One of the tools usually included by your web host is a log file analyzer presenting the statistics gathered from the raw data in your website’s log files. One of the long-time favorites in this genre is AWStats from SourceForge.
As a PPC advertiser, you may believe you only need to use analytics to check your ad campaign performance directly, but a log file analyzer like AWStats can help you get a general idea of the nature of all of the traffic to your site. This provides a deeper understanding of your organic audience and allows you to become involved in optimizing your website, a process that will help you convert PPC visitors into customers once they land on your site from your PPC ads.
Among the variety of free statistical packages available, AWStats is one that will generate not just web statistics, but also streaming, mail server, or FTP stats (if those are something you are also tracking). If you are a newbie in this area, you may need to educate yourself some on how the program works, but the time invested will be well worth it.
For example, if you are looking for just a few quick checkpoints (such as number of unique visitors or country of origin) to understand or check on the analytics currently used for your paid campaigns, AWStats can fill this role.
AWStats shows stats on visitors to your website based on time (broken down by month, week, day or hour), country of origin (by country, region, and city), IP addresses, robot visits (including ones to your robot.txt file), the duration of visits, browsers used to reach your site, operating systems used by your visitors, etc. Figures are presented in a graphic format as well as in number form, making it easy to identify trends over time.
Many of the statistics will not impact your pay-per-click ad campaign decisions necessarily, but some are very informative. Key markers include the URL from which your visitors originated (to check on the effectiveness of specific ad campaigns), the keywords or phrases used to reach your website, and incidents of repeated short visits by the same IP address, usually a fairly clear indication of click fraud.
The tracking of search keyphrases and individual search keywords used to reach your website is particularly useful for PPC advertisers, as a means of investigating which keywords are leading people to your site via search, rather than those that cause people to see and click on a PPC ad.
AWStats can even be used if you do not have access to your log files by integrating commands that will create artificial log files that you can access and that AWStats can analyze to provide you with the stats you need. Check out the FAQs section of AWStats if you are in this position.
AWStats can be an extremely useful way for you to double or triple check that the stats you are receiving from your paid web analytics program or the analytics provided by your search engine as part of your ad campaign are relatively in sync. Remember that the two, or three, will never match completely, due to different factors, but they should generally show similar results. If not, it’s time to check things out.
AWStats can be a tool that relative novices in the field of working with log files will find useful. The raw data it provides will help you become comfortable with the type of stats available via log files in a format that is easy to understand and usually included at no additional cost in your hosting account. For some, this may be all that’s needed; for others, it can be an easy-to-use introduction to the complex world of web analytics if you decide you need to augment your current setup.