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Types of Web Analytics Software: A Thorough Analysis

written by: Saurabh Dutta•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 7/13/2010

There are different kinds websites online, and each of them has a different requirement for collecting user data. This is where web analytics software plays a crucial role. Learn more about the various types of web analytics software you can leverage to track your website's traffic.

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    For the purpose of understanding and optimizing web usage, web analytics have become inevitable. From just a tool to measure web traffic, web analytics have grown into useful tools for business and market research as well. There are various types of web analytics software available, but if we look at their technical approaches we can classify them into two major types.

    The first type of web analytics software approach is in which all transactions are recorded by a web server and is popularly called logfile analysis. The second type makes use of JavaScript, and is known as page tagging.

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    Webserver Logfile Analysis vs JavaScript Page tagging

    Webserver Logfile Analysis

    Now, why types of web analytics are named is obvious. All HTTP transactions are recorded by a webserver in a logfile in the form of logs. And eventually web analytics software which could read these logfiles and provide data on a website’s popularity emerged.

    Some of the popular types of web analytics utilizing logfile approach are- Webalizer, AWStats and Analog. Fortunately enough, these are all free and work across all platforms as well as web servers due to their standard format.

    Pros:

    • No need to alter pages in order to install it.

    • No reduction in performance of the website.

    • Information is secure since no third party is being relied upon for resources.

    • This is quite a reasonable and cheap approach for most medium/small size websites.

    • Details of visitors who do not have JavaScript enabled can also be given by this type of web analytics software.

    • Bots visiting your site can also be tracked.

    Cons:

    • Installing and configuring of this type of web analytic software needs experts. For non-technical folks, this may prove a little difficult.

    • Extensive use of web caches became a problem for web server based logfile analysis. The revisits do not get recorded in the web server due to the presence of a cache in the user’s browser.

    • The complexity involved in setting and filtering out unwanted visits makes it a little bit inconvenient

    Page tagging or ‘Web Bugs’

    This type of web analytics software uses JavaScript codes, and embeds them in each web page in order to monitor the web traffic. As soon as a visitor lands on the web page, the code updates the information of the visitors, which can be then processed by a web analytics company. One important difference between the two types of web analytics is that page tagging solutions are mostly taken care of by a third party.

    Pros:

    • Easy installation by simple cut-paste operation of the code.

    • Accurate tracking of visitors even in cases where caching is significant. This is not found in logfile analytics.

    • Unlike logfile analysis, this type of web analytics software can also track Flash and JavaScript events. For example - Google Analytics allows this through trackPageview function.

    • JavaScript page tagging also offers a more detailed analysis of your visitor’s browsing capabilities, so that you know from where an important visitor landed on your page.

    Cons:

    • This type of web analytics software is not secure due to third party reliance.

    • Non java script browsers, though there are very few these days, cannot be tracked.

    So we can see that there are numerous services available which offer one or both kinds of web analytics software.

    You can take advantage of either free services like Google Analytics, or go for commercial web analytics packages like Webtrends and ClickTracks which make use of both types of web analytic approaches. Which type of web analytics software you should go for depends on your needs and convenience.

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