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PDI 2008 Sessions: Statistics Tools for Your Web Site

What is it?

Web analytics software uses Web server logs and/or tracking codes to collect, aggregate and analyze data on the use of Web pages or sites.

Whenever someone visits a Web page, statistics can be gathered about that visit, such as:

  • Date and time of the visit
  • URL and title of the page
  • HTTP status/error codes
  • Data about the user's computer
    • IP number
    • Browser version
    • Screen resolution
    • Connection speed

How to use Web statistics to improve your Web site design

Why use it?

  • Detect successes and problems to improve site design
    • Navigation, content, format, usability, accessibility
  • Track impact of pages and site on organizational goals and profits
    • Reports for grant-funded projects
  • Better understand and meet user goals and needs


  • A lot of data can be collected and aggregated over many users and a long time
  • Data collection is non-obtrusive, automated and inexpensive
  • More quantitative than subjective methods like usability tests and interviews


  • Data collection and aggregation is imperfect and limited
    • Need to log all data (different media types and Web applications)
    • Need to distinguish automated crawlers from human users
    • Web content is not equally accessible to all users (e.g. some tools require on JavaScript)
  • Only shows what users do, not why
    • Cannot see the full context in which the user is working
    • Difficult to track individual users through entire sessions
    • Hypotheses must be tested through other methods

Other Web data collection methods

These methods are complementary, so use multiple methods.

Some popular tools

CSU Libraries Demos

WebTrends 8

  • Reporting
    • Simple interface to a large number of statistics
      • Select profile, date range, report and graph type
      • Export to Word, Excel, CSV or PDF
    • Report categories
      • Overview dashboard
      • Marketing - ads, referrers, search engines
      • Visitors - visits, domains, geography
      • Pages and files - directories, file types, URL parameters
      • Navigation - entry, exit and single access pages, paths
      • Technical - hits, page views, bandwidth, errors
      • Activity - visits and hits by day, hour, duration, pages
      • Browsers - spiders, platforms
  • Configuration
    • Runs on a Windows-based PC; provides its own Web server
    • Uses CGI/Perl and Java
    • + No tracking codes or cookies required
    • + Can use copies of server logs from multiple servers
    • - Requires server logs; processing is slow
    • - Need to plan reported subdirectories in advance
    • - Options are complex
    • Profiles - servers, filters, templates, reports, scheduler, etc.
    • Filters - include/exclude; hit/visit; URL/directory/file, browser, day/hour, etc.
    • Templates - select reports for a profile to run

Google Analytics

  • Free for under 5 million page views/month or AdWords users
  • Reporting
    • + Rich, granular statistics - select combination of dimensions
    • + Easy to use interface - filter, sort, export, data visualization
    • - Only tracks users with JavaScript and cookies enabled
    • Dashboard - overview of saved reports
    • Visitors - visits, page views, browser and network capabilities
    • Traffic Sources - direct, referring sites, search engines, keywords
    • Content - by page views, title, folder; Site Search
    • Goals - conversion goal URL, funnel URLs
    • Scheduled e-mail reports
  • Configuration
    • Web-based/hosted
    • + Easy to use, good context-sensitive documentation
    • + Track multiple servers from one account
    • + No need for server logs, automatically filters out crawlers
    • - Tracking codes - a few lines of JavaScript required in each page
    • - Views of images, PDFs and most documents are not recorded
      • - Need tracking codes on individual links or other script
    • - Dependence on Google; limited downloads and customization
    • Profiles - server URL, goals, excluded query params, filters, users
    • Filters - include/exclude, search/replace, advanced
    • Users - grant user or admin privileges to users with Google accounts


File and folder metrics

Data dimensions

  • Personal - Who
    • IP numbers, ISPs, languages
  • Nominal - What
    • URLs, Files, folders, search terms
  • Chronological - When
    • Date and time trends - hour, weekday, month, year
  • Geographical - Where
    • User's location - Library, CSU, other
  • Technical - How
    • User's browser and network capabilities

Other features

  • Track multiple servers/domains from one account
    • Can aggregate across multiple servers/subdomains?
  • Filter, sort and group
    • Robot filtering: automatic or manual? regular expressions?
    • Filter by user IP address?
    • Search/Filter URLs? via regular expressions?
    • URL query string analysis (e.g. myorg.edu/myscript?variable=value)
  • Reporting
    • Maximum URLs; URLs displayed; URLs per page
    • Export formats: xls, doc, csv, tsv, pdf, xml, html
    • Data visualization: charts, graphs, map, site overlay
    • Schedule reports to be sent by email
  • Access restriction
    • Login/accounts? IP-based?

Other selection criteria

  • Provider: Commercial? Cost? Licensing? Open source? Ease of customization
  • Platform: Windows or Linux, local server or hosted
  • Data collection method: Web server logs? Page tagging?
  • Ease of configuration: GUI-based and/or file-based?
  • Support: phone/email, user community, documentation, training, upgrades, longevity


Other Resources

Google Analytics