Learning to read log files and stats is one of the most important aspects of running a web site. With tools such as the statistics and log files, a user can customize their site to suit the user and tailor it to their needs. Statistics allow users to view many different aspects within a site. Statistics and log files contain a wealth of knowledge and information about a site.
(Update: Good article explaining all of this is located here.)
The Unique Visitors section of the Summary page will show the number of unique or different visitors to a page. This is a true number of visitors to a site for the current month.
Number of Visits
The Number of Visits is the amount of users who come to the site, including unique as well as return visitors. So if a user visits a page more then once in a twelve-hour period, each of those visits will be counted and displayed here.
The Pages section displays the amount of pages that have been viewed for the month.
Hits represents the number of visits and connections per user for the site. Each user that displays a web page may make multiple connections to the server to download images, text and any other information that may be needed for the page to display. This is all logged and displayed as the amount of total hits a site receives.
See also: What's the difference between a hit and a visit?
The Bandwidth displays the current bandwidth usage for the month. It also displays the average usage per user per visit.
The Monthly History displays prior months the same way the Summary displays the current month. This will give a short run down of the unique visitors, number of visits, page views, hits, and bandwidth. Each section is the same as above, but with more months to view.
Days of Month
The Days of the Month displays the usage statistics for each day of the month, including number of visits, pages, hits, and bandwidth. This information reads the same way as all of the above sections.
The bottom of this section gives an average and a total. The average is the site averages in number of visits, pages, hits and bandwidth each day. The total is the same but the total so far for that month. This information can be found under the Summary section also.
Days of Week
The Days of the Week section displays the average statistics for each day of the week, allowing you to see which days out perform others. This is good information for users who release information on a weekly basis. By releasing information or updates on the most popular day of each week, more viewers will see the new information.
The Hours section displays the totals for each hour of the day for that month, lettting you see which hour of the day viewers are looking at your site.
The Hosts section displays the top twenty-five hosts that have visited the site. These are normally users, but in some cases can be search engines and other spidering programs. This section also displays the last time a user visited the site. Only the host IP address is provided here.
Authenticated Users are those who have access to password protected sections of a site. Any section using an .htaccess file to password protect it will be displayed in this section. This lets a webmaster know if someone has access to the site who shouldn’t. There is also a Last Visit section on this, which displays the last time that user accessed the site.
Robots or Spiders are used by search engines to index a site and the pages within it. The Robots/Spiders Visitors section displays a list of robots/spiders that have hit the site, along with the hits and bandwidth for each. It also lists the last time the robot/spider hit the site. This information is very useful for SEO (Search Engine Optimists), as it can let them know which major search engines haven’t hit their site, so they can potentially submit to those search engines.
The Visits Duration displays the average amount of time users stay on the site. This is useful for finding out if users are actually staying on the site and using the information provided, or just looking over the site and then leaving. This section displays the time duration for the visits, along with the percentage of traffic of each visit. Each time duration is measured in minutes; there is also an hour+.
The File Types section shows the different types of files that are accessible on the server. Shown here are the hits for each file type along with its percentage of traffic. This also shows the amount of bandwidth each file type consumes and the percentage of total bandwidth used for that month. This is a good section to find out which files are using the most bandwidth.
Each time a user visits a page within a site, the system will log that visit on the server. So if a user hits the index file the most, it will be displayed as number one in the Page-URL section. This section also displays useful information like Viewed (the total amount of times users have accessed this file) and Average Size (the average size of the file viewed). Remember that dynamically created pages will not be displayed here, only the handler file.
The Entry and Exit sections can also be very useful. For those of us who practice SEO (Search Engine Optimization) this section is golden. The Entry section shows how many users enter the site on any given page compared to the total Viewed number. In other words, this number is how many users have loaded which page first. The Exit section is the same thing, but it shows how many users exited the site from which page.
The Operating Systems section displays the different operating systems out there accessing your site, the number of visitors using each one, and the number of hits and percentage of traffic maked up by each system. This is helpful in determining how many users can view the site the way it was meant to be viewed. Each browser for each operating system will display the site differently. So if the site was optimized for Internet Explorer (Windows) then someone using Konqueror (Linux) may view it differently.
As with the Operating Systems section, the Browsers section displays which browsers the vistors to your site use to view your site. This also shows the number of users who have hit the site and the percentage of traffic they make up. This is helpful in determining which users are viewing the site the way it was meant to be viewed. This section also shows which users can’t view the site at all.
The Grabber column in the Browsers section gives a simple yes or no. This indicates whether or not a browser or program is copying or grabbing the files for later use. A lot of browsers do this in order to view a page correctly while being offline. The most common grabber offline browser displayed here is WebCopier.
Connect to Site From
The Connect to Site From section is one of the most important areas of the stats log. Here you will find which browsers are being used to connect to your site, the specific page through which viewers are accessing your site, and the percentage of traffic made up by these connections.
The Direct Address/Bookmark section is just as it sounds. Here is displayed the number of users who have visited your site by way of either bookmarking a page of your site page or typing in directly the page address. These are your return visitors — your community; they make up the majority of the traffic to your site.
Links from News Group
Links from News Group are just that: links from news groups. Displayed here is the number of links from any news groups directly to the site or its sub pages.
Links from Internet Search Engine
The Links from Internet Search Engine is one of the most important sections of a user's log file. If a user practices SEO (Search Engine Optimization) then this will be very helpful in determining which search engines are linking to their site and the amount of traffic that is being generated from each search engine. The two columns of numbers beside each search engine listed are the Hits and Pages that have been received from each search engine. A link to a full list is also available if all are not listed.
Links from an External Page
The Links from an External Page section is setup the same as the Links from Internet Search Engines. Here, links from other sites (rather than search engines) are listed. These could be a site's affiliates, links to another user's site, or anything other than search engines. This also gives the Pages and Hits along the side of each link, as well as displaying the total page views and hits along with their percentages.
Search Keyphrases and Keywords
The Search Keyphrases and Keywords is the most important section of the log files, if SEO is practiced. Here you will find those phrases that users have used to access your site. These are not single keywords (the keywords section displays those). Within this section you will find the number of times each keyphrase and keyword were used in finding your site.
This section displays Miscellaneous information about a site. Most important is the number of users who have bookmarked your site. Most webmasters use this as a kind of popularity ranker. The more bookmarks verses users for that month, means they are doing something right. The first number denotes the number of bookmarks, while the second is the number of visits.
HTTP Error Codes
The HTTP Error Code section displays different errors that have accrued for visitors to the site. This section also displays the number of hits each error received, the percentage of traffic it accounts for, and the amount of bandwidth each error used.
Log files are simple to read once a basic knowledge of them is acquired. Learning to utilize log files and statistic analyzers is an important part of running any site, as they provide very useful information about various aspects of the site. Indeed, they play a vital role in any website's growth and development.