Now that you've got a Web site up you want to know who's visiting it, right? Well, looking at Web logs is something that most Web developers do and it's a great idea for getting a better sense of what your readers are doing on your site and what they're looking for. But, unless your site is getting 2 hits a day, it can be quickly overwhelming to review pages and pages of logs. So it's best to have a plan for reviewing your Web analytics so that you can get the most out of your analysis.
- Collect Data - The first thing you must do is collect the data. If you have a Web analytics tool, then chances are it is collecting your logs for you. Remember to include all areas of your Web site that might be collecting data, including:
- Web logs
- CGI logs
- Form to email requests
- Any other data your Web site generates
- Transform the Data - Trying to review your Web logs in Common Log Format can be very tedious, and it's not terribly useful. So you should plan on transforming your data into a format that can be manipulated. Most Web analytics tools do this for you as well, but data from non-Web log formats (such as CGI logs or other data) will need to be converted as well.
- Analyze the Data - This is the interesting part. You should be looking for trends in your Web traffic. Use the following questions as a guide for things to look for:
- Do most people visit at specific times?
- Which pages are the most popular?
- Do your readers browse more than one page before leaving?
- What is the average length of time your readers stay?
- Do your readers come from search engines?
- What pages are primary exit pages for your site?
- Who are linking to you?
- Translate Those Insights - Once you've done analysis on your site, you should develop a plan of action for how you're going to improve your site. For example, if you find a very popular entry page that you were unaware of, you might consider adding more links to other documents on your site from that page. Or if you see that many of your customers get to your home page and then leave, you know you should hold some focus groups to determine what is wrong with that page and improve it.
- Inspire Your Readers - Making changes to your Web site should be a continual thing, and your changes should always be exciting both to you and to your readers. Once you know how you're going to change your site based on your Web analytics, then you should put your plan into action.
- Finally, Collect Your Data Again - Web analytics is an on-going process. Once you've made a change, start tracking it in your Web logs and evaluate your Web analytics again.
Thanks to Todd for the inspiration for this article.