Back to the Future with Log File Analysis
 by John Heard

Back to the Future with Log File Analysis — By John Heard

Back to the FutureSet the clock back 20+ years, to the early days of the World Wide Web. Online commerce was just getting started. AltaVista was the King of Search. The Yahoo Directory was the other big source of traffic. We were just beginning to understanding the importance of search ranking and the "massive" traffic being generated that was really just a trickle compared to this day and age.

We had only a few tools and 100% of web development was hand coded HTML. Almost all web developers were self-taught – learning from the few books that were available and by reverse engineering the source code of already published pages.

In those days the Hit Counter was the most popular traffic analysis tool — and they were everywhere!

Old Style Hit CounterVisitors to this Page

Hit Counters, powered by a little Perl, PHP or remote image services, provided a simple count of how many total requests that page had. Mercifully they, along with animated gifs of pink flamingo's, became extinct a long time ago.

It didn't take us long to figure out we needed a more in-depth picture of how our sites were performing. We wanted to know where our visitors were coming from and what keywords they used to find us. That's when we started working with Server Log Files to get this information and, in short order, tools for analysis were quickly developed.

Server Log Files for Deep Analysis

Server Log Files, which are very accurate, became our primary source of traffic data and keyword analysis prior to JavaScript based traffic tools such as Google Analytics ...