Tag Archives: AWStats

BLVD Status Analytics in free public beta test

I found an interesting announcement over at 97thfloor.com of a new Web Analytics tool, BLVD Status.

Two significant impediments have historically hindered the uptake of Web Analytics by businesses. The first has been cost. Professional Web Analytics systems have been fairly expensive, both in server and hosted forms. The second issue has been the great quantity and complexity of available reports in commercial systems, sufficiently intimidating many business professionals away from Web Analytics.

Google’s Google Analytics

Google, with their release of Google Analytics in November 2005, removed the first obstacle, cost, by releasing the first free “full featured” Web Analytics system. Previous free tools, such as AWStats, lack robust visitor recognition and click stream analysis, among other things. Yet a significant obstacle still remained to general Web Analytics usage: how to find the “important” data, without getting lost in a sea of confusing and often redundant reports? In May 2007 Google released an updated Google Analytics with a significant focus on the user interface, specifically as a response to this need.

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Web Analytics Optimism in Italy

Last November Luca Meyer organized the first Web Analytics Wednesday (WAW) in Milan, in conjunction with the IAB Forum interactive marketing event.

All of six people were present to represent the Internet’s accountability side in Italy. A pitiful number when you consider the thousands of visitors at the IAB Forum.

Since the Milan WAW, Giovanni Lorenzoni has worked to keep the ball rolling by organizing Web Analytics Association / WAW events in Bologna. Yet therein lies the problem: with the apparently small Italian web analytics community spread across the peninsula, significant meet-ups can only occur when there is a critical mass due to an Internet industry event happening at the same time.

Yet a lot has happened in the last six months. Web marketing practitioners, such as my friend Leonardo Bellini, are writing extensively on web analytics. The Italian blogging community has become even more interconnected through the various barcamp events which have provided a needed pretext to meet like-minded folk outside of the ether-sphere.

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Blog statistics with BlogBabel at ZenaCamp in Genoa, Italy

Expats in Italy need to stay on top of professional and daily happenings locally while still engaging in the wider world. This task is made difficult by the vast quantity and quality of resources available in English (my native language), as exemplified by the BBC. Unfortunately, their Italian equivalents, such as the ad-infested public broadcaster RAI, just can’t compete for my attention.

It doesn’t get much easier on the web marketing front. The primary search engines in Italy are the US based Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft Live and Ask, sometimes found in their rebranded skins: Arianna (enhanced by Google) and Virgilio (listed by Google as a customer). Inevitably, most of my web marketing reading is English language centric.

As a side note, Google commands a percentage of the market in most western markets that most politicians can only dream of. Yet the search market remains very dynamic and innovative.

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Tracking Search Engine Cache Page Views with Web Analytics

A small percentage of search engine users may view a web site using a search engine’s saved copy of site pages, their cached version. The cached copy the search engine serves to the user usually contains links to embedded objects present in the original site: images, CSS stylesheets, javascript, etc. Organizations focusing on web marketing activities, such as search engine optimization, will want to track all search engine activity, including cached page views.

Referrers from the search engine’s cached copy will show up in the site’s web server log files, including the keywords and keyword phrases used to find the cached copy. In some cases, the user will click through to the original website, viewing a real page with cache referring information in the web server log file.

Cache views are more difficult for Web Analytics software to recognize, but it can be done.

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Search Engine Crawlers: Who’s visiting my site and why?

Organizations implementing search engine optimization (SEO) strategies will sooner or later consider monitoring search engine crawling activity. Before a web page can appear in search results, the content has to be discovered through a crawling or spidering process. This is done through software which automatically navigates the web, finding and downloading web content for the search engine to parse, index and rank.

search engine spider
A “spider”, also known as a “crawler”, “robot” or simply “bot”, finds and retrieves web pages. Once a search engine finds your site, either through a link from another site or through a submission form, the “spider” will begin to crawl your site.

Search engine crawling activity is an early sign that SEO is functioning or a potential warning sign of site issues impeding content discovery.

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Web Analytics: Embedded JavaScript Page Tracking Code vs. Web Server Log Files

Web Analytics tracking choices with advantages and disadvantages

Basic Web Analytics tools usually fall into one of two categories:

  • Web server log file based
  • JavaScript embedded page tags

Both have advantages and disadvantages.

By default, server logs contain much richer data than that usually tracked by JavaScript page tracking. For organizations focused on search engine visibility, web server logs show which pages have been crawled by each search engine crawler – and how recently.

  • JavaScript page tracking code does not trigger when a page is downloaded by automated robots. Proponents of JavaScript systems tout this as beneficial – their systems only track human activity. This is really just putting a brave face on a limitation. Better web log file analysis systems are able to separate human from non-human traffic.
  • JavaScript systems also fail when HTML programmers forget to embed tracking code in newly written pages. No tracking code, no data.
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Howto – AWStats Enhancements and Extensions

AWStats Logo This area focuses on resources to enhance the functionality of the web analytics tool AWStats.

These resources have been developed based on our client needs. As a contribution, we offer them here. Some may even make it into a future version AWStats!

WarningThe information here is provided on a „worked for us” as-is basis for your testing, verification and potential adoption.

ExtraSection Samples

AWStats has an excellent custom report syntax called ExtraSection which enables an organization to both extend standard AWStats and add organization specific reports. Below we offer ExtraSection samples useful for sites involved in search engine optimization web marketing and / or monitoring of traffic from external sites.

WarningWeb server log analysis can be memory and CPU resource intensive. AWStats documentation notes that each ExtraSection reduces AWStats speed by about 8%. Proceed with caution.

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