Log File Analysis: Hits, Files, Sites and Pages

Ever wondered what pages, sites, hits and visits mean? These are special terms in the field of web analytics or more percise log file analysis.

There are still many people that use log file analyzers like webalizer or analog. These log file analyzers are included in most web hosting packages.

Let’s take a look at the metrics that these tools provide. Especially if you want to know what your server is doing.

The log files represent the server’s perspective – please keep in mind that these numbers do not really fit to the more recent web analysis tools like econda Monitor or GA.

Never the less the server’s perspective is still valuable and wide spread.

Log files

Log files are  a list of tasks the server actually completed. in other words: requests the server got and responses the server sent.

The logfile analyzer now takes the logs, counts the occurrence of certain words or phrases, and does statistics on this data.


Each line in a log file represents a request and response by the webserver. There will be one line for each graphics file or .html, .js or .css file that the server delivered. Additionally there will be lines containing requests for status information on the server.

The metric hits is nothing but the number of lines in the log file for a given time or the number of request the server served.

One single page that the visitor of a website is actually viewing might consist of 1  to 100 or more files. The number of hits per page view depends on the page that the visitor is requesting. Thus in most cases you cannot easily derive the number of page views from the number of hits that you log file analyzer counts.


To get the number of pages that your visitors requested, the analyzer counts only the lines that contain certain words or sequences of characters. E.g. “.html”, “.php”, “jsp” …

The count of the requested pages derived by log file analysis is not equal to the page views that you might see in a more advanced web analytics software using the tagging method. Many requests for pages that the visitor is viewing might hit a proxy, the local cache and not your server. The log file has no entries for the requests that never hit your server.

The next thing to keep in mind is that the number of pages depends on the character sequences or phrases that you count. If your CMS, blog or wiki is uses  php and your analyzer only counts lines containing “.htm” or “.html” the number of ‘pages served’ might be wrong.


The number of files served  is equal to the number of lines in the log file minus the requests for status information to the server.


To serve requests the server needs to know the IP address of the visitor. Each line in the logfile contains the IP address of the client it serves. The number of sites is the count of unique IP addresses for a given time.


For each line in the log file the time to the previous request from the same IP is calculated. If the difference is bigger than a given time  the analyzer counts a new visit. In most cases the value for the timeout is 30 minutes. In other words – if your visitor is inactive for more than 30 minutes – we count a new visit with the next request we server for that visitor.

Are you using log file analyzers? Please take the time to write a comment and tell me how you use your analyzer.

webalizer – The Webalizer is a fast, free web server log file analysis program
analog – The most popular logfile analyser in the world

DAA releases info graphic on web analysts’ salaries across the U.S.

The Digital Analytics Association (DAA) releases an infographic on 2012-04-05 at 9am ET that shows the saleries of analytics professionals in the U.S. The starting salary for an analyst is at $60,800. The data for this infographic was drawn from actual job placements and was provided by IQWorkforce and was analyzed by the DAA’s research committee, led by Brian Thopsey.

According to the research, Atlanta, GA is the best city for digital analysts to live and work in when comparing both salary and the cost of living. San Francisco, CA has the highest salaries on average, but the cost of living knocks it out of the top five best cities for digital analysts.
compensation for analysts across the US
Download the infographic in PDF Format DAA_us_compensation_infographic
(Image and PDF by DAA, Gorm Larson & Zornig)


What does ‘a page’ mean for a web analyst?

The DAA (Digital Analytics Association) changed their definition of a page some years ago to adapt the definition to the current situation.

The page that a user recognizes is no longer connected to the technical call of an  html file from a web server.

E.g. in a Magento shop the entire purchase process is carried out on a single HTML page with several dynamic layers. Those layers open and close as need for the purchase.

The users really have the impression that they are served several pages not a single one. Hence the DAA (Digital Analytics Association) changed the definition of a page to something that can be adopted to the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of a page: “An analyst definable unit of content.”

This definition has many advantages over the older one. One for example is that you can count the view of a PDF file as a page view, Ajax requests or even flash elements that just seem like a page to the user.


(Picture: gsagri04, http://openclipart.org)




Web Analytics Association Becomes Digital Analytics Association

Wakefield, MA—March 5, 2012— The Web Analytics Association announced today that it has changed its name to the Digital Analytics Association (DAA), effective immediately. Founded by Web analytics industry leaders in 2004, the DAA has successfully supported its members by providing quality education, professional development, certification, development of standards and best practices, ongoing research and has served as an advocate for issues that advance the industry. The organization has more than 2,000 members worldwide including: comScore, Dell, eBay, Expedia US, Microsoft Corporation and Viacom Media Networks, representing forty countries and a broad spectrum of expertise.

Jim Sterne, chairman of the board and founder of the organization, announced the rebranding effort at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in San Francisco. The new positioning reflects the focus of the not-for-profit, volunteer-powered association created to unite professionals in a common effort to enhance the capabilities of data analytics and address the challenges associated with turning big data into business intelligence.

“The DAA strives to help individuals become more valuable through education, community, research and advocacy,” said Jim Sterne, DAA chairman. “The Board of Directors chose to change the name to the Digital Analytics Association in 2011 to account for the analyst’s evolving role. Our new name is a better reflection of the full gamut of the data analytics field that we strive to support.”

As in the past, the DAA will leverage its membership for direction and guidance on issues that are most important to them as a driver for future research and educational programs. The initial analysis of the DAA’s yearly 2012 Outlook Survey conducted of its members indicates key challenges in digital analytics on the horizon. Early findings reveal key areas of importance for the association, including new and cross-channel measurement and an uptick in deriving business decisions from data.

“The landscape of the data analytics industry has shifted and grown since the introduction of mobile and social technologies,” said Peter Sanborn, DAA president. “As a result, the DAA has undergone a metamorphosis to ensure that we continue to support our membership as they evolve along with the industry. Our mission since the start has been to provide an association that encompasses all data analysts and to empower them through key services and support. We believe our new name truly echoes this mission.”

As part of the rebranding effort, the DAA has unveiled a new logo and website, www.digitalanalyticsassociation.org. The DAA’s new website provides a comprehensive showcase for the association where members can connect, read the latest news and explore educational resources in different specialty areas. The association will hold their first symposium as the DAA on April 23 in New York:www.webanalyticsassociation.org/?ny2012_symposium

About the Digital Analytics Association (DAA):
The DAA is a not-for-profit, volunteer-powered association that helps members like Adobe, Expedia SAS and Yahoo! become more valuable through education, community, research and advocacy. The DAA was founded as the Web Analytics Association in 2004. The organization has more than 2000 members worldwide, representing forty countries and a broad spectrum of expertise. For more information about the DAA, or to become a member, visit the DAA website at: www.digitalanalyticsassociation.org.

(Image: Gerd Altmann/Shapes:AllSilhouettes.com / pixelio.de)