For Gold In Your Web Traffic Logs
your Web sites traffic patterns is a crucial
component of your marketing mix. The information
in these logs is collected as visitors find and
move around your site at their own volition. So,
its market research that cannot lie
- and therefore provides unprecedented insights
that can help you to strategize not only for the
future development of the site itself, but also
for your overall business and marketing plan.
describe the most important sections of the log
report when analyzing your sites marketing
effectiveness. Often, deciding whats right
and whats a problem is a gut feel that youll
develop by looking at your log reports over a period
of weeks or months, by trying some new tactics,
and observing the trends and results.
This introductory section shows the overall traffic
to the site, including the number of actual visitors,
as opposed to hits. This is an important
distinction - one hit is generated for every page
and every individual image that a visitor requests
(e.g. a page with some text and five pictures will
take six hits to download). So, the ratio of hits
to individual visitors can be quite high.
By the way, its also important for you to
appreciate this distinction if you are selling advertising
space on your site. You may be asked by a potential
advertiser to prove your traffic levels, and if
you happily say millions of hits, they
may look suspicious!
This section also shows the average time spent on
the site, which should give some indication as to
how engaging it is. If your site is rich in content,
but the time spent on it is relatively low, it may
not be meeting the needs of the visitors it is attracting,
or it may be targeted at the wrong audience.
I had a client who earlier this year placed #1 in
some major search engines. He was ecstatic! But
his site had not been worked on for some time, and
was very dry and boring. We discovered from his
logs that the average time spent on his site was
less than two minutes - obviously indicating a problem.
And to make my point again, without this evidence
from the logs, he would have continued to believe
that his site was successful.
and Least Requested Pages
The most requested pages are a great barometer of
the hot areas of your site, and thus
the most popular aspects of your online products
or services. These may be different from your original
expectations, and so this information can be very
valuable for overall business development decisions.
If the least requested pages (i.e. the ones that
attract the fewest visitors) contain important content,
then somethings wrong. Usually, its
either that their content is not interesting to
your markets after all, or that the site is not
driving your traffic to these pages in ways that
Entry and Exit Pages
If the inside pages of your site are well promoted
in the search engines, there should be a number
of top entry pages (i.e. the first page that the
visitor sees), in addition to the home page. This
is a good reminder to include clear navigation back
to other areas of the site from every page, to ensure
that the first-time visitor gets a complete picture
of your offerings.
The top exit pages are also an indication of your
sites effectiveness - if these are not the
right places for most visitors to leave from, some
adjustments are needed. Make sure that every page
of your site has an objective, and that you clearly
direct the visitor to the next page or to the action
that you wish them to take.
These are pages that a visitor views, and leaves
without exploring any further. Typically, this will
be the home page, and I am often asked whether this
is an issue. I usually give the standard consultants
answer: It depends . . .
Your home page should quickly show the different
audiences for your site that theyve come to
the right place for what they want, and where to
go to find it. So you might have sections for members,
prospective members, journalists, consumers, etc.
The home page should do enough to engage them, and
send them on to the appropriate inside pages.
If the home page does a good job of this, there
will probably be some remnant of visitors who came
to your site by mistake, in which case they will
leave immediately. But thats OK - they arent
the right traffic for you.
Its really your judgement call as to what
constitutes a problem. But, that client I mentioned
earlier whose visitors spent less than two minutes
on his site also had about 85% single access figures
on his home page - some things are obvious!
A splash entry page to your site (i.e. one that
says Welcome, enter here, but with little
or no actual content) will often also show large
single access figures. Although these pages can
look very striking, they unfortunately tend to be
unpopular with impatient surfers. Ive seen
splash pages that have lost one third of a sites
visitors. If you have a splash page, check the single
access figures for it in your logs, and be prepared
to remove it without hurting the feelings of your
Active Countries and Cities
If your site is aimed at an international audience,
this section will show which country visitors originate
from. This information can be useful in making decisions
such as providing pages in languages other than
The most active cities report is unfortunately very
misleading, as it relies on the registered location
of the Internet Service Provider. Most log reports
therefore show very disproportionate visitor numbers
from Virginia - the home of America Online!
Referring Sites / URLs / Search Engines
These are the Web pages that send visitors to your
site. The largest figure here will usually be the
No referer, showing people coming directly
to the site. This means that they are typing in
your URL, or have your site bookmarked, and implies
that your other forms of marketing are working.
The log reporting program should display other Web
pages that send you traffic as html links, allowing
you to click on the URL (when online!) to see the
originating page. This will show the effectiveness
of your reciprocal links or paid advertising. You
will also be able to see other sites that are linking
to you. Its worth checking these out if you
arent familiar with them - either to thank
them, or to check that their link to you is appropriate.
For search engine referrals, clicking on the link
will resubmit the search, and allow you to evaluate
competitors sites and positioning relative
to yours. Its also possible to review keywords
that are bringing traffic from one particular source,
and to try to improve the sites performance
for those words in other search engines.
Search Keywords and Phrases
This is crucial information, as it shows exactly
what people were looking for when they came to your
site. Often Web site marketers take their best guess
at these keywords on their first design, but because
the search engines index every word on all your
pages, other terms can be found, especially in a
content rich site.
So the most popular search phrases can tell you
whats really hot in your products
and services. Understanding these is another great
key to understanding the current needs of your sites
market(s), and making business strategy and development
decisions. One of my clients recently decided to
write a book on a topic area that, until she saw
her logs, she had no idea was so sought-after.
There are other sections in the log report, especially
around the technical data for your site. The pieces
that I have covered here are the significant ones
for marketers. If you dont have this information
available, I really urge you to get it, and review
it - I guarantee that youll find some gold
© Copyright Philippa Gamse, 2002-2007. All rights