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Understanding the Basics of Website Statistics

August 30th, 2009 1 comment

Article by Michelle Shaeffer

Learning to understand your website statistics can help you improve your website for visitors, measure if your promotional strategies are working, and find new opportunities to promote your business.

How can you measure your website statistics?

There are two common ways to measure this important information.

One is with software that analyzes the server logfiles. Each time someone visits your site the server records detailed information about the visitor and what they did on your website. With software like Webalyzer or AWStats that information is put into a form you can easily read and understand. Many website hosts offer this software already installed on their servers and available to clients through a cPanel or Plesk administrative area.

The second way to keep track of your stats is with a javascript added to all of your pages that sends info to another server each time a visitor loads a page, such as Google Analytics or Crazy Egg. With these services you sign up, then they provide a small snippet of code for you to copy and paste into your web pages.

You may want to combine both methods to get a better overall picture of who is visiting your website and what they’re doing.

What do the terms mean?

Hits: Each request for a file from a server is counted as a hit. This is an often misunderstood term. It does not mean you’ve had 5,000 people visit your site if you have had 5,000 hits. If your page has one html file and five images on it, then each time a visitor loads the page it would count as six hits.

Page Views: How many times a “page” as defined in log analysis has been loaded. This is more accurate than hits because it will only count the .html or .php files instead of every image on a page.

Unique Visitors: This is an even more useful piece of information than hits or page views. Unique visitors tracks how many different computers have visited your website.

Number of Visits: How many unique sessions were logged. The way this one works is that if a visitor comes to your site today, and then again in a week, that would be counted as two visits.

Spiders Visited: Some tracking/analysis software is able to show you which “spiders” from search engines visited your site. This is an easy way to see if your site is being indexed by different search engines.

Top Pages: Which pages are the most popular on your website? Look for the top pages section of your stats to see what visitors are most interested in.

Connect to Site From or Search Phrases Used: This may be called something different depending on what software or analyzer you’re using but most will include a section allowing you to see how visitors found you. It will show if they’ve followed a link from another website, a search engine, or typed in your URL directly.

HTTP Status Codes: Your analyzer may also show you if your visitors got 404 or other errors. Watch this section to see if you’ve got a broken link or other problem somewhere on your website that you need to fix.

What metrics should you watch?

Some of the basic things you want to watch are:

Conversion rates: What % of visitors to a sales page made purchases? There’s plenty of information available on how to optimize sales pages for better conversion rates. Once you have a base measurement of your current conversion rate, start making small changes to your copy, headlines, and other page elements then watch for a change in the conversion rate to see whether changes helped.

Page views per visit: How many pages does each visitor look at? If this number is very low – one or two – then visitors aren’t being engaged enough or finding what they were looking for.

Monthly unique visitors: Is the number growing over time? Your traffic should be going up! If it’s not, time to review your promotional tactics and strategies to see where you can focus on improving.

What can you do with all that information?

Website statistics offer you a wealth of information — use it to your advantage!

Here are some easy ways to use your website statistics to build your business:

- Contact sites that refer visitors/link to your site and send them a thank you note.

- Offer sites who’ve published your articles “priority notice” of future articles you release for reprint. With permission, email your articles directly to the interested sites so your articles are easier for them to publish.

- Watch the popular pages of your website then focus on building those pages with better copywriting, promote affiliate products, etc.

- Look for trends in the type of websites that are referring visitors to your site and use it to better target your marketing efforts.

Article by

Michelle Shaeffer

Work at home mom extraordinaire Michelle Shaeffer publishes The Muses Brainstorm, a weekly ezine with tips to help you balance, manage, and market your home based business. If you’re ready for inspirational guidance and bright ideas sign up free at http://www.thesmallbusinessmuse.com

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