Interested in Analyzing Traffic for Websites?
There are a number of ways to analyze website traffic, and all are approximations. Regardless, it’s certainly necessary to understand the web traffic coming into your own site as best as possible. Further, for a variety of reasons, you might be interested in what traffic is generated by other sites, for competitive research or simply determining a sites relevance. And if you are considering selling a website, you’ll want to know what independent services are indicating about your site’s traffic.
Your Own Web Servers
Of course the server logs for your own websites are the primary source for measuring YOUR traffic (but won’t give you info about traffic on other sites). Your web hosting service may have built-in analytics to better present data about unique visitors, and number of page views, etc. Alternatively, your web hosting service may charge extra for using such analytics. Although your own website servers represent raw traffic relatively accurately, this may not translate into accurate unique visitor counts, for various reasons, including how sophisticated it can differentiate between real visitors, and a number of mechanical visits, such as search engines.
Google Analytics is a free and useful service that can be installed on your website to track unique visitors, page views, average time on site, and more. However, this data would not be accurate as what your server logs indicate, since inaccuracies result from users deleting or blocking Google Analytics cookies. Furthermore, this is a service for analyzing your own traffic, and will not tell you about traffic on other websites.
Alexa.com is a service for analyzing relative traffic to global websites and is a simple way to see relative traffic numbers and rankings for other sites. Since the company was established in 1996, Alexa has been around the longest of the independent services represented here. Alexa produces statistics and traffic based on those people who access the sites while using the Alexa toolbar. Alexa does not consider a complete traffic picture for a site. Like all these services, Alexa calculates approximated traffic. (Alexa was acquired by Amazon.com in 1999).
Compete.com was launched in 2000, as an attempt to provide higher quality traffic information and to provide that data for the United States only. Compete uses a toolbar on browsers for users to access their data. But Compete’s traffic data is computed from sources including internet service providers, opt-in panels, application providers, and users of the Compete toolbar. Unlike Alexa, the service does not provide information for global Internet traffic.
Like Alexa, Quantcast is a service that rates and ranks Web pages. However, Quantcast does not require a tool bar to be installed upon a user’s browser to obtain statistics. Instead participating websites voluntarily insert a small amount of Quantcast HTML code inside Web pages they wish to have included in statistics. This code allows Quantcast to keep track of the traffic directed towards those Web sites. Using this mechanism Quantcast can provide thorough details about Web pages created by participating publishers
Hitwise is a commercial traffic monitoring service which collects data directly from Internet Service Provider networks. Customers pay Hitwise a premium to access data reports for their vertical, such as travel, finance, retail, etc. A common use of Hitwise is to measure market share on the Internet.