Website Traffic 101, Mar 06 | The Webmeister Speaks: Search Engine Optimization

BY Robert D. Truog

In 1994, Jim Karpen advised me to move my print publicationto the web. The site was up just before the end of that year. The resultingtraffic dwarfed my four-year-old print publication—and a web junkie wasborn.

Since then I have become the defacto web-support service for many of my colleaguesand friends. This column is a result of their inquiry: What are the free andpaid resources available to grow traffic to a site and make revenue from it?

My first email comes from YM in Kansas City, MO. She writes:

Dear Webmeister,
My site has been up two weeks and I already have 5,000 hits. I only have onelink pointing to my site. With traffic like this, I’m setting a datefor my public offering.

My question is, if this is so easy, what are you doing all day long andwhy haven’t you called?
Your Mother

Dear Mother,
Unlike hits in baseball and rock ’n’ roll, hits on your websitedon’t mean that much. That’s because every element on a page—thelogo, the page itself, and each smiley face—represents a hit. So whenyou go to one of your pages, you generate many hits. Multiply that times thenumber of pages you visited when you were setting up your site . . . and you’vecreated your own traffic wave of 5,000 hits. Just cut out the smiley faces(please!) and you’ll start to get a more realistic picture of actualtraffic. However, don’t let this discourage your plans for a public offering—manyhave millions on a lot less.

Know Your Traffic

Inevitably, my mother’s comments bring up multiple issues for me, butwe’ll just deal with the ones related to the web. The first lesson inweb traffic, O Grasshopper, is: “Before you can grow web traffic, youmust first know what it is.”

Most website hosting companies have a basic traffic monitoring package. Sobegin by asking them about their service. You can also find many companiesthat offer free services. Google, for example, bought Urchin—one of thebest software programs available—which it offers at no charge. (Finda list of more traffic analysis tools and links at the bottom of this page.)

Pageviews and Unique IPs

If you want to understand your site’s traffic, you need to know abouttwo critical elements: pageviews and unique IPs.

1. Pageviews are simply the number of pages requested from your server byusers. Each click on a link generates a request for that page to be sent toyour computer. This is a pageview. As one goes through a website, each newrequest generates a new pageview. Pageviews reflect one aspect of your site’spopularity.

2. An IP address is the numerical address assigned to your computer by yourISP—for example, While you are online, you are that numberwherever you go. Like Hansel dropping breadcrumbs on his way through the forest,you leave behind a trail of numbers for webmasters to analyze when you travelfrom page to page. This IP number informs webmasters what pages you’verequested, how you found the site, and even your location, down to a specificcity.

Still, there are limits to the accuracy of IP addresses. Several people mayuse the same computer, and dial-up connections may change your IP every timeyou connect. In addition, if you have an account with AOL, they can changeyour IP during your connection. So while the IP is not perfect in defininga single person’s route through the Internet, it’s close enoughfor us.


I’ll leave you with one last wrinkle in the traffic situation. Searchengines use programs called bots that follow every link they find. The firsttime a bot finds your site, it will report back to the mother ship, “Here’ssomething new!” This request starts the indexing of your site. A newrobot comes back and goes from page to page, indexing or collecting a copyof each page and sending it back to the search engines’ servers. Thesepages are then cached (copied) and served up as the results that you see whenyou query Google for “Mom’s new site.”

The problem? These monitoring services cannot always discern the differencebetween a Google Bot and you. So what may appear to be 600 people a day requestingyour site could actually be a single visitor and a bot coming 599 times fromone IP.

You may want to delay that public offering. . . .

Next month: A lonely webmaster asks, “Howcan I tell if Google likes me?”


Ahhhhhhh, we’re online—I feel better already! Here are the linksfor some good tools for traffic analysis:

1) GoogleAnalytics. It’sfree, but it’s been so overwhelmingly popular that you may have to waitas long as 30 days to get it. My advice is: sign up for it now, and in themeantime get Statcounter (see number 2). Further, if you use Google Adwordsto drive traffic to your site, it will be integrated into this report. Thiswill integrate your free traffic with your paid traffic.

2) Statcounter is alsogood and you can get it now, for free. A paid upgrade is available.

3) WebSideStory,also a very sophisticated program, is another tool that has been around fora long time.

With all of these you will have to place java script on each of your pages,as directed.

In 1994, Robert Truog founded PhysicianEmployment, one of the first and largest physician job sites, andin 1999, anadvertising network offering services from website optimising and PPCmanagement to online advertising.