Software

Measure your Web site success

There are a few ways to measure the success of your Web site, such as page counters, logs, and search engines. Here's how.

So you've blitzed the search engines and Web directories, traded a few links and ad banners, and emailed all your relatives who are online, begging them to check out your new Web site. You have a hunch somebody is accessing your pages, but how do you know?

Use a page counter

They may be clichéd, but the ubiquitous page counters you see on Web sites everywhere are the simplest way to get a feel for the traffic your site is getting. (The number the counter displays increases by one each time the page is accessed.) A jump in your home page counter is a good indicator that your site has been picked up by the major search engines or that it's received some good publicity on- or offline.

If you'd like to add a counter to your site, a number of free CGI scripts are available for download on the Web. Some Internet service providers make counter CGI scripts available to their users free of charge, while some commercial counter services will provide counters on your page with CGIs based at their own site. Along with page counters, WebTracker and Page Count give their customers visitor statistics, such as browsers used and what sites the visitors came from. See Mark Welch's Web Counters and Trackers page for a long list of counter services.

Keep a log

Each time someone visits your site, information (such as the viewer's domain name, the time of access, and the page viewed) is added to your Web server's log files. Log files also record this data each time an image, Java applet, or other element inside your Web pages is accessed. (Each log entry is known as a hit.) While you need access to the server hosting your site to view your Web logs, some ISPs give subscribers access to their logs on a daily or weekly basis.

Unfortunately, the typical Web log entry can be a bit obscure:

www.thatguy.com d-79.dnai.com - - [30/Feb/1997:19:48:16 -0700] "GET /index.html HTTP/1.0" 200 2302

To make sense of your log, use a log analyzer to crunch the hundreds of lines of text and organize the information by time of day, pages accessed, and domain name of the visitor. WebTrends (Windows 95/NT) and Analog (Mac) are two popular shareware log analyzers.

Use search engines to check your popularity

A few weeks after you submit your new site to the search engines, perform some test searches to see if your site is registered and how it ranks in keyword queries. If your pages fail search engine tests, you may want to beef up your page with more keywords.

Some search engines let you search specifically for links to your site: that way you can see if people like your site enough to give it exposure on their own pages. The following query in AltaVista, for example, would look for sites that link to the KillerGardens home page:

link:http://www.killergardens.com/

Ask how visitors found your site

If you have a feedback form on your site, add a field asking visitors how they found your page. Direct visitor feedback is often the only way to find out if your site has been mentioned offline. If visitors appreciate your site enough to fill out the form, they probably won't mind telling you how they found it.

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