Analyzing web traffic

Here is the way I analyze the stats on my website. I think a lot of smaller b2b sites like mine don’t get their stats looked at, so I am writing this as a bit of a primer. The first problem is to find out where the “log” files are and how to get them. Call your ISP if you don’t know. My ISP actually analyzes the data for me, but it is rudimentary at best. What I like to do is report hits on all my webpages, then track month-to-month to look for trends.

The best, most inexpensive tool to do this is FastStats. I started with WebTrends way back when, but it is a bloated, overpriced product. And doing it this way beats on-line services like Hitbox because you don’t need to add code to every page in your site. Get FastStats…this link will get you a 10% discount if you use “b2blog” promotional code when ordering. Get the Gold version for $200 less 10%, or download a trial.

FastStats is set-up by default to report only the 100 most popular pages, so you will need to find the settings and change this (its a little buried, so hunt for it) if your site is bigger. The latest version requires the Gold version to export the “popular pages” to Excel, but that’s what you’ll need to do. I then copy and paste the data to a table by month. This takes some work to make sure that the data corresponds to what is on the table, as some pages may not be listed every month due to inactivity or other problems. By categorizing the pages, I can then create graphs showing month-to-month activity on, lets say, our different product pages (I use PivotTables to do this, which is cool once you figure out how to make them work in Excel). It’s pretty cool to be able to see which products get the most looks. I would venture to guess that if you don’t see a lot of variation, then people are hopping from page to page trying to find what they want because your site isn’t clear enough about the distinction between the products.

There are a many other reasons to do this every month (search engine referrals, 404 errors). But mostly, it keeps you in touch with your users and your site.