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Web Marketing and Website Traffic Analysis

Web analyticsAmong the best ways to get the very most out of your web marketing is to analyze the traffic that you already have on you website. You need to develop an understanding of who is visiting your website, what they want from your website, and what they’re doing once they’re there. Unless you have this information, it is challenging to improve it in a way that will better meet the expectations of your visitors.

In order to analyze your website traffic, you can choose one or many of the following four techniques:

» A webpage counter
» A statistical package from your ISP
» Web traffic analysis software
» Hire a professional to audit your website traffic

Counters are one of the oldest tools that have been added to websites. They can be visible to your website visitors, or invisible to them so that only you can see. A web counter is a very basic addition to your website that simply registers the number of people who visit any given page on your site. Of course, showing this isn’t exactly the most professional way to run a website. Sure, they’re alright for personal pages, but for a business that is trying to develop a good reputation and make a good impression, this probably isn’t really the way to go.

With the statistical package from your ISP (Internet Service Provider), you’ll be able to have a look at a log of every visit your website has received. This will be available to you in the form of either a webpage or a graphic for your analysis. The information is often registered in raw NCSA combined log file format, which is rather challenging to use for the average user. It is full of complicated coding that must be deciphered for each individual “hit” that your webpage has received. If you know what you’re doing, however, this method does indeed provide you with a good amount of information, such as the way that people are getting to your website (for example, by way of a search engine or a link from another site) and what they are doing at your site once they have arrived. If you are using a good quality ISP, then you will likely have a freeware version of a popular statistical analysis package available to you. There are many good ones from which you can choose, and you’ll find the results very useful. You can have your ISP produce a daily, weekly, monthly (etc) report for you to use. They can either be posted on a webpage for you, or emailed directly into your inbox. You’ll need to contact your ISP to find out exactly what services they offer in this regard.

If that doesn’t work for you, if you want a better detailed report, or if your ISP simply doesn’t provide that service, then you may wish to purchase a web traffic analysis software program. There are tons of these programs available at affordable prices that will provide you with a broad range of analysis options for the traffic you receive on your website. To use these programs, you simply need to download access logs from your ISP using an FTP program. You’ll need to ask your ISP about the directory in which those logs can be found. The software will then parse (interpret) the raw log file information one line at a time to provide you with results in various combinations and formats for your use. Though the more high-end programs can cost over $5 thousand, there are many software packages that are available to us “normal folk” with varying degrees of options and abilities, but at much more affordable prices. You can easily obtain a good quality software package at around $300pm.

So why do you need these stats so badly for your web marketing? The fact of the matter is that they give you a goal for your marketing. They show you:

» Which web pages on your site are most popular
» Which pages on your site are least popular
» Who is visiting your website
» Which browsers they are using to view your website
» Which search engines are sending the most visitors
» Which banner ads are sending you the most visitors
» Where the errors and bad links may exist on your website.

Copyright 2006 Mark Nenadic

Mark Nenadic Mark is the director and face behind FifteenDegrees-North http://www.15dn.com, where you will find articles and resources to help with SEO, marketing and Web design

 

Logfile Analysis vs Page Tagging

We all know we should be using web analytics to analyse web site visitor behaviour and online marketing channel performance. However what type of web analysis should we use? Should you go for log file analysis or page tagging or a bit of both? First of all let’s define what we mean by these terms.

Page tagging involves placing a piece of code usually externalised JavaScript on each page of your site and is sometimes referred to as client-side data collection. Every time a tagged page is opened by a visitor’s browser the script is processed and visitor information collected. Log file analysis refers to data collected by your web server. What’s the difference from a web analytics point of view?

The bad news is that both strategies have their advantages and disadvantages so here goes.

Page Tagging Advantages

• Because data is collected client side this gets around any proxy and caching problems

• Will give you information on web design parameters such as browser versions, platform versions, screen resolution, connection speed etc

• Track client side events such as JavaScript and flash events

Page Tagging Disadvantages

• Firewalls can prevent or interfere with script processing

• Set up costs associated with insertion of code.

• Insertion of code can lead to errors

• Will not pick up page errors such as 404s

• Because robots ignore scripts can not track search engine spiders

• Unable to directly track non html pages

• Vendor Specific

Logfile Analysis Advantages

• Historical Data can be analysed

• Little set up cost

• No firewall issues

• Easily track page errors

• Can track Search Engine spiders

• Vendor Independent

• Can track non html pages such as pdfs

Logfile Disadvantages

• Proxy/caching inaccuracies. If a page is cached no record is logged on your web server

•No web design parameters

• No event tracking

If you are used to looking at web statistics using Web Trends for instance you may see significant differences in visitor numbers. When moving to logfile analysis visitor numbers may increase by 20-30%. If your site is not using persistent cookies your web analytics programme can not identify unique visitors therefore all visitors are lumped together as total. Typically unique visitors represent about 20 -30% of total web site visits so this metric will be inflated by this amount. Sometimes you’ll see a dramatic reduction in site visits. This is usually because web analytics programmes strip out the loading of graphics which are erroneously counted as visits by other programs.

Other differences in visitor numbers are usually due to how programs define a visit. A visit duration of 30 minutes means that multiple visits from the same IP address with-in this time period will be counted as a single visit. Change this parameter to 15 minutes and these visits could be counted several times and your total visits will increase. Finally, when a web browser loads a PDF file is brings down different parts of the file at different time and some programs can count this as multiple requests for the same file. A good web analytics programme will collapse these multiple downloads into a single.

It is important to understand these differences and manage the expectations of your colleagues as surprise drops in web site metrics can sometimes lead to disenchantment with measuring web site performance altogether.

For more information on web analytics speak to us at www.ju2.com and keep an eye on our blog at www.ju2analytics.com

Jim Williams is the Managing Director of Web Strategy Consultancy http://www.ju2.com

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