Your Web server’s traffic logs can tell you if your site’s page hits are going up or down, but how do you know what visitors are really doing at your site?
How finely your data can be analyzed may depend greatly on how your site handles personalization and secure transactions, according to independent consultant Jim Novo. “On the content side, the site may not be able to distinguish a unique visitor,” says Novo. This may happen, for example, when Web sites balance their workload across multiple servers during times of high traffic. A single visitor session may be handled by several different Web servers. As a result, log files from multiple servers need to be correlated in order to capture each visitor’s experience.
A June report on Web analytics from the Yankee Group notes that retail sites and large-scale Web sites derive the greatest benefit from deep reporting on customer behavior. These analytics products provide data based on such criteria as number of pages viewed, time spent at the site, whether the visit is by a return user, and exit point.
Novo points out several issues to keep in mind to ensure that you use Web analytics consistently and effectively: