Web analytics software, free web server log file analysis applications, page tagging scripts

Google Analytics, Yahoo Analytics, Piwik, AWStats, W3Perl, Webalizer, Web Analytics Software

Web Analytics Defined

Web analytics is the collection and analysis of data derived from tracking visitor activity as well as behavior while they interact and navigate throughout a domain. Web analytics software gathers data primarily through page tagging scripts or by server log file analysis software. An analysis of gathered data is helpful for gaining insight to determine if an online presence is fulfilling its mandated purpose.

Importance Of Web Analytics Software

A strong argument for using web analytics software is to gain insight into what search terms are being used to draw visitors to a domain. An important aspect of effective search engine optimization is knowing how or why a visitor arrived at your website. From a copy writing perspective; after an extensive collection of page tagging or server log file analysis data is gathered over a several month period it facilitates implementing changes to any given page. This assures that keywords or phrases are geared towards terms that a searcher is using. This in turn will almost always propel a domain higher in search results.

Targeted keywords or phrases have most likely already been incorporated into copy written text or else they probably would not have arrived at your site in the first place. However, often times it becomes apparent that a visitor is also using overlooked secondary terms that support primary keywords or phrases. It is an opportunity to spot these sometimes overlooked words in data derived from web analytics software to work them into your text. Doing so can make a difference between your site coming up on page 7 of results compared to maybe page 1 or 2 if you had incorporated those secondary supporting terms. The reason is because increased related secondary terms spread throughout text satisfies a broader range of queries. It is beneficial if a domain is consistently showing up high in search results for a wide variety of related terms rather than just a few highly focused ones. A search engine algorithm is more likely to interpret your site as an authoritative source of relevant information. This valuable recognition means a search engine will likely promote your domain higher into search results. This is because of a greater potential for their visitors being provided with a good user experience in having quickly found what they were searching for.

Additional Benefits of Web Analytics Software

In preceding paragraphs I placed a lot of emphasis on web analytics software as it relates to keywords or phrases. Those are just some benefits derived from tracking visitor interaction and behavior. Some less important blocks of data that can be assessed log file analysis software include visitor information stats as outlined in the following list.

  • General navigational statistics such as…
  • Number of visits per hour
  • Frequency of new versus returning visitors
  • Pages viewed as well as duration of time spent on a site
  • Pages of entry and exit
  • Visitor computer information such as…
  • Operating system type and version
  • Browsers by developer and version
  • Plugins enabled
  • Screen resolutions
  • Referral statistics such as…
  • Search engines
  • Keywords
  • Websites
  • Email
  • Direct request (someone typed your URL into their browser)

Web Analytics Software – Page Tagging Scripts

These days there are many useful open source analytics software or free web server log file analysis solutions. Here in this discussion conclusion I will bring a few of the most common software solutions into a spotlight. I will begin with pointing out a few free or open source applications that are built around page tagging scripts. Among the most popular full suite free open source page tagging scripts is phpMyVisites. At the time of this writing it is going through some major changes including a name change and will become known as Piwik Open Source Analytics. Two more popular choices are Yahoo Web Analytics as well as Google Analytics page tagging scripts. These two are quite elaborate enterprise class applications. The main difference between them is that Piwik resides on your own server therefore all information gathered remains private for your eyes only. With Yahoo’s or Google’s options you are surrendering what many would consider to be competitive information to a third party. You have to decide if you are comfortable with that. I’m not but many are either indifferent or else unaware.

Web Analytics Software – Web Server Log File Analysis Applications

As far as log file analyzers are concerned; among the most popular is AWStats open source log file analyzer application available through SourceForge. Another very good alternative choice is a CGI based analyzer named W3Perl free log file analyzer. One more I will mention because it has been around for so long is Webalizer free log file analyzer. It has not really kept up with the times but is still a very reliable basic analyzer.

In Depth Traffic Analyzer Applications

There are applications that go into much more in depth data gathering concerning visitors. I will not go into any great amount of discussion about them here because I do not apply these practices in my work. Unquestionably there is a tremendous benefit to be derived from basic analysis of visitor data. However, I feel that some applications go way to far in tracking visitor movement. Some track not only on a site visited but also by tracking a computer’s movement throughout the Internet. When or if you return to a site that set such a cookie they can retrieve it to build a profile of domains you have visited. It is called profiling. I personally think it is an invasion of privacy. But that is just one of many consequences of unchecked growth in information technology we have experienced in recent years.

There are ethical ways of making use of basic visitor statistics that does not go beyond understanding how they interact with one particular domain. There are also an abundance of unethical ways the same information technology is being applied. There are scripts or programs built on a foundation of profiling. In my opinion some domains gather excessive visitor information and stats beyond what is necessary. It is not a healthy trend.

As it relates to my work, I find it beneficial to understand what search terms bring visitors to a domain. From a business perspective I am interested in which pages are most popular. From a developer perspective I am interested in basic visiting computer information such as operating system version, browser type version, as well as screen resolution. This type of information does not uniquely identify a computer but does help with design and layout to ensure a good user experience. This basic information is not an abuse of privacy that can result from applying some of the more elaborate marketplace applications available today.

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