January 10, 2006

Analysing Web traffic with phpMyVisites

Author: Dmitri Popov

Any Web site owner knows the value of traffic statistics, but finding the right Web statistics package is not as easy as it may seem. Of course, there are excellent packages such as AWStats, Modlogan, and Webalizer, but these applications are overkill for people running smaller Web sites. Moreover, you can't install them if your Web hosting provider doesn't allow you to use custom scripts. If you are in the market for an easy-to-use program that provides essential Web traffic information, you might want to take a closer look at phpMyVisites.

The phpMyVisites installation script does all the dirty work for you, unlike many PHP/MySQL-based applications, which often require you to gather information and tweak configuration files manually. According to phpMyVisites, the installation procedure consists of nine steps and takes about 10 minutes. In reality, it's possible to perform the installation procedure even faster.

Download the latest version of phpMyVisites, unpack it, and copy the phpMyVisites folder (called phpmv2) to your Web server. Point your browser at http://yourserver/phpmv2/ to begin the installation procedure. The phpMyVisites installation script starts by checking your server and database configuration, and presents the result as an easy-to-understand report. Next, it prompts you to enter your MySQL database name and login info, which the script uses to connect to the database and populate it with the necessary tables. That's all there is to it. All you have to do now is to create an administrator account that will allow you to manage phpMyVisites as well as add and configure the Web site(s) you want phpMyVisites to monitor. Once you have done this, copy the provided JavaScript snippet and paste it into every page on your Web site.

phpMyVisites features

Now, let's take a look at what phpMyVisites has to offer. The Administration panel allows you to configure phpMyVisites' settings. Besides the usual stuff like server info, user management, and general settings, there are a couple of rather clever features. For example, you can configure phpMyVisites to send you or any other user daily email messages containing Web statistics, or you can view statistics using phpMyVisites' RSS feed. phpMyVisites also allows you to exclude a range of IP addresses and your own machine from being counted.

Let's say you maintain a newsletter and you want to know how many readers actually visit your Web site. With phpMyVisites you can do that by specifying the newsletter in the Administration section and using a special URL in the newsletter itself. If you cooperate with other sites, you might want to know how many visitors they sent to your Web site. phpMyVisites can help you track visits from a partner's Web site -- just add the partner in the Administration panel.

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When it comes to Web statistics, phpMyVisites offers a comprehensive set of features divided into six groups: Visits, Frequency, Pages Viewed, Follow-up, Source, Settings, and Referrals. Among the features typical for a Web traffic statistics application, you will also find some clever bits. For example, the Visits section contains a graph showing "places of connection," or how many users visit your Web site from work and from home. The Source group offers a world map, which gives you a graphical overview of visitor distribution by continent. Click on a continent, and you will see a more detailed map of visitor distribution by country. The Pages Viewed group provides not only information on how many times a particular page has been requested, but also displays comparative data for previous periods. The Referrals section contains information on which Web sites your visitors come from. Here you can also see what search engines and keywords they use. The clever part is that if you click on a search engine, you will see all the keywords used with it, and vice versa.

Conclusion

While phpMyVisites is not the most sophisticated Web traffic analyser package on the market, it has a lot going for it. phpMyVisites strikes a balance between ease of use and feature set, and will appeal to users who run small and medium-sized Web sites.

Dmitri Popov is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Russian, British, and Danish computer magazines.

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