What Is Web Traffic?
Web site traffic was initially viewed as an all-important metric for gauging success on the Web. This assumption was due in part to the lack of other business metrics to explain the .com phenomenon. Now much of the focus has shifted back to profitability, and Web site traffic is only part of the equation
Web site traffic x conversion = results
Web site traffic is still important, as you can’t have conversions without visitors, but it is becoming less important as a standalone metric.
When you visit a Web site, the communications between your PC and the site’s server constitute Web traffic. The amount of traffic and the details of each visit are extremely valuable information to a Web-based business. The server computer records every request for a Web page, allowing its operators to determine which pages get the most attention. Web traffic analysis gives businesses concrete, reliable information on the interests of their customers.
Sessions and Hits
When you visit a Web site, you typically browse through a few different pages before moving on to other sites. Web engineers call your visit a session; it has a well-defined beginning and end, though the details vary from one session to the next. Each Web page consists of up to dozens of separate files; the server sends each file to your browser, which assembles them into a finished piece complete with text and graphics. Each file sent constitutes one “hit,” so a single page view results in many hits. The more traffic a Web site receives, the more sessions and hits its server processes.
Every time a Web server processes a file request, the computer makes an entry in a server log, a dedicated file on the server’s hard drive. The entry contains the Internet address of the user requesting the file, the time and date of the request and the file’s name. The log may also contain error codes, such as when a user requests a non-existent page. The log accumulates many thousands of entries over time, becoming a gold mine of information. The site’s operators use Web traffic analysis programs to sift through the log. The analysis reveals the most successful pages on the site, the days and times when users are busiest and from what parts of the world the visits originate.