Using awstats

Interpreting access log statistics is a fuzzy activity at best. Here are some basic facts about what you can tell from the dozens of reports available to you from our awstats server.


Access Log
Every time a request is made from a browser, the web server software makes a log entry. The entry contains the following information: IP address of client, date, time, request string, browser identifier, address of page that contained the link (if there is one)
Any request to the server. A typical page requests generates many hits: one for the page, and one for each image or other media link encoded in the HTML for a page
Page View
A request for a page. Does not include the requests for any images or other implicit links on the page.
LiveStat defines a session as all the hits from the same IP address without 15 minutes going by without a request from that IP address. So if you visited a site and kept following links through the whole site
Referring Sites
When you click on a link on a page, the address of that parent page is sent to the server, and is called the referring page. If you type in an address directly into a browser, there is no referring page.


Can I tell what people are visiting the site?

Not really. All the server gets (and logs) is the IP address of the browser. For dial up accounts this is either a different IP address every time some one logs in. For others, it is often the address of a proxy server (all the AOL requests, for example, appear to come from the several AOL proxy servers. You might be able to tell if people are accessing the site from larger companies because the Referring Sites report or rhe Geographic Reports -> By Company will recognize those IP addresses as belonging to a particular company's domain.

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What is the difference between a hit and a page view?

A typical page is composed by the browser by making several requests for the various pieces. The initial request gets the HTML of the page. The HTML code tells the browser where to get the various images or other media (flash movies, sounds, etc.) and how to display them. Each image or other media item generates another request to the server. Each request is recorded as a hit. If the site has navigation items that change when you mouse over them, each item will require two or more hits.

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How accurate are the reports?

The reports are very imprecise, and so are only good for doing either comparisons or trend analysis. For sites that generate less than a thousand page views a day, they are very imprecise. Here are some of the factors that make them so.

Caching - Not every display of a page by a browser generates a request to the server. Every browser caches recently visited pages on your hard drive. So if you visit your site every day, you will probably not generate any hits unless the pages have changed. Each request will cause the browser to ask the server for the date and time of last modification for the page. If the modification information for the page on the server is not later than that of the page in cache, it will use the cache page, thus generating no access request. On a larger scale, most large companies and ISPs cache requests on their proxy servers in order to reduce traffic on the web. AOL for example caches pages so that if all 25 million users accessed the home page of your web site, it would only generate one access. The rest of the requests would be served out of the AOL proxy server cache.

Timing - The definition of a session is arbitrary. If someone accesses your whole site without going 15 minutes without clicking on a link, it will be recorded as 1 session. If someone visits your home page, goes and answers a telephone call for 20 minutes and then visits one more page, it will be recorded as 2 sessions.

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