Webalizer: A Holistic Remedy

by Kenneth Hess

Cover Your Assets: The Webalizer is a handy marketing and technical tool, available for free.

Ken Hess
The Webalizer is self-described as a "fast, free web server log file analysis program." The detailed reports are customizable and render in standard HTML. The program uses standard common logfile format (CLF) and the combined logfile format. Webalizer supports logs from several different programs (FTP, Squid and W3C Extended) and compressed logs (.gz and bzip2). Supporting 40 languages and unlimited log file sizes, IPv4 and IPv6, DNS lookup and geolocation, Webalizer is one open source program you can't afford to be without.

Webalizer does more than just count up page views or hits. It analyzes all of the information contained in your logs: IP Address, page viewed, date, time, browser technology and operating system. IP Address is perhaps the most important metric since it contains country of origin information. For example, if you've recently spent a bundle marketing a research report to real estate agents in Australia, you'd like to measure the effectiveness of this marketing campaign by how many agents looked at the site vs. the number of purchases made. Detailed web statistics enable you to do just that.

Take a look at some actual data generated by Webalizer to understand what you'll see. The first page shows page views by month, which gives you a snapshot of daily averages and monthly totals. Click the May 2003 link to see details for a daily and hourly breakdown. Scroll all the way to the bottom to see country-specific data.

Web site statistics tell you more than just how many visitors came through. They also tell you when they visited. If you're planning marketing campaigns to a specific region, this time of day information is invaluable. Negatively skewing the results of an announcement or campaign due to poor timing is no longer an issue with hourly data — timing is everything.

If you're trying to solicit advertising dollars for your site, statistical data generated by Webalizer might help sell the concept. If you're showing month-over-month growth and impressive daily statistics, your case is far stronger with this hard evidence than with conjecture or lofty plans. C-level executives like hard numbers and graphs that explicitly show how their advertising dollars translate into page views, products ordered and increased sales numbers. Return on investment (ROI) is a very important topic of discussion, and you'll have the data to back up your assertions on past performance.

Marketing isn't the only practical application of such statistics. Month, day and hour usage also inform system administrators when to plan for maintenance on those systems. Schedule and handle non-emergency technical support issues during off-peak hours for your visitors not your IT staff. Usage trends relate to capacity needs as well. Web statistics point to bottlenecks, trouble spots and the need for more capacity for overwhelmed server systems. System administrators usually monitor system-level performance metrics (memory, disk and CPU) when determining capacity needs but rarely, if ever, share the data with anyone outside of other IT staffers. Webalizer data is more public and accessible to the masses, often having more impact than bewildering technical jargon spewed by disgruntled techies.

Webalizer is a free, complete and easy-to-use web traffic analysis program. It is a business tool, a marketing tool and a technical tool that provides new insight into your online presence.

Write back and tell me which web server log analysis program you use and why.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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This article was originally published on Thursday Jun 25th 2009
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