Web Traffic Statistics Reports - FAQ

In order to understand the traffic patterns in your Web site, if you have access, you can review your Web site's Web statistics reports. This page FAQ provides answers to the following questions:
  1. How are the statistics reports generated?
  2. Does the report track how many users come to my Web site?
  3. If a users starts on my home page, clicks to a sub-page, then returns to my home page, is that counted as one or two page-views to my home page?
  4. What is the difference between "hits" and "page views"?
  5. Can the report tell me where my Web site traffic came from?
  6. Can the reports tell me the demographics (e.g., sex or age) of people who come to my Web site?

1) How are the statistics reports generated?

When you access a Web page, you are actually sending a "GET" request to a Web server to download that page (including graphics) to your computer. When the server sends the page to your computer, it keeps an access log file of these GET requests, including information such as:

  • what server you were logged into when you requested the Web page
     
  • the Web page you were on when you requested the Web page
     
  • the date and time of day
     
  • what Web page you requested

Typically, on a nightly basis, a statistical report application is run against the raw access logs. The statistical report gathers the information and presents it in an organized and readable report format.

2) Does the report track how many users come to my Web site?

The statistical report actually tracks how many "page views" (as described above) you get on your Web site. The Web server typically does not know how many users come to your web site. Here's why: After the Web server sends you a Web page of information, the server computer typically breaks the connection with you. Then when you request a second Web page from that computer, you establish another quick connection, in which it again sends you a web page and breaks the connection. Unless there is special software on the Web server (e.g., cgi script or cookies), the log files cannot know for sure that it is the same person.

3) If a users starts on my home page, clicks to a sub-page, then returns to my home page, is that counted as one or two page-views to my home page?

  • If the user used the Back button to return to your home page, this counts as one hit.
  • If the user used a Web site link to return to your home page, this may count as one or two hits depending on how that user has set up their browser:
    • Typically, it will count as one hit. This is because the first time the browser received the page it stored it in a cache on the user's hard drive. Then when the user requested that page again, the browser delivered the page from the users cache, rather then sending a new request over the Internet to the server to get that page again.
    • But if the user has set up their browser to always access the server to get a new copy of the Web page, then this would count as two hits.

4) What is the difference between "hits" and "page views"?

This is a very important distinction.  When a page is requested from the server, it may contain, for example, four images. When this occurs, the access log will record five "hits" - one for the HTML Web page and four for the four images.  However, when you wish to track your statistics, you will typically not be interested in the number of images that are requested.  In this case, you will wish to know the page views.  Make sure that you're Web hosting organization is able to supply you with "page views" and not just "hits"

IHR provides "page view" information in the IHR Web statistics reports.

5) Can the report tell me where my Web site traffic came from?

Yes, this information is typically found in a "referrer" section of the report. This is very valuable information, as it tells you which Web sites are sending traffic to your Web site.  If you are paying another Web site to promote your Web site, then this information is invaluable, because it provides the basis for letting you decide whether your advertising dollars are being well spent.

IHR provides a referrer report section to all of IHR's clients.

6) Can the reports tell me the demographics (e.g., sex or age) of people who come to my Web site?

No.  The Web statistics reports summarize information found in the Web servers access logs. Access logs do not collect this kind of information. Typically this kind of information is collected by a user completing an online form and voluntarily supplying this kind of information.
 


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