Understanding Site Statistics: Assorted Details

Published on April 7, 2006 at 8:52 AM EST
In the Discussions category.

Some people want a pasta salad, some caesar, and others want a house salad with bleu cheese dressing. Learn to give the people what they want!

For most of us, logging in to view our web site’s latest statistics is nothing more than a way to stroke our ego: “Numbers are going up!” If you dig a little and think about what you’re seeing, though, you’ll find that you’ve got some valuable data, telling you exactly what you need to know to make a super-site!

Understanding Site Statistics is a short series to help you learn how to pick out some great details about your visitors and your web site’s health. Try answering some of the following questions about your web site.

Any statistics tool should be able to give you good data, but I’m mostly using SlimStat and Mint, as I wrote in Monitoring Site Statistics.

In this series:

Error Pages

Encountering an error page (like a 404, Page Not Found) is very frustrating for the user. First off, provide a useful error page (example: EDSMT) to help them find what they want. Point the user to your site’s search, popular entries, categories, and other things that might help them find what they want.

Monitor what URI is bringing a user to an error page. The Apache error log (available with likely any Unix-based webhost) provides the address, though it’s a little tough to read. The Mint Error Tracker Pepper provides a very easy way to watch this. Mistyped or misspelled URIs can’t really be helped, but broken links and similar can be remedied by an updated URI or with a PHP or .htaccess redirect. If you send the reader to the right page, they’ll be much happier!

Another place I find this particularly useful is for when I decide to do some “cleaning.” From recategorizing and renaming files through MT, there are often old files left laying around the site. Every so often, I delete everything and rebuild to get a clean site. Watching for File Not Found errors lets me add redirects as necessary to point ot the correct pages.

RSS Feeds

Do you have many people reading your RSS feed? Feedburner is probably the best at summarizing all this data, and providing some unique statistics information of its own.

Just for convenience, there’s the Feedburner Stats Pepper for Mint.