What is a Website Analytics Program?

Web servers (like Apache, IIS, etc.) record all their transactions in a log file. Information from these log files can provide an indication of  the popularity of the website. A Website Analytics is a software program that parses these server log files and generates reports from this parsed data. The reports indicate who, when and how a web site was visited.

Why should you use a Website Analytics Program?

A Website Analytics Program can help you improve your ROI on your website. Marketing departments of any organization that owns a website should be trained to understand these powerful tools. Efficient web site administration, adequate hosting resources and the fine tuning of sales efforts can be aided by analysis of the web server log files.

Which type of Website Analytics?

There are two basic types of Website Analyticss:

  1. Static Reporting ("canned reports") - Most Website Analytics programs fall into this category. The log files are parsed and all the reports are generated afterwards. The whole process can be done on demand or on a scheduled basis. This type of analyzer can put great strain on a computer as the parsing and reporting are done in one go. This is usually done during a quiet period and the reports are often more than a couple of hours old. SurfStats Website Analytics (previously SurfStats Website Analytics) uses this type of technology.
  2. Real-time, on-demand Reporting (sometimes called "Live reporting") - The log files are continuously parsed to a database in the background. A report is only generated when requested. This type of Website Analytics is more suited for many websites on a server (like in a web hosting environment) as it places less strain on a server. SurfStatsLive uses this type of technology.

Logfile Analysis or Page Tagging?

There are two main approaches to collecting web analytics data. SurfStats can handle both types of log files.

  1. Direct Logfile Analysis - The web server logfiles on which the website is hosted is analyzed. The main advantages of Logfile Analysis over Page Tagging are as follows.

    * The web server normally already produces logfiles, so the raw data is already available. To collect data via page tagging requires Javscript to be inserted into every page that you want to track.
    * The web server reliably records every transaction it makes. Page tagging relies on the visitors' browsers co-operating, which a certain proportion may not do (for example, if JavaScript is disabled).
    * The data is on the company's own servers, and is in a standard, rather than a proprietary, format. This makes it easy for a company to switch programs later, use several different programs, and analyze historical data with a new program. Page tagging solutions involve vendor lock-in.
    * Logfiles contain information on visits from search engine spiders. Although these should not be reported as part of the human activity, it is important data for performing search engine optimization.
    * Logfiles contain information on failed requests; page tagging only records an event if the page is successfully viewed.
    * The hits are recoded in the log files and does not depend on Javascript to be generated. If you forget to enter the javascript or r=there is an error in the Javascript, no information is recorded on the third-party's server log files.
    * Hits to media or graphic files are recorded in the server log files. It is difficult to generate the information on third-party server log files.
  2. Page tagging -  JavaScript on a tracked page generates a hit on a third-party server. This hit records the visitor and page information in a log file on the third-party server. The log file on the third-party site is then analyzed. Google Analytics provides such a service. The main advantages of Page Tagging over Logfile Analysis are as follows.

    * The JavaScript is automatically run every time the page is loaded. Thus there are fewer worries about caching.
    * It is easier to add additional information to the JavaScript, which can then be collected by the remote server. For example, information about the visitors' screen sizes, or the price of the goods they purchased, can be added in this way. With logfile analysis, information not normally collected by the web server can only be recorded by modifying the URL.
    * Page tagging can report on events which do not involve a request to the web server, such as interactions within Flash movies.
    * The page tagging service manages the process of assigning cookies to visitors; with logfile analysis, the server has to be configured to do this.
    * Page tagging is available to companies who do not run their own web servers.
    * Very busy websites can be tracked with page tagging as less information is recorded in the third-party server log files than with Direct log file Analysis.

You can download Free functional trials of SurfStats Website Analyticss from the download page

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