Every blogger or site owners would be aware of advantage and importance of Web Analytics. Which tool to use? It is one of the important decisions everyone should take before starting up a blog or a site.

Web Analytics widely has two approaches log file analysis and page tagging. The later is more popular these days and huge number of people tends to ignore the former. Tagging approach would add some JavaScript snippet into your blog/ site to collect the visitor data. There are several 3-rd party tools available today to facilitate tagging methodology, like Google Analytics, StatsCounter, etc.

Log file analysis approach is normally in-house and they reside within the web server itself. The analysis is based on the web server log file.

Here I’m going to brief down the advantage of log file analysis method

Advantages of log file analysis

Fast. You don’t have a burden of executing extra JavaScript code on your site; web server logs every possible transaction related to the site.

Reliable. You don’t have to rely upon user’s browser to collect their data. JavaScript may not work in some browsers or it can be disabled.

Error Information. Web server log files captures every error message and failed requests which tagging method fails and technically impossible to achieve with page tagging. Also you would be able to track hot linking information.

Spider Details. Log files also captures the spider information. It would give you the idea about how many pages were indexed and how much bandwidth it consumed etc. This might give you an idea of spider that eats your bandwidth and you can block them using robots.txt if you want.

Privacy. The log file details are kept within your server and not shared to 3-rd party.

Ease. You don’t have burden of installing a script in each and every page / blog.

Limitation

Less Analysis. It doesn’t give you more detailed analysis; you have mostly do analysis manually.

Here is the list of web log file analysis software.

web log file analyzer

AWStats

AWStats is one of the well-known open source web analytics-reporting tools. AWStats parses and analyzes the server log files and produces tables and bar graph output. The web reporting is done through a CGI script. AWStats would with most of the web server log format.

Webalizer

Webalizer is a fast and free web server log file analysis program. It produces HTML reports using tables. It has more detailed reporting.

Analog

Analog is pretty old web log analysis software among others. The data reports are made mostly using text formats.

W3Perl

W3Perl is more advanced free log file analyzer that allows you to gather HTTP, FTP and Email log files. It is written in Perl language and would work in any server with Perl support.

Visitors

Visitors is a very fast web log analyzer for Linux, Windows, and other Unix-like operating systems. It takes as input a web server log file, and outputs statistics in form of different reports

Special Addition

FeedStater

FeedStater is an only available feed statistics tool for self hosted feeds. FeedStater is written in CGI and it will read the log file to report the feed statistics.

Also you should be aware of the fact Urchin is one the popular log file analyzer software and latter it was acquired by Google for its analytics.

Bottom line, I would say log file analyzer would be the best methodology but it should be used along with more advanced page tagging method to gain more insight on Web Analytics.

Have you ever used any log file analyzer before? Share your thoughts.