|October 18, 2003
Understanding Your Website's Traffic Statistics
If you want to know how much traffic is coming to your site, which pages are
bringing the most traffic, where are your visitors coming from, and when is traffic coming
in, you just have to analyze your website's statistics.
Nowadays, most web hosts utilize Webalizer, a powerful program that processes your raw
traffic logs (long, text based files with information about your traffic), and generates
meaninful reports presented in the form of easy to understand graphs and tables.
Other hosts may use different traffic anaylis tools, but they all work and present the
information in a similar fashion.
We'll show you, step by step, how your web site statistics can answer almost any question
you may have about your traffic:
How much traffic is coming to my site?
The two most important parameters are:
a) Number of Visitors
b) Number of Page Views
The Number of Visitors shows you how many users come to your site and
request a page. The visitor can move around your site visiting several pages,
however he will still be counted as only one visitor. An exception to this rule
occurs in the rare occasion when a visitor takes more than half an hour (or the amount of
time set by your host) to click from one page to another, in which case the program will
register two visitors.
The Page Views parameter indicates how many pages have been requested. It
is a very important number because it is indicative of the "stickiness" of your
site. Stickiness is a good thing: if, for example, your statistics show 10 visitors,
but 50 page views, it means that, on average, each visitor has viewed 5 pages. A large
"page views per visitor" ratio usually means that your site is so interesting
and valuable that users are inclined to "stick around" and explore.
Other somehow important parameter, especially if you have bandwidth restrictions, is the Kilobytes
Transmitted. Sites with a lot of pictures, or sites that allow downloads
(reports, ebooks, audio files or video) will incur in significant bandwidth usage. If you
operate a plain HTML site but still show an abnormally high bandwidth usage, you may need
to optimize your images to make them less heavy.
Finally, a less important measure (although it was heavily hyped in the early days of the
web) is the number of Hits. Hits represent the number of files sent to a
user after a page request. If a page has 30 pictures, one sigle visit will trigger 31
hits: thirty for the pictures and one for the page itself.
Through where on my site is traffic coming in?
You may be interested in knowing which pages of your site are bringing in the most
traffic, since not every visitor will come through your home page.
Your traffic statistics will show you a list of the most popular entry pages to your site,
ranked by number of requests. Sometimes, internal pages can bring in more traffic than the
homepage itself. This may happen when a particular internal page is very well optimized and regularly shows up at the top of the
search engine results pages (SERPs), or when it offers such good content that other sites
link directly to it.
You will also find a list of the most common exit pages (the last page your users visited
prior to leaving your site).
How is traffic coming in?
Your traffic statistics will show you a list of referrers. Referrers
are those URLs that lead a user to your site. Referrers are ranked by the number of
hits they produce. That is why the vast majority of referrers will be URLs from your
own site (since HTML pages usually contain embedded links to other objects such as
graphics files, they generate a large number of hits). However, if you filter out your own
pages, you will see what external URLs are bringing in visitors to your pages.
External referrers generally fall into two categories:
- pages that have posted a link to your site, and
- search engine referred traffic.
You will also find an entry in your referrer list named "Direct Request";
it shows you the number of times somebody accessed your pages by either directly typing
your URL in the address bar, by using a bookmark or by following a link on an email
Analyzing your traffic statistics will also tell you what keywords are your visitors using
to find your pages through search engines. This is extremely important since it will tell
you if your selected keywords are working or not. It may also bring to your
attention keywords that you may have not thought about. You may then use those keywords to
further optimize your pages and bring in even more traffic.
When is traffic coming in?
You can also find out when are visitors coming to your site. You will find statistics
by month, by day and even by hour. This can be useful in a variety of circumstances. For
example, if you publish new content, you may want to release it during the moments of more
traffic. Your statistics will help you by identifying the days or hours when more people
are likely to visit your site.
Finally, you will also have access to other interesting data, like the IP addresses of
your visitors, the browsers they are using, and even the countries they are coming from.
Altogether, the information you gather from your website's traffic statistics will provide
you with a wealth of valuable insights, so that you can continuously fine tune your
internet marketing strategy to bring more traffic to your site.
You can freely reprint this article provided that you
include the following resource box:
Mario Sanchez is a Miami based freelance writer who focuses on web design and Internet
marketing topics. He publishes The Internet Digest ( http://www.theinternetdigest.net ), a growing
collection of web design and Internet marketing articles, tips and resources. You
can freely reprint his weekly articles in your website, ezine, or ebook.
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