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Web Log Analysis

Web analysis can pay off. A midsize electronics distributor that had been analyzing its Web traffic for several months, for instance, noticed increased interest in its security products, such as smart cards. So the company launched a marketing campaign for its security offerings, and within a couple of months saw a significant rise in revenue for a division that previously hadn't been on the front burner.

Here's how some of us analyze Web logs at Syracuse University: First, we telnet into one of our Apache Web servers with a "tail -f access_log" that shows log file updates in real time. This provides plenty of data, but it offers only very basic analysis. Watching the traffic hitting the server, we can determine whether users are encountering errors and are referred to our site by external Web sites or search engines. If a user was referred by a search engine, we can see which one, as well as which keywords they used--information that can help your organization with marketing and content management.

Chances are, you don't sit around watching your telnet screen. Your best bet for getting in-depth traffic analysis is to run a commercial log-analysis package.

Needle in a Haystack

Most midsize or large organizations build dynamic Web sites that generate information from a database. Unfortunately, that makes analyzing user behavior more difficult since a site's URLs can look similar:

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