Find a Free or Cheap Web Measurement Solution

Free or inexpensive packaged solutions are a great place to get your feet wet with web site measurement.

It’s easy to get the impression that web measurement is a costly and time consuming endeavor, one requiring deep pockets and significant expertise.

While time and effort are absolutely required to truly understand your web site visitors, there are also many inexpensive and even free software is available to support your efforts. In fact, the very first web measurement applications, Webstats and Analog, are freely available and nominally supported by the open source movement to this day.

An important consideration regarding free and inexpensive measurement solutions is the old adage you get what you pay for. While this does not mean that low-cost solutions are necessarily bad, it’s more a reflection that open source and entry-level web measurement solutions are often less well maintained, documented, or supported than their business-class counterparts (at least at the time of this writing). If you go this route, you need to simply be aware of this and be prepared to have to look a little harder or wait a little longer for help when problems arise (and trust me, they always arise!).

Free Web Measurement Solutions

The following table lists several free measurement solutions, where to get them, which data sources they use, how the applications are delivered, and what makes them worth mentioning in this hack (Table 1-3).

Table 1-3. Freely available web measurement solutions

Name and URL

Data source(s) used Delivery type platforms

What’s good or cool about this solution

Analog

http://www.analog.cx

Web server logfile

Software

Win/Unix/Mac

Analog is highly scalable, ultra-fast, easily configured to report in over 30 languages, and it works on any operating system. Analog is purportedly the most popular measurement application in the world.

AWStats

http://awstats.sourceforge.net

Web server logfiles, FTP logs, mail logs

Software

Win/Unix/Mac

An open source Perl-based measurement tool, AWStats is a very flexible tool for technically minded folks.

WWWStat

http://ftp.ics.uci.edu/pub/websoft/wwwstat/

Web server logfiles

Software

Unix-based systems

Relatively simple and easily modified Perl-based logfile parser for Unix systems and common logfile (CLF) format web servers.

Webstats

http://www.columbia.edu/httpd/webstats/

Web server logfiles

Software

Unix (Solaris)

Very simple Perl-based logfile parser. Easy to install, easy to run.

Log Parser 2.0

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/scriptcenter/tools/logparser/default.mspx

Web server logfiles

Software

Windows

Microsoft tool that allows SQL-like queries against Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) logfiles.

FunnelWeb

http://www.funnelwebcentral.com

Web server logfiles

Software

Win/Unix/Mac

Surprisingly well-supported by moderately active bulletin boards maintained by a regular software company (Quest Software).

Keep in mind that there are likely many more free applications, including hundreds (if not thousands) of page counters. The programs listed above are those that have a solid reputation and have been around for years. Some, like Microsoft’s Log Parser, are even documented in great books like Microsoft Log Parser Toolkit (O’Reilly).

For the most part, to take advantage of these free applications, you need a good working knowledge of software installations, some Perl in many cases, and lots and lots of patience. Some of the applications, such as AWStats and Analog, are supported by the open source community and incredibly nice people like Dr. Stephen Turner (author of Analog and contributor in this book). Also, if you’re really interested in saving some money, don’t forget to read the “Build Your Own Web Measurement Application” hacks throughout this book!

Inexpensive Web Measurement Solutions

The next step up from free software is inexpensive software. By inexpensive, I mean under $1,000 for either the software license or two years of hosted costs. For example, if a hosted application is $500 per year, it would be on this list because it costs only $1,000 over two years. We use two years because that is the average amount of time companies use most web measurement applications before upgrading or switching vendors.

While $1,000 may seem like a lot for you, many of the applications listed in Table 1-4 are significantly less expensive, and I’ve tried to include the lowest available pricing I could find (but please remember those prices are subject to change).

Table 1-4. Inexpensive web measurement solutions (continued)

Name, URL, and lowest available price

Data source(s) used Delivery type Platforms

What’s good or cool about this solution

Web-Stat

http://www.web-stat.com

$5/month

JavaScript page tags

Hosted application

Perhaps the world’s least-expensive tag-based solution; provides simple conversion and ROI tracking for under $10 per month.

ClickTracks

http://www.clicktracks.com

Web server logfiles,

JavaScript page tags

Software, hosted application

Windows

One of the most usable, visually engaging measurement applications available; very appropriate for those new to site measurement.

VisitorVille

http://www.visitorville.com

$4.95/month

Web server logfiles,

JavaScript page tags

Software

Windows

The Sims meets web site measurement; hilarious, if a touch impractical for serious measurement; allows realtime chat with visitors.

WebSTAT Premium

http://www.webstat.com

$9.95/month

JavaScript page tags

Hosted application

Basic tag-based measurement application, a step up visually from Web-Stat; able to publish reports in Excel and Adobe PDF formats.

HitBox Professional

http://www.hitboxprofessional.com

$26.67/month

JavaScript page tags

Hosted application

The original inexpensive web measurement application; feature rich and supported by a well known application vendor (WebSideStory).

OneStat

http://www.onestat.com

$10.82/month

JavaScript page tags

Hosted application

Purportedly used by 50,000 subscribers in 100 companies; a feature-rich alternative to HitBox Professional for Europe and Asia.

Deep Log Analyzer

http://www.deep-software.com

$149.95

Web server logfiles

Software

Windows

Very inexpensive software-based logfile parser; provides additional functionality via downloadable reports (Professional version only).

IndexTools

http://www.indextools.com

$19.95/month

JavaScript page tags

Hosted application

Tag-based solution highly focused on pay-per-click campaign efforts; has add-on functionality to generate complex keyword ROI metrics and a nifty browser overlay (E-Business Edition only).

Clicklab

http://www.clicklab.com

$50/month

JavaScript page tags

Hosted application

Relatively simple application; the only measurement application I know of that focuses on identifying click fraud.

WebTrends 7 Small Business Edition

http://www.webtrends.com

$495 or $35/month

Web server logfiles, JavaScript page tags

Software, hosted application

Windows (software)

Very flexible, very powerful application for the money; provided by a market-leading application vendor (Web- Trends).

NetTracker Professional

http://www.nettracker.com

$695

Web server logfiles

Software

Win/Unix/Mac

Flexible solution for a variety of platforms; one of a small number of applications that provide visitor segmentation for under $1,000.

Urchin 5

http://www.urchin.com

$895

Web server logfiles

Software

Win/Unix/Mac

Very fast, slick-looking interface capable of reporting in multiple languages; improves accuracy of web server logfiles using first-party cookie augmentation.

The advantage of paying even a small amount is that you establish some type of relationship with the software provider—one that you can leverage if you need minor support. Some of the programs listed in Table 1-4, including WebTrends, Urchin, NetTracker Professional, ClickTracks, and HitBox Professional, are sold by very reputable companies that also sell business- and enterprise-class applications; these companies have an added advantage of a larger, measurement-focused organization supporting their inexpensive products and are worth a closer look.

I’m not advocating free and inexpensive solutions if you’re absolutely committed to web measurement being a critical aspect of your online business; there is a pretty strong correlation between the amount companies spend and the attention they pay to software applications. Still, if you’re just getting your feet wet and want to test the waters, any of the applications listed in this hack are worth a look.

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