Website Statistics and Analytics

Hits, traffic, pageviews, visits, exits, bounce rate, referrers, unique visitors, robots etcetera etcetera. The vernacular around tracking the traffic to your website can be somewhat overwhelming can’t it? Don't worry, we're here to help!


by Adam Griffith18 October 2008

Hits, traffic, pageviews, visits, exits, bounce rate, referrers, unique visitors, robots etcetera etcetera. The vernacular around tracking the traffic to your website can be somewhat overwhelming can’t it?!

Well don’t stress. Hopefully we can help you out. This article will take you through the most popular website statistics software and how they work. We will also cover off all those silly terms and narrow your focus to ensure you get the most out of your website stats.

Let’s first start with a brief introduction to website statistics software.

Web Statistics Software

There are two types of website statistics software: logfile analysis and page tagging.

1. Logfile Analysis

Software that uses the logfile analysis method resides on the website’s web server and utilises the logfiles that the web server records. Since the web server only records certain information, logfile analysis can sometimes lack the detailed analysis that page tagging software boasts. It also strikes problems with browser and ISP caching. Repeat visits can sometimes be missed if the site is pulled from a user or ISP’s cache. On the flipside, logfile analysis requires no adjustments to websites and doesn’t slow page load down like some page tagging providers.


Livestats XSP

Deepmetrix, the makers of the popular Livestats web statistics package, were recently purchased by Microsoft. That has to say something about the quality of their offering! Here at Get Started, Livestats XSP is our stats package for all sites hosted on our new hosting platform (this will include all clients within 6 months). One added benefit of Livestats, is that you can analyse those users who are on your website right now (hence the name LIVEstats).


Smarterstats is a powerful web statistics package that we’ve utilised here at Get Started. It provides a wide range of reports and allows the user to create custom reports.


One of the most popular web statistics packages, awStats is free open-source software. It doesn’t provide the level of detail that Livestats or Smarterstats provide, but it is easy-to-use.

2. Page tagging

Page tagging involves utilising javascript – a common form of client-side web scripting – to send information to a third-party server whenever that page is loaded by a browser. Unlike logfile analysis, page tagging is not dependent on the website’s server. However, it suffers from a similar problem. Instead of web servers, the problem is with users’ browsers. Page tagging software relies on the users’ browser sending data back to the third-party server. Sometimes browsers don’t behave; normally as a result of strict security settings set by administrators. Nonetheless, page tagging does have a few advantages over logfile analysis. It doesn’t suffer from the caching problem as javascript is run every time a page is loaded; and it is flexible enough to capture more detailed information like the value of the items in a users’ shopping cart.


Google Analytics

Google has recently released a new snazzy interface for its analytics application. The new interface makes it easier to consume the vast amount of data that this application tracks. Google Analytics is based on software from Urchin which Google acquired a few years ago. As with most things “Google”, it is free and quite easy to setup. Those of you with a TightPage website can have this implemented in no time. Simply sign-up here - - then email us with the code which Google asks you to insert into your website. For everyone else, give us a call or send an email and we’ll let you know what to do.


ClickDensity is a very interesting application that allows you to obtain a heat map of the clicks on your website (see screenshot below). This can be helpful in analysing a site before a redesign to understand what links and buttons people are actually clicking on.


Whoson is web application which comes with a desktop program that allows you to not only see “whoson” your website at a particular moment but to actually push a chat window to that user! For example, imagine that a user was browsing the Get Started website and was quite interested in the web design page. With Whoson, we can setup an alert which pops up on our PCs telling us that a user has spent more than X minutes on our site. They are then defined as a Prospect and we can push a discrete window to their computer asking them if they’d be interested in a chat online or for us to call them. The user can then enter into a chat (like MSN or ICQ but without installing anything); or enter their phone number for us to call them; or tell us to go away! Now, for a lot of websites, this somewhat intrusive tactic might not work. But it certainly provides an interesting way to better interact with your website users!

How do you make them work for you?

If you follow this simple process you will find that your complicated web statistics package becomes a little bit friendlier.

1. Define your ideal website traffic

A huge amount of visitors is a waste of time if they’re all from outside your service area (overseas for example). A high number of unique visitors is also no good if none of them are spending more than 1 minute on your site. So define what a good website visitor is by characteristics like location and time on your site.

2. Understand how to track these users

All the web analytics packages will bombard you with a plethora of information. Pinpointing exactly which numbers you’re interested in is crucial. From your analysis of the ideal website visitor you will be able to nut this out.

3. Set goals

Now that you know what you’re watching and analysing you can set some targets. Be conservative initially. Remember that you’re probably not doing anything to actually increase these numbers just yet.

4. Measure & Analyse

Set a weekly or monthly reminder to check and analyse the data. What’s happening? Where are your visitors coming from and why? Why aren’t they spending long on the site? Where are they exiting the website and why? All these questions can help you understand where your site is under-performing.

5. Change something

Here comes the fun part. It’s not much point setting goals and measuring things if we’re not actually doing anything about improving the situation. From your analysis, look at under-performing areas and make changes. This might include changing the copy on the home page to be more targeted or adjusting the focus of the home page to push users to a particular page.

6. Repeat 3-5 Once you change something, set new goals then measure and analyse again. Have the changes worked? What affect have they had?

This doesn’t have to be a weekly or even monthly exercise (it could be quarterly), but it will help you get the most out of your website by taking advantage of website analytics software.


What’s a hit, visit etc?

If anyone tells you they get 1 million hits on their website, don’t be impressed. A hit is normally defined as ANY request to the server. For one page, this could include the HTML file, 20 images, a Flash file, a couple of CSS files, an external javascript file and a Java object. That's close to 30 hits for one visit. Then there's the difference between visits and unique visitors. If a user is continually visiting the site then this is going to push up the visits but won't affect the unique visitors statistic. To get a full run-down on all the definitions for these words, check out the Wikipedia entry.

Why are the numbers different?

The numbers reported in different website statistics and analytics packages can often be different. This often astounds people as they feel it's a black-and-white area. The fact is, it's not. Different definitions like whether or not a robot is counted as a visitor or a hit and technical issues like a lack of javascript support for intermittent server problems which may cause logs not to be recorded or the page tagging analytics software not to receive a response. They key thing here is that it is trends that are important in website statistics and analytics, not the absolute numbers.

How do I get access to these packages?

You can sign-up for most of the page tagging-style packages via their websites. Some require a fee, others are free. You will need some basic HTML skills and access to your website files in order to get this working. Alternatively, you can get your web developer to do it for you!

I need further help!

Give me (Adam) or Marty a call on 1300 554 891 and we'll get you moving in the right direction.

Just remember, forget all the complicated words and focus on a few key metrics. You will very soon feel a lot more confident about answering the question "how's your website going?" Good luck!

Find out more: Wikipedia - Web Analytics

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