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We have been putting a lot of work into redesigning RateMyHost.com to make it a better overall experience for you. You will be seeing quite a bit of change to our content as well as our web hosting reviews to make it even easier to choose the right hosting company for your website.

We have also recently added a “find a host” option which analyzes your hosting needs and gets you a list of web hosting companies that are tailored to you. For the time being this search is only available for VPS and dedicated hosting, but we hope to incorporate shared hosting soon. It is a great tool to help narrow down your search for hosts based on your needs.

We hope you enjoy our new design and website features! Feel free to contact us with anything you would like to see included on RateMyHost.com and we will do our best to incorporate it in the future.

Getting the best value from a web host

There have been many articles focused on how to find the right web hosting company. They almost always focus on a company’s features, uptime, customer support, etc. These are very important factors, but are often misleading when judging a company. Any company with a decent Marketing department can make their features seem better. They can enhance their customer support with fancy wordsmithing and testimonials. By using these factors to compare and pick a web hosting company, customers are often left with unrealistic expectations for support and performance after they signup.Other articles focus on the web hosting company itself. Is it a mom and pop shop? Is it a large corporation? Can it do what it says. A lot of businesses feel “safer” putting their web services with larger hosting companies. When your business depends on a site you want to know that if someone goes on vacation there is someone else in the office. On the other hand smaller business and personal sites like the intimacy of small mom and pop hosting companies. Instead of calling a toll free number and wading through an endless menu of options, they want to call the owner, who they know, and talk to them personally about the issue.

This can bring its own sense of security. Even location is an important factor. Some business want to talk face to face with their hosting company. They are not interested in the cheapest plan. They want a solid local business they can meet.

All of these are factors that need to be addressed, but another way to evaluate the right hosting company for your specific need is by examining your Value Proposition. This is the value your companies will add to each other by doing business together.

What Value Proposition do you bring to a web hosting company? A company’s site may promise excellent support and uptime, but if you are one of 200,000 customers paying $5/month you do not bring a good Value Proposition to the table. If your site is down how important is your complaint? On the other hand, if you have a handful of sites with a small company and are a sizable portion of their monthly revenue then your call will have more priority to them because you bring a better Value Proposition to the equation.

Then again, if you are a large company with a very profitable website you probably do not want to host with a one man company that can go out of business at anytime. In this case the hosting company does not bring a good Value Proposition to the equation. Websites are businesses that will last a long time and your Hosting Company is a partner in that venture that will be with you the whole way. Choose one wisely. Do not think of the up front cost. Think about 9 months from now when the server goes down; how will they respond then?

There is no one hosting company that is right for every website. Some are better for the personal homepage, others for the small ecommerce site, still others for the large corporation website. There are numerous ways to evaluate the thousands of hosting companies. You can look at the price per memory, price per bandwidth, uptime, customer support, company size, company location, etc., but always remember the Value Propositon that you bring to the equation and the Value Proposition that the hosting company brings to the equation. This will help you define how things will really go once you have signed up and find the company that is the right fit for you. I believe this method will help set your expectations properly for the products and services that you will actually receive versus what a sale promo or testimonial says.

How to analyze website traffic

Getting traffic to your web site without analyzing it, is like being blindfolded in a crowd. You hear voices, but you don’t know which direction they are coming from or who they are. Without analyzing your web site traffic, it’s difficult to improve your web site marketing.

Know Your Traffic Language
You should be aware of the different terms used to describe web site traffic, so as not to be confused about your web site visitors. Here are the main terms used:

Visit – these are all requests made by a specific user to the site during a set period of time. The visit is ended if a set period of time (say 30 minutes) goes by with no further accesses. Users are identified by cookies, username or hostnames/ip addresses

Hit – this is a request to the server for a file not a page. Your page can be made up of different files, such as graphic files, audio files or css and javascript files, resulting in a number of hits for that page. Each of these requests is called a hit.

Counting hits is not the same as tracking pageviews. It takes multiple hits to view a page.

Pageview/Impression – this is the number of times a page is accessed as a whole.

Unique View – A page view by a unique person within a 24 hour period.

Referrer – A page that links to your site. By looking at your referrers will tell you who’s linked to your site. This can be particularly valuable for seeing where your search engine traffic is coming from.

User Agent – This refers to the software used to access your site. Sometimes known as a “browser” or “client”, the term user agent can describe a PHP script, a browser like Internet Explorer, or a search engine spider like GoogleBot. If you can identify what software is being used to access your site, you’ll
be able to tell if users are abusing it, and when the search engines last crawled your pages.

Ways to Track Your Visitors

1. Counters – these are heavily used on web sites by newbies but appear unprofessional. It is very common to go to a page and see something like “You are visitor number 12345 to this page”. These numbers cannot be trusted as the page designer has the ability to seed the base number or to alter the counter such
that it adds more than 1 each time.

2. Trackers – tracking software details the path a visitor takes through your Website, so they do more than just count your traffic: they track it. Tracking software tells you more than just the number of visitors — it can break visitor statistics down by date, time, browser, page viewed, referrer, and
countless other values.

Examples:
Hitbox
Sitemeter
Extreme-DM

Counters and Trackers often require you to place a button or graphic on your site in exchange for the free use of their service, which is not ideal for most site owners. So try to avoid using these services unless you don’t have the ability or expertise to execute tracking scripts of any kind on your own server.

3. Using Your ISP’s Statistical Package
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) keeps log files which record every single “hit” (request for a Web page or graphic) on your Web site.

Analyzing log data can give you a good idea of where your site visitors are coming from, which pages they are visiting, how long they stay, and which browsers they are using. Before signing on with a hosting company, make sure they offer access to raw log files. Even if you don’t need them immediately, sooner or later you’ll be glad to have them.

There are also different types of log files – access, referrer, error, and agent are the primary ones.

Here is a sample of a raw access log file entry:

Access log
Analyzing the access log will give you information about who visited your site, which pages they visited, and how long they stayed on the site. This is useful information in determining whether or not your site is working as you intend.

The record below shows the visitor’s IP number or hostname, date and time of the request, the command received from the client,
the status code returned, the size of the document transferred, and the browser and operating system the visitor was using.

nas-112-52.slc.navinet.net – – [29/Jan/2000:17:17:12 -0500] “GET
page.html HTTP/1.1” 200 23443
“http://www.mydomain.com/page.html” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible;
MSIE 5.01; Windows 98)”

Referrer Log
The referrer log contains referral information – the source that referred the visitor to your site. If the referrer was a search engine, you will also find the keywords that were entered to find your site – very useful information. Here are some example records. The record below shows that the visitor followed a link from somedomain.com to the index page of the site.

http://www.somedomain.com/page.html -> /

This record shows that the visitor came to my site from a search engine link. Notice the keyword data is included in the record.

http://search.yahoo.com/bin/search?p=design+tips -> /

Agent Log
This log provides information on which browser and operating system was used to access your site.

Mozilla/4.0 (compatible;MSIE 5.01; Windows 98)

Error Log
The error log obviously provides a record of errors generated by the server and sent back to the client. The record below shows the type of server, date and time of the error, client identification, explanation of the error code generated by the server, and the path to the file that caused the error.

apache: [Sun Jan 30 10:09:57 2000][error] [client 195.238.2.162]
File does not exist:/u/web/mydomain/favicon.ico

As you can see, log files contain a wealth of information about how your visitors are using your site. Now we will talk about how
you get the relevant data extracted from the log files and compiled into a useable format.

4. Web Traffic Analysis Software
These are programs that analyze your server logs and then create traffic reports accordingly. The quality of the reports generated will depend on what software you actually use. Some log analyzers are free and come preinstalled on many hosting accounts, while others can cost a good deal of money.

Examples:
Webalizer
WebTrends

Webalizer (free)
The Webalizer is a fast, FREE, web server log file analysis program which produces usage statistics in HTML format for viewing with a standard web browser. The results are presented in both columnar and graphical format, which facilitates interpretation. Yearly, monthly, daily and hourly usage statistics are presented, along with the ability to display usage by site, URL, referrer, user agent (browser), search string, entry/exit page, username and country.

Here’s an example of the Web Usage Statistics:
http://www.webalizer.com/sample/index.html

WebTrends ($495)
The Web Trends Analyzer produces essential reports on web site visitor patterns, referring sites, visitor paths and demographics. You can learn, for example, which sites and keyword searches have referred the largest number of visitors to your site.

It presents data, detailed and in-depth, in an organized and concise tabular format with full-color graphs.

This Log Analyzer is priced at $495 and is licensed for a single web server hosting content with a maximum of 50 domains.

Conclusion
Web traffic statistics provide very valuable information about your web site. You can make better marketing decisions through them
telling you:

Which Web pages are most popular and which are least used.

Who is visiting your Web site.

Which Web browsers to optimize your Web pages for.

Which Web search engines are most useful to you, and which are the least useful.

Where errors or bad links may be occurring in your Web pages.

Web traffic analysis allows you to determine what marketing strategies are successful, then to change them accordingly, to boost your web traffic and sales.

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