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Web Traffic Analytics, Redundancy, Analytics, and You

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So, you've got a web site, right? Of course you do! You're reading this article. All day long it sits on a server, sending what you told it to people you'll never meet. Who are they? Where are they come from? How do they get there? What do they do while they're there? When are they doing it? Where do they go? In the paragraphs that follow, I'll help you find more than you ever wanted to know about your web site between the various tools on the market.

The Webalizer
The Webalizer is by far the most common statistics software found in Linux web hosting environments, so we'll start here to lay down the most common features. Webalizer shows its users the total number of hits, files, pageviews, unique visitors, and unique locations in monthly, daily, and hourly graphs and tables.

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Webalizer then keeps running monthly totals for error codes, URL's accessed, entry pages, exit pages, unique sites, referrers, web browsers, and search strings used to reach the web site - also providing a "top 10" to "top 30" representation of each angle in a text format. Finally, Webalizer peaks your international awareness by display of a table and pie chart of your visitor's nation of origin; although this tool is not always completely reliable as the nation of origin is frequently unresolved.

Advanced Web Statistics (a.k.a. AW Stats)
AW Stats is another fairly popular host-based tool; although a bit less common due to the heavy system resources required by the web server to generate its far more elaborate statistics. Stats generated by AW Stats are far more colorful, graphical, and easier to follow; with common browsers, search engines, and spiders names translated to plain language.

AW Stats adds functionality where Webalizer leaves off by providing the duration visitors spend on each page, summation of the types of files sent out, and fully expandable lists of all values instead of 'top 10s'. In my own experience, when run alongside Webalizer, AW Stats has a tendency to recognize significantly more search strings.

Analog 6.0 Statistics
Analog is another host-based option with a very pure "hands on" look and feel, and a simple layout delivering a lot of raw data. Although it produces less interpreted and really less overall information than AWStats, it provides a very useful array of visual aids through pie charts for all the important numbers, unseen in other tools, and a very nice angle to have on your site.

Google Analytics (formerly Urchin)
When I sat down to write this article, I'd placed a lot of intent on reviewing Urchin in my comparisons (a comparable tool to AW Stats that's remotely hosted and updated through JavaScript). After going to get the latest version to track down information, I was devastated to find that Google has stopped making Urchin available outside of exclusive invites, and apparently intends to release something for free by this new name eventually. All I can say is - keep an eye out for this, it's got potential to be pretty neat.

ClickTracks is a very unique tool that any webmaster can install themselves using either a host's raw log files or JavaScript to pull needed information. ClickTracks provides one simple but valuable piece of information - the paths your visitors are clicking through. When used, a ClickTracks report appears as on overlay on your website, placing graphs next to each link - and starting from the referring page, shows you statistically the paths that visitors from each referring site took through your web site.

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NetTracker is a pricey solution, but fairly popular amongst internet marketers. Although I've not pursued it beyond the free trial, I know enough to outline a few perks. Above all else, the product is backed by both marketing and IT professionals - giving this solution the credentials necessary for enterprise level usage. Although I was unable to find any powerfully unique features in the NetTracker trial - the company behind the software is willing to customize its solution to meet whatever feasible needs would still not be met by any options above, so if you're looking for something still not mentioned, this could be the place to look.

Conclusively, these are only a few examples in the vastness of traffic analytics, but collectively, this list does well to cover all bases with a minimal amount of redundancy. It's possible that one of these tools will meet your needs alone, a certain combination, or even all of them, but whatever the case choose wisely - and you will have the power to shape your web site as it needs to be.

About the Author: Corey Northcutt works with Ubiquity Hosting Solutions, where he derives direct analytics experience through providing AWStats web hosting, Webalizer, Analog, raw logfiles, and other analytical tools to supported hosting clients.

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May. 11, ISSUE #230
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