WebTrends Tracks Site Visitors
on the Internet ...
By Jim Bray
If you have a Web site, and who doesnt these days, its
important to get usable data on whos surfing your site and where
theyre going. This is important not only to see how popular your site is,
but to keep track of how its being used and whether its meeting
your needs and goals.
One of the leading products to give you exactly that information
is WebTrends, which has a variety of Web Analysis tools. Available as
standalone products or in an online version whereby the WebTrends people do all
the work for you, the products can let you track not only whos dropping
by and where theyre surfing, but how - or if - your ad clickthroughs are
working, what streaming media people are taking advantage of, and plenty
Now in Version 7, the product analyzes the log files generated by
your Internet or Intranet server and produces reports, complete with colourful
graphs and well-laid-out tables, that give you the straight dope.
WebTrends lets you find out what pages people are visiting on your
site, how long theyre staying, and what paths theyre taking in,
through, and out of your site. It can not only show you how many people see
your banner ads, but how many actually click on them, which lets you compare
the quality of your visitors from one ad to another - which ads working
best? - while giving your advertisers the true dollar value of their
advertisements assuming you want them to know!
You can track visitors as "hits," "impressions" (in case Rich
Little surfs by!), "page views" unique visitors, and the like. This
lets you see the difference between the total number of hits on your site - a
misleading figure that also includes all the picture files a visitor sees on a
page - the total number of HTML pages actually being viewed (and which ones
they are), which and what percentage of your total traffic they generate. You
can even find out when your site is the busiest and when its slow, and
on your site.
The product comes with a bunch of report templates built in and
the setup is easy. Once youve installed the software, you merely direct
it to the directory in which your web sites log file sits and give it the
file name. It can even usually find the files on its own as long as you point
it in the right direction.
From there, you tell it which type of report you want, set its
parameters (for example, do you want a top ten list of pages or the top 100?),
then let it chug away to its virtual hearts content.
The software is supposed to support all Web Servers and log file
formats, as well as multiple domains and virtual web servers. It retrieves log
files from http and/or ftp servers, and will save your report in a variety of
file formats, including html, text, MS Word and Excel. We used the html format
and found WebTrends reports easy to read and, once wed figured out
what they were talking about, easy to understand.
And to help you understand what they're talking about, the product
includes very good explanations.
You can even schedule WebTrends to log on and take your
sites pulse automatically.
WebTrends works on web sites large and small though, naturally it
takes a comparatively long time to pore over the log file from a big site as
compared with more manageable ones.
WebTrends product line includes Log Analyzer, Analysis Suite
Standard Edition, Analysis Suite Advanced Edition, and Analysis Suite Advanced
Edition for Domino, different strength products aimed at different
needs. The WebTrends people say the line is targeted toward the small to mid
sized business, though it (or its complementary online service) should be able
to handle just about any size of site.
The new version of the product features a new user interface that
seems more intuitive than earlier versions wed used. The company says the
products a lot faster than before, though we didnt time it. In our
real world tests, it still seems to take forever for the analysis to be
completed and the reports generated our site is very large, however), but it
doesnt really matter because you dont have to sit and watch it work
anyway; you can start it and go away.
The new version also lets you fine tune reports
better than before (for instance you can customize the list of search engines
it checks) and you can have the software compress its report to something
manageable enough to send by E-mail, which is a nice touch.
Theres also an optional database now, called GeoTrends,
which you can use to help track visitors by city, state, region, etc.
WebTrends also lets you monitor your IP devices and services and
can alert you via e-mail or pager whenever such a device stops responding. The
company says it can also automatically recover failed services and devices,
though we didnt actually try that.
You can use WebTrends to help keep your site up-to-date and free
of errors by having it verify links, page sizes, and dates. You may already
have other software to do such tasks (for example, Macromedia Dreamweaver will
track your links), but it never hurts to have choices.
WebTrends' link analysis does more than just look for broken
links, however. It also gives you a report with suggestions about how to
improve your site (for instance, by adding page titles or "ALT" text to
graphics), which is a nice touch if you don't mind being "virtually
WebTrends can also give you real-time analysis and reporting of
your sites traffic, letting you access reports almost instantly. And you
can set up more than one profile, so if youre in charge of
monitoring more than one site you can do it with the one application.
As if to sweeten the deal, WebTrends also offers periodic seminars
in various areas. I attended one of these in my area and found it a very
valuable morning spent; not only do you learn more about the product itself,
but you can pick the brains of the WebTrends people at the same time. I highly
recommend such a seminar if you have the opportunity.
Why is such a product necessary? Well, if youre going to
have a Web site you might as well do it right, eh? And with the powerful and
flexible reports you can get with WebTrends, you can actually improve your
sites quality, performance and integrity by using WebTrends Error
and Performance reports. You can also use the product to analyze your streaming
media content (if you have any), and to learn how fast (or slow) your site
operates (if its too slow, people arent going to stick around).
As the Web becomes more commercial and more competitive, its
becoming more important to know what traffic your site is generating. WebTrends
does a nice job of giving you information thats as up to date information
as you want, in easy-to-read formats you can use to show your customers the
bang for the buck they can expect from your operation.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think