How to Use Web Stats to Improve Your Website - dummies

How to Use Web Stats to Improve Your Website

By Peter Pollock

People don’t like slow websites. Using web stats can ensure that you don’t have one. We’re all getting spoiled these days by fast Internet connections, and research shows that web users will click away to another site if yours takes more than two seconds to open. A faster site retains more visitors; with a slower site, visitors may click away to a competitor’s site.

How to open web stats

To demonstrate how to read stats, focus on the webalizer stats program, which is installed on most cPanel and Plesk systems. All stats programs display the information differently because their focus differs depending on what their developers think is most important.

Use the following steps to open webalizer:

  1. Log in to your control panel.

  2. Search for the stats or logs section.

    In cPanel, the section is usually called Logs and is about halfway down the screen.


  3. Click webalizer.

  4. Click the magnifying glass next to the domain for which you want to view statistics.

    If you have multiple domains hosted in the same account, webalizer enables you to pick the one you want to view statistics for.

  5. Select the month you are interested in from the 12-month summary page.

    The summary page gives a broad overview of various statistics by daily average and monthly total. This can be useful to spot trends, but the real gems are hidden on the next page.

You’ve opened webalizer, so the trick now is to glean useful information from it.

How to read your web stats

Here are a few tips on the webalizer page and how you might use it.

  • The first section of data gives you overall monthly statistics. The following sections all break down the details in this first section.

  • The next two sections show you the daily usage of your site. The days are numbered along the bottom axis, and three lines plot statistics for three types of data. Those results display day, and show how many hits, files, pages, visits, sites, and KBytes were recorded. It also gives the total monthly usage for each day. You can determine if a day had particularly high usage.

  • The next two sections look at data transfers across the month and break them down by hours of the day. You can also analyze this to see if the site is particularly busy during certain hours.

  • The next section shows you the top 30 Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) requested in the month. This basically identifies the most frequently requested pages and files.

  • The next section shows the top ten URLs by KBytes. This is one of the most important sections for speeding up your site because it shows which files and pages contain the most data and take the longest to load.

    If you look at the first line, one file has used more than 39 percent of the data but has had only 0.22 percent of the hits. Looking along the line, you can see it’s a PDF file so that’s not unreasonable. It’s a download and visitors understand that downloads can take time.

    The next line, though, shows that one image has had 3 percent of the total hits but has used 13 percent of the KBytes. Looking further down, this is a disproportionately high amount of data, so it suggests that this image is a lot larger than any of the others on the site and thus loads slower than the others.


  • The next section shows the top ten entry pages. An entry page is the first page viewed on any given visit. For blogs, this will show which post was most popular in the month. For other sites, though, this can really help you with your site SEO. Additionally, if you’d rather that people first land on a different page, it can help you modify the site accordingly.

  • The next section shows you the top ten exit pages. The exit page is the last page a person sees before leaving your site. If the entry and exit page lists are fairly identical, then it means visitors are only viewing one page on your site before leaving. The site is not drawing them in to go to other pages.

  • The next two sections show the top visiting sites by hits and by KBytes. For most of us, this is fairly meaningless, but it can show you if one person is visiting a disproportionate number of times and you can investigate why.

  • The next section shows the top referrers. Referrers are pages that request a page or file from the server. Most referrers will be pages from your own site. It can be useful to look through and find the top referrers that are not internal so you can see which sites — and which pages from those sites — are sending the most visitors your way.

  • The top 20 search strings show up next. This refers to the searches people did on search engines that resulted in those individuals clicking on a link to your site. This information can be very eye-opening because it reveals how people find your site.

  • The next section is the top 15 user-agents. Every browser will potentially display your website slightly differently. When you design your site, you should test it in multiple browsers to ensure that it looks right in all of them. Knowing which browsers your visitors use most can help you optimize your site for each browser and show you which browser you should concentrate on when redesigning your pages.

  • The final two sections show what countries your visitors are in. Knowing where your visitors are can help you both in the marketing and ongoing design of the site and also in knowing where your server should be located.