging is mostly provided as a third-party service, it can be performed in-house too. This technique is purchased usually on a monthly fee basis. But, some vendors offer page tagging solutions with no additional page view costs that you can install.

Advantages of Page Tagging:

  • There are fewer problems due to caching, since JavaScript automatically runs every time the page is loaded;
  • The remote server can collect additional information like visitors’ screen sizes, or the price of products they bought and can be added to the JavaScript;
  • Moreover, Page tagging can report interactions within Flash movies that do not involve a request to the web server;
  • Cookies can be assigned to visitors;
  • This service is accessible to organizations that do not run their own web servers.

Which Technique Does one Choose?

It depends on the technical expertise within the organization, the amount of activity seen on the web sites, the number of websites needing records and statistics, etc.

Hybrid Techniques:

Nowadays some vendors offer programs that collect data through both logfiles and page tagging. The goals of these techniques are to provide more accurate statistics than can be procured through one technique.

Other methods, though rarely used include sniffing the network traffic passing between the web server and others on the Internet. This is called Packet Sniffing, and is used by large e-commerce sites.

As of Today here are my Favorite Web Analytics Programs:

  1. Mint- For $30/ MONTH this is very easy to use and install. You can even try it before you buy it. http://haveamint.com/about/demo
  2. Google Analytics- Monitoring web analytics with this program is rapidly gaining popularity amongst Adwords users due to its clever integration
  3. Awestats- As mentioned above it is often included for free in your hosting package. It is a good idea to ask hosting providers what sort of web analytics (if any) is provided with your sign up.
  4. Crazy Frog- This is one of my personal favorites because of its visual appeal. I simply love the heat map. You can use this tool to keep an eye on 5,000 visitors per month for free.

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