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WebSTAT Newsletter Issue #2 -- August
~~ WebSTAT Newsletter - (August 21st, 2003) ~~~


*Introductory Comments - "What's Cooking?"

*Featured Article: "WebSTAT's Referring Pages Report"

*Sponsor: Power Tools for Your Web Site!


*Introductory Comments - "What's Cooking?"

WebSTAT frequently gets requests for new features and reports. We are always listening, so keep them coming! Many features that you have requested over the past few months are being incorporated into a new series of upgrades that we will begin implementing over the next few weeks. Among the new features is a new site design that is cleaner and easier to navigate. This will include a new help system to make it easier to understand the terminology we use in the reports.

Among the other new features will be the ability to select arbitrary date ranges instead of being forced to only look at specific days or months. We have also adopted a new graphics engine to generate interactive charts and graphs in higher resolution than our previous system. Keep watching for these new features. We hope to have them in place before next month's newsletter.

REQUEST: WebSTAT's country report is missing flags for a few countries. We would like to make our flag collection complete. If you wish to contribute a flag please let us know. Flags should be 18 x 12 pixels and in GIF format.



We frequently get questions about our "Referring Pages" report, asking why a particular referral did not get picked up by WebSTAT, or why certain types of pages seem to get more referrals than others, or what we mean by terms like "Direct Link/Bookmarked" which is often listed as the top referrer. We have decided to dedicate this month's newsletter to answering these common questions.

Some browsers do not send a referral string as a optional feature. Many browsers have options to turn off referral string generation as a security precaution. Referral data can be lost when links open pages into a new browser window. Referral data can also be clobbered if security settings are set too high, if a visitor is using a proxy server or other filtering agents including certain firewalls, or if the page being accessed is a secure page (i.e. accessed with "https" instead of "http"). Some browsers will simply not send an external referral string as a security precaution.

Most browsers will not send a referrer when a bookmark is selected, the url is typed into the browser's address bar, some other program launches the url (such as email or news), if the user has your page set as their browser's home page, if they visit your site from some local file based link (e.g. viewing a disk based html file), or from page links dragged to the address bar on browsers that support it.

Some browsers will generate false referrers or skewed referrer stats when they use on an isp with a proxy cache. This could mean that referrers from that isp are being under counted. This can also happen if they are on a isp that has a proxy cacher and that proxy cacher is set to re-request pages with unique referrers. The rest of the pages that have identical referrers to the previous cached document will come out of the isp cache. They could view 50 pages and you only show 10 in your logs with unique referrers. Some browsers will repeatedly send the initial external referrer to every page it visits on a site. Some will send a referrer with "If modified since" requests or even simple "head" checks. If the page is reloaded, the referrer may be that very page or the original referrer to that page.

Javascript navigation and dynamic sites can also play havoc with referrers. Most javascript navigation systems leave no referrer unless it is specifically checked from within the script. Many sites are mixes of dynamic and static content. Most dynamic documents are not cacheable (e.g. cgi, asp, php based urls). Thus, they can skew referral data in favor of the dynamic pages and at the expense of static ones.

In the circumstances where there is no referrer, WebSTAT records the referrer as "Direct Link/Bookmarked". WebSTAT makes the assumption that if the page was not referred from another page, then it must have been typed in or visited from a bookmark or a browser start page. While this may be mostly true, it is not always an accurate assumption. As we noted above, there can be other reasons why a referral does not get recorded other than being a direct link or a bookmark. Perhaps a more accurate description of this category should be "Direct Link/Bookmarked/Undetermined". We may add "Undetermined" to the description in the future to help dispel confusion.


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