By Bob Nunn
I promised in my last months article to talk a bit about web site reporting and how instead of just looking at all the impressive 3D graphs, you can actually use the information to make improvements in your site. Of course, your boss will still be impressed by the 3D graphics, but you can also tell them about the improvements.
Do you know what is worse than not having web reporting? Having it and not using it!
All web servers that I know of create logs. They log varying bits of information. Reading a web log directly gives most people a headache and it certainly does me. What you need is a piece of software that digests the logs and gives you back reports. Your ISP may already provide reports and have various options for different prices. If you run your own web server, you are in luck. There are many products out there. I use a couple of different reporting systems. A simple one that is given away for free is Analog. I use a Mac based version of it, but I think it was originally ported from Unix and I am sure by now a version for most platforms is available.
You can look at my personal report for headgap.com at:
The categories it reports on are: General Summary: Monthly Report: Weekly Report: Daily Summary: Hourly Summary: Domain Report: Organization Report: Host Report: Directory Report: File Type Report: File Size Report: Status Code Report: Request Report: Failure Report.
I am not going to go into each item, but the important things to be learned from this report are:
- Is my site uptrending or downtrending?
- What time of day is my traffic peak?
- Where is my traffic coming from?
- What are they looking at?
- What are they not looking at?
- What site errors can I eliminate?
- Which ads are getting the most click throughs?
A quick look at the Monthly and Weekly Reports can tell if you are downtrending or uptrending. I start to worry if I dont see an increase in traffic from month to month. If traffic is down, perhaps it is time to relist your site with the search engines and otherwise increase your advertising. This can also be a sign that your content is getting stale. You may want to consider a general remodeling of the site to give it a fresh look.
Find out when your traffic peaks by looking at the Hourly Report and make sure you dont have any maintenance scheduled. I run my backups based on my slowest traffic times and schedule any system reports etc. the same way.
Analyzing where your traffic is coming from can tell you several things. One of the main ones is that if the AOL traffic is high on your site, then you want to optimize your pages for the typical AOL user. Traditionally this means small monitors and modem connections. You may also want to not send out HTML based newsletters since the AOL mail doesnt presently allow HTML viewing. Of course, the best way is to send out mail with both text and html in combination. This would particularly affect ListServe users.
Looking at your top traffic pages and directories can tell you where you want to make sure to get the message across. If you are selling something, sell it on your top traffic pages. You can also look at your less productive pages and consider why the traffic is slower. Maybe it needs freshening up or perhaps more links on your high traffic pages can move your clients to the pages. A periodic review of your site navigation when used with your web analysis can drastically improve your traffic.
Failure Reports can let you know where that missing graphic is not coming up or what bad links are in your site. This costs you and your clients time and bandwidth and you should spend time eliminating all possible errors after each report comes out.
Funnel Web, a more advanced reporting system
Here is a more advanced report using Funnel Web Enterprise: http://headgap.com/reports/
For my money, Funnel Web (info at http://headgap.com/funnelweb.spml) does this the best and is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, FreeBSD and Solaris. This is the same log information digested by a different program. It gives you different ways to look at the data and even gives you paths your clients enter and exit on as well as loyalty, time online etc. Most investment folks will want to know information about loyalty, time online, and unique visitors rather than hits. Plus it has those amazing color 3D graphs your boss will like!
This guy keeps a list of links to web analysis tools if you want to see more: http://www.webfanatix.com/web_log_analysis_tools.htm
Of course you can always go to my http://headgap.com/addurl/ page to find the latest links I have found.
Use Your Reports!
The main thing to remember is to use web analysis to improve your site. When you make changes, log the date and check your reports to see the results. Then act on those results. Remember, when it comes to the web if you dont change, your clients will.
Bob Nunn is owner, Operator Headgap Systems, http://headgap.com, http://tfbbs.com, http://PreOwnedMac.com
Board Member, AppleCore of Memphis, Inc., http://memphisapplecore.com