So did you know that there are different ways that analytical data about your website is collected? Of course you did you just might not have really thought about it before. I mean who stays up thinking about this sort of stuff besides Shelby Thayer, myself and a few other people that I will leave unnamed to protect their identity? So instead of staying up all night to see if you can come up with four different types I’ll just write them out here. You can think me for the extra sleep later.
1. Web Logs
Parsing web log data can be tricky, but there are lots of free solutions to do this. Also web logs is the best method to see robot behavior. So when a search engine bot crawls your site it will show up in your web logs, but not in most of the other methods.
Web logs can be difficult to translate into actual business data as they capture technical data. For understanding problems with your sites like page issues, bandwidth usage, server loads, and other technical information they can be very valuable. Also like I’ve stated you have them even if you don’t choose to look at them.
2. Web Beacons
Remember in the late 90’s when banner adds and pop-ups seemed to be everywhere? Web Beacons measure hits. They were originally created as a smart way to offer dynamic graphics and more sinister things. Today Web Beacons are still quite popular and are the main way that email marketing solutions track email open and view rates. So if you get an email that asks you to enable images and you choose not too then you are not being recorded as opening the email. Of course the links in the message commonly use methods similar to destination URL builders to track click-throughs and this can help to more accurately monitor open rates for users that choose to not “enable images”.
Web Beacons are easy to implement and can provide data about users clicking on banner graphics and store this data on a remote server. The beacons can be configured to record pretty much any sort of data you could be interested in collecting including creating cookies. Because beacons track through images and robots do not view images you cannot track bot behavior. They are especially value for easily tracking data across multiple domains. Web Beacons were an early attempt to grab business intelligence and have been widely popular by marketing and advertising web entities. They have also been giving a black eye by being associated with spyware and spammers.
3. Packet Sniffing
Packet Sniffing is probably the method that everyone skips or doesn’t think about. Packet sniffing is more of Network Administrator function, but it can be either a piece of hardware that sits between your server and the web or software installed on your web server. All traffic is sent through this sniffer which basically allows you to know exactly what is happening and being surfed on your site in a linear fashion.
So Which One Guru?