Problems with Log Based Statistics Programs:The log files are inherently flawed when it comes to answering many of the big questions to a definitive single number answer. For instance, what happens when an ISP Caches a website, serves it 2 times and downloads it 1 time. The log files see 1 time, resulting in a 50% margin for error. Thank goodness not all ISPs cache all websites, but for internet marketing this can become a sore and sticky subject quite quickly. Let?s ignore users for a moment and change gears looking at the ?Referring Webpage? instead for a second.
Every time you click on a link or submit a form, some headers are sent to the server in a request (GET or POST technically). In addition to this basic information, your system adds some extra information depending on how it is setup and what you were doing. One of those extra pieces of information in the header is the ?referrer?. The information that populates this must be an address formatted HTTP:// - the address of the page where you clicked on that link (or submitted the form). If it is not there for any reason a ?No Referrer? answer is given.
To move forward let?s look at some ways that a ?NO REFERRER? can show up in your stats program. The following activities are all construed by the logs as ?No Referrer?:
- typed in www.whatever.com
- bookmarks clicked on
- links from email
- set as homepage (every time you open a browser window)
- browser didn't pass referrer
- firewall / privacy settings (Operating/Network System settings)
- proxy server filtering
- and more!
So let?s assume then that 1-4 are understood, so let?s focus on understanding 5-7.
#5 & #6 Browser Didn?t Pass Referrer: Many people in this world, for varying reasons, have their computers locked up as tight as they can. There are a myriad of methods for blocking information originating inside your network as well. Now the question is how does that affect my stats. Well no information to use mean less accurate statistics. For users the question is simply at which point do you want to block the data. This includes the information they send out via their requests to view web pages. As their computer requests any given page it can be set to ?Forget? (BLOCK REFERRER) where it came from.
Generally this can be done 3 ways:
Web Page Browsers (Firefox, IE, etc.), Internal and External Firewalls, and Operating systems are all infinitely customizable, depending on the brand name, and are all capable of blocking referrers in a carte blanche fashion.
#7 Proxy Servers
Proxies provide a service to allow clients to make indirect network connections to other network services. A client connects to the proxy server, then requests a connection, file, or other resource available from a third server (your website). This intermediary does 3 things, it washes the headers, it only counts as 1 unique ip monthly no matter the usage, and can cache our pages entirely excluding us from information entirely.
An example of a proxy server is a dialup ISP service.
Therefore the referral numbers in log files are a completely unreliable method for absolute numbers of referrals in the real world.
So we can prove that our information isn?t quite perfect. How do we move on from here? Make the information we have 1/3 of a larger picture by adding more tools to our belt.
Before we move on back to users. By now you should be asking what are the methods that can affect user numbers. Those include but are not limited to: ISP Caching (2 aol users 1 line in log file) Browser Caching (Back Button views missed entirely)
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