What Is Involved in Web Traffic Analysis?

Web traffic analysis, whether basic or advanced, centers on the communication between computer servers and the translation of search algorithm data. The main goal is to identify how many people have seen a website within a certain time period but can be expanded to include information about how people arrived on the site, from where and how long they stayed. This information can be valuable to site owners for many reasons, most of them related to traffic management and the placement of external traffic-drivers such as links and sponsored ads.

The most basic type of web traffic analysis lets site owners know how many people have visited their web page. People end up viewing websites in a variety of ways. They might type in the address directly or follow a link from another page. Visitors might have clicked on an advertisement or might have been referred and redirected through an outside host. This data usually is captured by accessing server logs and can be accomplished very easily with basic tracking applications that owners can install into the coding of their sites.

Knowing the raw number of visitors is a good way of gauging site popularity and general interest, but it does not tell owners much about how to improve their statistics. To attract more visitors, site owners usually must understand not just who has landed on their site but also why. More involved web analytics usually are needed to draw these conclusions.

Advanced website traffic analysis tracks not only how many visitors have landed on a page but also what other sites those visitors came from, their geographic locations, how many pages they viewed and how long they stayed. This kind of tracking depends on the same kind of coding as a basic visitor count, but it is much more sophisticated. It often requires layered data streams that amalgamate and coordinate information from various sources in real time. Much of this involves server communication, as well as the placement of cookies — the web tracking packets that are dropped onto web users’ hard drives when they visit certain sites.

The most advanced website traffic statistics programs take basic data about where visitors came from and how long they stayed to construct dynamic reports about user retention, ad traffic and search engine keyword hits. If a website owner notices that most of the site’s visitors arrive from certain advertisements, for instance, he or she might choose to invest more heavily in that type of ad. Similarly, ads that generate only negligible traffic are often pulled or reworded. Monitoring website traffic hits is one of the best ways for owners to ensure that they are attracting their desired consumer base.

Basic web traffic analysis programs are often available for free. The more complex a user wants to get, however, the more he or she usually must be willing to pay. Web traffic analysis programs that are capable of performing studies and generating usability reports usually come at a steep price. Owners who are depending on website traffic to drive business and generate a profit will often invest in these kinds of programs as a way of figuring out how to improve their statistics, and many of them consider these programs to be a necessary business expense.