So you have just finished setting up your brand new website. You have a nice design and interesting copy, and maybe you even implemented a little search engine optimization to ensure that your project does not go unnoticed. Everything is prepared for your new visitors. But how can you find out if there is any traffic to your website?
It is a question asked by countless first time website owners. After all, websites exist to draw visitors. If you do not know who is visiting your page or what visitors are doing, you cannot tell if you are going in the right direction. Thankfully, statistics utilities such as Webalizer and AWStats can help you shed some light on your website’s performance.
Webalizer and AWStats are tools that process the logs kept by your web server and translate them into figures and graphs that you can use to learn more about your visitors. Let’s examine the statistics generated by the two analytics utilities and see how you can interpret them to understand the behavior of your visitors.
Access AWStats or Webalizer from the cPanel interface
AWStats and Webalizer can be installed on almost any web server, FTP server, or even on a local computer, to keep an eye on traffic. It is possible to install and use them separately, but most hosting providers offer AWStats and Webalizer integrated into cPanel or some other server control panel.
If you are using cPanel, you will find the traffic statistic tools in the Logs section. Note that you will probably see some other options in this section, including Raw Access Logs and Error Log. In the Raw Access Logs, you will find the actual log kept by the web server, which contains every action that took place on the website, such as the opening of a connection or the transfer of a file. Unfortunately, the raw logs are cryptic, and almost useless for the average user.
Web analytics tools parse the raw logs, process them, and translate the information in a format that can be read by the web master. To access AWStats or Webalizer, just click on their icons and you will be taken to the domain selection area. Here, if you have more than one domain on the same account, you need to select the one you need.
The interfaces of the two statistics tools are different, with AWStats offering more options and filtering options than the older Webalizer. Nevertheless, the interfaces are fairly straightforward. They include a number of graphs and tables that show various information, broken down in to months, weeks or days.
Learn about visits, page views and other important statistics with AWStats or Webalizer
Web analytics tools offer a series of statistics that can sometimes be daunting to read and interpret. Let’s explain some of the most important information you can determine from the statistics.
- Visits – each accessing of a website resource, made by a single visitor, in a certain interval of time. Note that the “visitor” is not necessary a human. Software that access the website, like robots and search engine spiders, are also considered visitors. AWStats differentiates between human and software visits, while Webalizer does not. For this reason, the number of visits displayed in Webalizer is usually higher than in other analytics tools.
- Pageviews – the display of a single website page. One visit can include many pageviews. Also called pages or impressions, pageviews are important because they show how engaged your visitors are and how much time they spend on your website.
- Referrers – the websites that refer or “send” visitors to your page, usually via a link. It is good to know the top referrers, because it helps you determine how well your page is connected with the rest of the web.
- Search engine data – the terms used by search engine users to find your website. Very useful to determine what the visitors are actually looking for to improve the content on your website.
There are some other, less important statistics available in AWStats and Webalizer, including hits (the number of files sent by the server), top URLs, etc.
Watch the trends, not the data
It is important to understand that trends are more important than precise figures, especially since analytics tools often produce different data. Watch the evolution of figures in time and you will have a powerful tool that will help you develop your website and build a loyal community of visitors.