Keeping Track Of You Website’s Visitor Statistics
By Donald Nelson
When it comes to Internet statistics the most important statistic at the end of the day is how many orders or inquiries did you get. However, your ability to improve your orders and site performance will depend on your understanding of your website’s other underlying traffic statistics. Here are some things to watch out for.
First of all, forget about “hits”. Whenever someone requests a file it is a hit. If you visit a web page, then you are requesting several files all at once: the file for the page and the files for all the graphics on the page. By visiting one page on a site you are registering several hits. “Hits” is a very vague term and doesn’t give you a good picture of what is happening on your site.
A more precise indicator of your traffic, and thus a more useful statistic, is the amount of unique visitors you receive each day. Internet statistics are never precise, but your number of unique visitors will give you a rough idea of how many people visited your website on any given day. Compare this number to the amount of orders or inquiries you get and you can figure out your conversion rate.
Another important Internet statistic to keep you eye on are the referrers. A referrer is the website where a person was visiting prior to landing on your site. Search engines are important referrers, and sites that link to you are other referrers. Compare your referred traffic to total traffic and you will see how many people just typed in your url and how many came after seeing your link in another location.
Knowing where your visitors came from is very important, but it is even better if you can get more details about this kind of traffic. That is why you should also look for the search terms that people used when coming from a search engine. Most trackers or log analysis program will give you the search terms that were used on the referring search engines.
Take a look at these terms and see if you are really getting targeted traffic. If what you consider to be your most important keywords are not high up in the list of search terms that people are actually using to find you, then you have to adjust the content of your website accordingly.
The activity of people on your site is also important. Which pages do they use to enter your site, and from which pages do they leave the site? Which are the pages that are most frequently visited and which pages are least frequently visited? Finally, what is the pattern of the traffic on your site?
Good tracking or analysis programs will tell you the click-path that people take through your site. The click-path is the sequence of consecutive pages that people follow as they go through your site. For example, if your visitors are not ending up on your order page, but following a sequence that leads them out of the site without ordering, you can look at your site again and correct the weak spots.
You can get access to these statistics in a few ways
1. Your hosting provider may have a built in traffic analysis program, such as Awstats and Webalizer. Both programs are excellent and if they are installed on your server you should take advantage of them. Just log into your account and view your statistics online.
2. You can analyze your site’s access logs using programs installed on your computer. I like the OpenWebScope program, available at www.openwebscope.com Get a trial version, analyze your site’s access log and you will end up with a report of visitor activity on your website. A similar program is offered by http://www.sawmill.co.uk/
3. Paste java script tracking code to your pages. Several companies provide java script trackers. Once your tracker is installed, all you have to do is to log onto a site to see your stats. Some of the trackers are free, such as the one at http://extreme-dm.com/tracking. There are also various paid services that offer a similar method of gathering statistics.
4. Google recently bought the Urchin tracking system and now offers a statistics reporting service, free of charge, in their Google Analytics program. Unfortunately, you can only get on the waiting list as the system was heavily oversubscribed in its opening days.
Gather your website statistics using a method that is easy for you and use this data to improve the performance of your website. When you get an idea of who your visitors are, how they are finding your website and which pages they are visiting on your website, you can then make changes and upgrades that will boost your online success.
About the Author: Donald Nelson is a web developer, editor and search engine optimization specialist. He is the proprietor of A1-Optimization, http://www.a1-optimization.com, a firm offering low-cost search engine optimization and website promotion services. He is also the principal editor of the A1-Article Directory, http://www.a1-articledirectory.com.