Interpreting Usage Statistics

When running a website, whether it is a web hosting business or even just a blog, it is important to know how big your audience is, how often visitors come to your site, and what information those visitors access. There are a couple free and open source statistics software packages (such as AWStats) that you can install on your server, although many site owners are increasingly relying on third-party services, such as Google Analytics.

Regardless of what system you ultimately choose to run for your own website, you still need to know how to interpret the data you glean from it. There are a number of key terms you need to know and understand. Among them are:

Hits: Those who want to promote their own websites or show their bosses how wonderful marketing is going will throw around the word “hits” to demonstrate a website’s success. Without knowing what “hits” really means, 1,000, 10,000, or even 100,000 hits may seem like the website is getting a lot of traffic. The truth is that a hit is counted every time a single file (document, image, etc.) is accessed. In other words, a single visitor could be responsible for all of the hits. Furthermore, larger sites will naturally have more hits because there is more information to access.

Unique visitors: This will give a more realistic idea of how many people actually view the site. It only counts individual hostname requests to the site and only counts them once over a period of time (usually one month). It is not a completely flawless method, but it can work.

Pages: From this statistic you can learn how many pages are accessed. Similar statistics will also give you specific information about which pages were viewed.

Bandwidth: The term bandwidth refers to the number of bytes transferred to and from visitors. Sites with larger chunks of data may have more bandwidth usage, and it is not always indicative of success.

There are many other statistical terms to know. We will cover those in the coming days.