Tracking and analyzing traffic to your website can prove to be invaluable for serious website owners. You need to know certain information in order to improve your site, learn which promotion methods work best for you and to effectively sell advertising.
This information includes statistics such as unique visits to your site, total pageviews, referring URLs to your site, common entry and exit pages, and more depending on what you use to track your traffic. There are two main ways to do that, through the web logs generated by your host's web server every time someone requests a file on your site, or through a 3rd party stat tracking service.
Many web hosts offer web logs but some don't, you'd have to ask your individual host if they do. These logs contain important information such as the user's host or IP address, the file they requested and at what time and what URL they were last at. Web analyzing software can generate reports from this information to display to you this information about your website. Several are:
If you don't have web logs or would rather not set up software to analyze them, another option is to use an outside tracking service. Most of these come in the form of free statistics in exchange for placing a small button or advertisement on each page you'd like to track. A disadvantage to using these is that nothing is tracked if the button doesn't load, if for example a visitor hits the stop button or leaves the page before it's finished loading. These are several good free stats services:
Once you've set up some type of tracking program, whether it is a web log analyzer or an outside service, you can use the data you get to improve your site, promote it, and earn revenue from it. You need to understand the basic terms most will use:
A unique visit is a single computer connecting to your website. While each visitor may view several pages and travel throughout your site, they will only register once as unique (usually per 24 hour period).
A pageview is a count of individual webpages requested from your site. A single visit may generate a certain number of pageviews, so by dividing the number of pageviews by unique visits you can approximate how many pages of your site each person requests. This can be helpful in determining whether you need to work on navigation or add additional enticement for visitors to move throughout your site.
A hit is registered for every file requested from your server. Only web logs can contain information about hits as every page, image, CGI script, SSI inserted document, or other file requested gets registered as a hit; without weblogs you can only analyze pageviews but not hits.
Each time someone visits a page of any site, their browser sends a referrer which allows you to track where they arrived at your site from. This can be used to analyze which sites are sending visitors your way, allowing you to track the effectiveness of promotion or advertising.
BROWSER, RESOLUTION, OS
Depending on the software or service you use, you may be able to track information on any of the above. This information can be useful in determining what screen resolution, operating system, an d browser version most of your visits are using to better serve them. If a majority of your traffic is running at 640x480 resolution you wouldn't want to create webpages 800 pixels wide.
The information you gain from analyzing traffic to your website can prove invaluable. You can use the information you gain for soliciting advertisers, tracking which promotion methods work best for your site, and improving your site. If you're not already doing so, start tracking your site's traffic now!