The second group of reports in Urchin is the Pages & Files group. This shows you the most requested pages on your site. While Newfangled believes strongly in the advantages of database driven websites, there is one small downside to such sites, that is, log files record page URLs (website address), not the actual page titles. This means that when you view the "pages stats" you will see pages listed by their database driven URLs such as "/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/3353." This is not very helpful information since you have no idea what "/id/3353" refers to. Fortunately, Urchin turns all these references into links. By clicking on the title in the report, the page in question will open up in a new browser window so that you can see what it is.
Also, in the "Pages & Files" report, the top most view page of a site is usually listed as "/". This "/" simply refers to the "root" of your site a.k.a your home page. Additionally, you will see a page listed called "/robots.txt." This is a system file that gives some information to search engines when they index your site. You can ignore this item.
The third group of Urchin reports is "Navigation." It contains reports of the top entrance pages, exit pages, click paths, click to and from, length of pageview, depth of session, and length of session.
Now don't freak out when the most common exit page of your site is your sites homepage. The preponderance of sessions will leave after only viewing the homepage. Another potentially disturbing stat is that the most common average session length to your site will be less than 10 seconds. These numbers are always disturbing at first because what it seems to indicate is that most visitors hit your home page and then leave your site right away. It's not. This quirk is due to the high number of automated systems that hit your site and leave a record in your logs of quick, one-page visits. Because these hits are not from human beings, they do not go any further than your homepage. These automated systems include helpful things, like search engine spiders that index your site, as well as not so helpful things like automated email scrapers looking to harvest email addresses off you site for spammers. You will see a similar distortion in your reports in the depth of session, and length of session reports as well, for the same reasons.
As you peruse these reports, simply disregard the first sets of numbers that indicate such activity. However, if you go to the top exit page report and you find that your homepage ("/") is the exit page more than 20% percent of the time, you might want to look into it further. Less than 20% of such activity would be considered normal.
I find the referral reports very interesting. They tell me whenever a visit is generated from a link on another website - including links from search engines. They include which search engines are sending the most traffic, and what keywords people are using to find you. It's obviously very helpful to know where your site traffic is coming from and how people are finding you through search engines. I'm often surprised by what I find in these reports. The information I glean can also help me fine-tune my terminology or discover areas of my site to augment with offers, or additional information.
I have never found this set of reports very useful. It simply tells you what network a visitor was using when they came to your site. Because there are so many networks, and since knowing what network a visitor used doesn't really tell me anything about the actual visitor, I don't pay much attention to this information. The countries report is interesting. It's neat to know that people all over the world are reading my site, but it's still not terribly useful to me.
This set of reports is particularly helpful to us at Newfangled because it determines which browsers and platforms to support. As older browsers drop in their use we can safely stop developing for them. For more information on the impact of browsers and platforms on web development check out our two part newsletter from July and August '02 called "Browser Battles." It's good to check this information out, from time to time, just to have a sense of which browsers are currently in use. This is helpful if a client receives an email complaining about browser issues from someone using an archaic browser or platform. Sooner or later someone out there is going to see something weird on their screen due to a site's incompatibility with older browsers. Being able to provide exact numbers of how infrequently such a browser or platform is used can help to resolve any feelings that a site is "broken." Newfangled generally will support a browser if it is used by more than 3% of users. If a particular browser drops below that threshold, we stop testing and supporting it to maximize our client's development budgets.
Urchin provides very helpful site-wide global statistics. In addition to providing Urchin reports for our clients we also have an optional advanced NewfangledCMS applications for tracking specific user sessions, particularly when they result from online marketing campaigns. We've mentioned these tools in past newsletters but we'll go into more detail on what they do and how they differ from Urchin reports next month.