Monitoring your website

Just recently I have had a couple of questions regarding website stats. Using the same principle as always, for every user question asked there must be 5 users with the same question that haven’t asked it yet so thought it would be good as a blog post:

While this article will concentrate on the web stat tools that Rake Mark servers have installed this does give you an overview of all stat software of a similar nature.

On the Rake Mark servers we have both AWStats and Webalizer installed. Both of these open source server log tools look at activity on a server level not on a human level. They make no attempt to identify the possible difference between HCI (Human Computer Interaction) and Spiders (a computer program that searches and interacts with WebPages).

Monitoring your Website

Awstats and Webalizer are two separate pieces of analyzing software and while both have similar functionality they have been written by two separate engineers and as you would expect will have differences within the queries and information capturing boundaries.

A few of the queries and data sets that both Awstats and Webalizer capture are hits, pages, files, sites and visits. These are often misunderstood and perhaps give misleading results.


Hits: Represents the total amount of server requests made in a certain amount of time (mins, hours days, weeks or months). That means EVERY hit that server receives for that URL…. everything.

Files: Represents the total number of responses from the server (something that is sent back to client). This does not include cached files or 404 errors.

Sites: Represents the number of unique IP addresses/hostnames that made requests to the server. Great care should be taken when using this and should be used as a gauge for interaction with your server only.

Pages: Represents URLs that would be considered the actual page being requested. Does not include images or video clips.

Visits: Represents when a request is made for a page on your server. While the same request is made from the same client in a period of time (30 mins) it will count as the same visit. However outside of the 30 mins it will be counted as 2 visits (or more)

While it is very important that we measure our marketing strategies, it is just as important that we know which data to analyze.

Google Analytics is a free piece of software that uses first-party cookie and JavaScript code on the page to capture data rather than server logs alone. In addition to that Google Analytics uses a range of factors to build up their picture e.g. Google account data, time between clicks to try and differentiate between web spiders and human interaction. Obviously Google has the benefit of owning one of the major web spiders out there and can eliminate that before they start collecting and analyzing traffic and stats into user friendly information such as page views, location, keywords and bounce rate.

Taking ‘Hits’ figures alone is never going to be an accurate way to monitor your website for say the success of a marketing campaign unless you are taking into account all the other figures and balancing them off one another (which is kind of what Google Analytics does for you).

While I suspect nothing is ever totally 100% accurate (due to the rapid advancement of computers) we use a full range of Google tools to assist in our Online Marketing monitoring, Analytics being one of them and that I think pretty much indicates which tool we think offers the more accurate figures. In fact we implement Google Analytics in all our new website packages for free.

This is obviously not a comprehensive explanation of the differences between server log data (Awstats or Webalizer) and Usage Monitoring Software (Google Analytics) it is about as far as I can go without getting or all techie on you.

Hope that it has helped

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