Improving web statistics

Recently there has been a lot of attention for web statistics: first Mint was launched, introducing design and AJAX to web statistics. Soon after that, old-timer NedStat got bought by WebStats4U, which lost most of its clients by adding unwanted advertising to sites using the NedStat counter. And last week Google re-launched Google Analytics, previously known as Urchin. There is a lot going on in a market just as old as the Internet.

As long as people have created web pages, they have been interested in knowing who is visiting their pages. Most web statistics packages already exist for years, and the only changes they have made to their products are the inclusion of new browser detection and more advanced bot filtering. And the inclusion of RSS readers of course.

The first statistics I ever used was the NedStat counter. I only had to place an image on my home page, and NedStat would tell me the referrer pages, countries, and browsers. Ver neat!

Then I moved to another hosting provider, which gave me access to the server logs. I installed AWStats and got incredible statistics. Now I can see which search bots spidered my site, which file types are more popular, and which files are missing (404 errors). It is all in the server logs!

And now I am playing with Google Analytics. Google's application does not use my server logs, but require me to add a piece of JavaScript to each page. The results are once again a step up from what I had: Google does not only show technical reports, but also has views for marketers and executives, showing things like ROI and tracking your goals.

As a technology-oriented person, I first set the webmaster view as my default view. But Google's webmaster view gives me less information than AWStats. It does not tell me about 404 errors, it does not show me bandwidth numbers, it does not show me login names.… The other views in Analyze are great, and very useful when managing my sites, but I do miss webmaster information.

I wish it would be possible to ‘enrich’ the data Google collects with my server log files, FeedBurner reports, etc. With Google Base they laid the foundation for adding content, they only have to implement in into analyze.

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Jeroen Sangers @jeroensangers