Search engine marketing and search engine optimization are almost considered a requirement in today’s online business marketplace to gain any significant traffic to your website.  In order to know if your efforts are working, it is important to monitor your website’s analytics. If you’re not monitoring your sites’ analytics, you are missing valuable “free” marketing and advertising insight. 

Many web host providers offer a great free statistics program as part of the account’s control panel called AWStats (Advanced Web Statistics).  AWStats is a different type of analytic tool; rather than tracking hits in real-time through a piece of code on your site, it reads web server log files to generate statistical reports. AWStats’s log file analyzer (Perl script) reports all your Web statistics including visits, unique visitors, pages, hits, rush hours, search engines, keywords used to find your site, robots, broken links, error codes, and more.

The statistics in AWStats can be quite misleading if you don’t understand what the terms mean.  The following provides explanation to the report sections which may help provide a better insight in understanding your site’s valuable analytics.

Summary Section

  • Unique Visitors – A unique visitor is a person or computer (host) that has made at least 1 hit on 1 page of your web site during the current period shown by the report. If this user makes several visits during this period, it is counted only once. Visitors are tracked by IP address, so if multiple users are accessing your site from the same IP (such as a home or office network), they will be counted as a single unique visitor.
  • Number of Visits – The number of visits are the total number of visits by all visitors over a given period of time. If a user visits your site and then comes back 6 more time you should see a unique visit total as 1 and 7 total visits.
  • Pages - This is the total number of pages viewed by visitors. Pages are usually HTML, PHP or ASP files, not images or other files requested as a result of loading a “Page” such as javascript or css files.
  • Hits - This is every file requested by the visitor. This includes pages and images together. If you have a page with 2 images calling a java script file the page will generate a total of 4 hits. This is the most common referenced stat used and one that is virtually meaningless (and useless). The more appropriate numbers to consider are both ‘number of visitors’ and ‘unique visitors’.
  • Bandwidth - Total number of bytes for pages, images and files downloaded by web browsing.  If you have a page that has 50 KB of text, 2 images at 24 and 32 KB then each visitor to that page will take 106 KB of your bandwidth.

Monthly History Summary Totals 
AWStats provides information for the year to date as well as a 30 and 7 day perspective and also by the hour.

Countries - This report shows you what countries your visitors are coming from is ascending order.

* All categories with a Top 10 or 25 have a link to the right of the category that can give you an entire list if there are more than 10 or 25.

Hosts - This gives you a breakdown of the top individual visitors to your site.

Robots/Spider Visitors – Valuable information is provided to see when your favorite search engine has last visited your site as well as how many hits it has made (again, ‘hit’ can be misleading here).

Visits Duration – This report states how long visitors are staying on your site. If visitors are leaving your site quickly you may need to think about a site redesign or rewriting your content.

Files/Type – Information showing what files are generating the most hits.

Pages – URL - This report shows you the most visited pages on your site.

Operating Systems  - This report shows what Operating Systems your visitors are using in order of popularity.

Browsers - Like the OS category above, this report shows what browsers your visitors are using in order of popularity.  Make sure you view your website on the most popular browsers to test if pages are displaying properly.

Connect to Site From is a multi-part category.

  • Direct Address/Bookmark - This is the number of visitors that either know the name of your site or have it bookmarked.
  • Links from an Internet Search Engine – This report provides a listing of the number of visitors coming from a search engine and also Social Bookmark sites such as Digg or Stumbleupon.
  • Links from an External Page – Valuable information providing linking URLs of other web sites except search engines. Unknown is just that, not known.

Search Keyphrases  and  Search Keywords  list the key words used to find your site.

Miscellaneous and HTTP Error codes - This report give miscellaneous information and what HTTP codes are given to your visitors, for example, 404 Page Not Found or redirects such as 302 Moved Temporarily.

Knowing what your analytics are telling you is vital to understanding the Internet traffic on your website.  Don’t underestimate AWStats as a key reporting tool.  It has the ability to collect a remarkable amount of data, and provide a massive number of values in relation to your website which will help you learn about and align with your audience.

Feel free to share the analytical reports that you check and rely on most often and how you use them to improve your site’s popularity.