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ION's Search Engine Optimization Training: Instructions for Traffic Analysis

SECTION ELEVEN - Understand & use your on-site traffic statistics

         If you've completed the first 10 sections of our series, then you're in for smooth sailing from here on out. The last few steps here are much easier by comparrison, since all the initial, active steps are done. From here onwards we'll simply be showing you how to use what we've shown you in the ten previous steps to 'tweak' your rankings and traffic on an ongoing basis. We'll concentrate on how to maximize the ranking, the traffic, and even your sales.

         The web logs on your server are compiled as pure data, with nothing but compressed numbers & code that is unreadable by humans... Having the right server-side analysis software to read them with is critically important to understanding your traffic. For instance, AWStats, (among a few others) shows you all of the vital information we'll talk about below, while Webalizer, which is still quite popular, doesn't even tell you which Search Engines were used to find your site! If you are doing any kind of Search Engine Optimization, this is like running a marathon with no shoes. The really sad part about that scenario is that the data is there, recorded on your server either way... You just can't access it without a good web server log analyzer program.

         That's why we're including in our instructions here a process to ensure you are getting all the stats you need, and then at the end we'll address what to do with those numbers over time.


SEO terms you may want to review for this section:

            Web Logs             Tracking (web statistics)
            Visitor             Unique Views


How to understand your web site traffic and use it to your advantage:

  1. Study the following chart. Everything in it is important to SEO, and you need to have access to all these statistics, updated daily or more often, in your host server control panel. Pay close attention to see if you are missing a few, because we will start by showing you a way to add the missing functionality on in the following steps.

    Vital information you need to know about your traffic for SEO:
    Where they came from: Referrers. From both Web pages and Search engines, with an active link to the page that the visited WebSite is currently listed in. - Preferably in the chronological order of occurrence with the times of visits.
    Which words they used to find you: Keywords. Used in Search Engines linking to a WebSite. Preferably both cumulative and daily viewing options, with one and two word phrases or better.
    Spider traffic: Indexing. Knowing when Googlebot, for instance, visits your site and how often is like knowing when your guests show up for dinner... Better clean house in time!
    Geotargeting: From where, by Countries and Cities. Where the visitors are physically located.
    Which Browsers, Operating systems, and versions of Javascript, flash, CSS etc. used by the visitors' browsers: Software versions. Very useful to conform your site's appearance to the masses.
    Graphical trends: Site statistics. Over a period of time, to measure patterns. The more reporting, the better.
    Interest determination: Exit pages. Knowing which page your surfers depart your website from is invaluable for planning your site upgrades. If there is a large amount of traffic departure from a certain page, then you simply have to make that page more interesting to keep them on your site.
    Users, NOT hits: Unique Views. It's hard to believe, but many older server hosts only show the number of hits, and not the number of actual, unique users on your website. These days this is easily done by filtering hits with the IP addresses logged, and the difference in numbers is staggering.
    Security: IP tracking. As long as you need IPs logged, you should be aware of who went where. At the very least this is a good security habit, and at best it can be used to spot trends.
    Customized Analysis: Site searches. Allowing for keyword query searches to customize information on visitors and traffic.

  2. If your current server host can show you all of those site stats, then you are doing great, and you can proceed down towards the bottom of the page to STEP #89. Most people who have followed our instructions at all in the Hosting choice section, (Section 2) will probably have AWStats right now, so I will use this step to direct them 'the rest of the way in,' as well as telling the rest of you how to proceed. A recent build version of AWStats should be able to show you everything we've talked about in the chart above except your on-site searching. For that, we recommend that you download and install another great, free program:

    • Zoom Site Search (1.03 MB download for windows)
      Zoom is a powerful, professional-looking, full-site-spidering search engine for your website that gives you actual charts & graphs based on your on-site searches... For instance, if you saw that people were constantly searching for something that you don't offer on your site, then you could add a page for that subject. ION has used AWStats and Zoom together, and we've never before or since had such great statistical data for free.

  3. For those who want more data than these two programs together can offer, there are only two choices that I know of; upgrading your host server to one that uses either Urchin Statistics, or Smarter Stats. Unfortunately if you've signed up with another host recently it can be hard to switch, but we did try to warn you during Section #2!

  4. If you didn't get Urchin, Smarter Stats, or even AWStats in the first place, you are probably missing some combination of Keyword stats, referrers, and/or exit pages... Really important things for SEO. If this is your problem, you're still in luck, because here is a software package called Relax (always good advice) that examines your server logs on your PC and can answer those question for you. It's not a full web log analyzer, just a suppliment to the many web log analyzers out there that don't offer enough stats for us keyword optimizers.

  5. Still missing any important statistics? Try looking for your solution on our Web Log Analyzer Tools page. It's got all the best free tools we know of, big and small alike.

  6. Ok, so you've got all the statistics you could ever need. Now what? As you complete the other steps in our program, all of these numbers here should rise. Make sure they all keep rising, and check back here often to see what is not rising as quickly as the others. Exit pages are especially sensitive... If you notice that one page in particular is being used as the exit page to your site more often than most of the others, then it may need a sprucing to make it more interesting. The bottom line? Try to keep all your visitors on your site as long as possible, and try to get them to exit from the pages you want them to only. Your stats will be your scorekeeper, so get in the game and direct those surfers where you want them to go!

    Every statistic mentioned in the chart above can be used to improve your website's traffic and/or sales. Think of each one of these reports as your trusted advisors, all suggesting that you do something to 'tweak' the process and make it better. For example, the local-site search results show you that 10% of your visitors searched for "bananas foster" on your cooking website last month, but you don't even offer that receipe... So add it! That's a loud-and-clear suggestion on how to improve your site to be what your visitors are looking for. The same with languages, browser Versions, operating systems, etc. The more you know, the better you can cater to your visitors needs, and in the end that means better sales.


Why your knowing your traffic is important in SEO

These statistics are all now important to know for your site's continued traffic health. Take a look at your website's control panel or existing log analysis software before you proceed, to make sure that you have access to all of the stats mentioned above. If your software or host control panel doesn't give you enough information, consider one of the free server-side or client-side tools listed below. You don't have to get the very best, you just have to make sure that you can see (and maybe run reports on) all those stats above.

Want a deeper look at your website traffic than your host server offers? Here are some great, free applications for you to analyze your existing site statistics and logs with. If you don't know how traffic is behaving across your website, you will never know how to increase it!

As your efforts to turn your traffic into profit grows, so does the need to know exactly what your surfers are doing across your whole website. Some hosting services tell you enough about your traffic for you to never even need to view your logs, but that is still pretty rare.


Our final section in the SEO process is one you won't likely have to look at for a month or two from now, but it's good to reveiw now so you know what's on the horizon. Section Twelve covers all the ongoing SEO "maintenance" tasks you need to do in order to ensure your site holds onto the ranking you want over time.

Click here to continue on to Section Twelve.


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