Website Statistics – Top Referring Sites and URLs


Argh! This is my second try – I had a wonderful article typed up in my blog backend, hit Post… but instead of posting, it died. And disappeared. Completely. Drat.

OK… trying again.

There are many reasons why you might want to use the Top Referring URL and Top Referring Site statistics – they can point out some interesting trends in your website customers. But first, let’s define both of them:

Referring Site: the site name of the place the visitor was before coming to my website.

Referring URL: very similar to site – the specific URL of the place the visitor was before coming to my website.

In both cases, you can also get “No Referrer” – that’s when the user has either typed in the URL in a browser rather than clicking on a link and “surfing” to get to your site, or he/she has your site bookmarked as their homepage in their browser.

With those definitions in hand, let’s take a look at my website’s Top Referring Sites and URLs from June 1 until today:

Referring Sites:

1   No Referrer   529,835 
2   250,501 
3   35,231 
4   17,484 
5   13,736 
6   5,854 
7   5,651 
8   5,197 
9   5,027 
10   3,580 
11   3,114 
12   2,692 
13   2,592 
14   1,993 
15   1,723 
16   1,663 
17   1,487 
18   1,229 
19   staff   922 
20   828 
21   782 
22   696 
23   669 
24   653 
25   609

Referring URLs:

1   No Referrer   529,698 
2   182,328 
3   24,693 
4   13,315 
5   11,684 
6   8,775 
7   7,593 
8   5,796 
9   5,628 
10   4,632 
11   4,400 
12   3,866 
13   3,402 
14   2,952 
15   2,721 
16   2,451 
17   2,437 
18   2,384 
19   2,226 
20   2,063 
21   2,018 
22   1,791 
23   1,777 
24   1,712 
25   1,641

Interesting – there’s a number of things you can glean from these stats:

  1. A LOT of customers know our URL, and either type it in to their browser, or have it bookmarked in their personal bookmarks. That’s very cool! It also shows that our short URL ( is easy to remember, and has some “brand recognition.” We need to keep that up!
  2. I suppose it also means that a lot of people are hitting our site from inside the library on one of our public PCs – where our website is set as the default homepage.
  3. Search engines are our friends! Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and Ask Jeeves have all visited us pretty heavily – those search engines brought in around 30,000 visitors. So obviously, customers are finding us using search engines (more on that in a future post).
  4. Our “other URLs” are still helpful. We used to be, then we changed to for a short while, and now we are (but also use the shorter “”). Each of those other URLs has sent more traffic our way – approximately 60,000 visitors. So it’s a good idea to keep those URLs up-to-date on our name server (and continue paying for the domain name). Even though we’d consider those URLs to be incorrect and not really matching our brand recognition, they still bring in a sizeable chunk of web visitors.

So it’s important for us to remember to keep adding unique, original content to our pages – customers are finding it in a variety of ways!

That’s all for now.


Flying to Canada

I’ll be out the rest of the week, speaking at Netspeed 2004 in Calgary (my first international speaking gig – cool!).

Stay tuned next week for more exciting info on web log statistics!

hey, did he say web stats were exciting??? Can you say Web Geek?

Website Statistics – Top Exit Pages

Yesterday, I discussed our top Entry pages – what it is exactly, what you find there, and what those stats mean. Today, I’m going to focus on the other part of that area, Exit Pages.

Top Exit Pages are just the opposite of Entry Pages – Exit Pages are the last page a customer sees before they leave your website. When leaving, they do one of a number of things: click on an external link; enter a new URL or click on a bookmark to leave your site; exit their browser

So what are our top exit pages? In October, so far they are:

– Calendar
– gotourl page (translation – they clicked on a link in our site)
– site/catalog search feature
– jobs page
– locations/hours
– local history site
– main page
– staff search
– search engines page
– guides main site
– mystery book rss feed
– library news
– crafts rss feed
– meeting room rental page
– literature rss feed
– contact page
– local history guide page
– business rss feed
– history rss feed

And, from June 2004 until now, our top exit pages are:

– gotourl page (translation – they clicked on a link in our site)
– calendar
– site/catalog search
– local history
– jobs
– locations/hours
– main page
– staff search page
– search engines guide page
– guides main page
– library news
– contact the library
– mystery book rss feed
– Children’s guide page
– databases guide page
– entertainment guide
– literature rss feed
– history rss feed
– Search engines rss feed

So, what’s this mean? How can I use these? Good question – anyone know??? Here’s my best guess:

Exit pages tell you something about what your customers are doing – where they want to go from your site. In my library’s case, our website customers are doing a number of things:

our calendar page to find out about an event – it’s possible they go to that page, get directed to an event not from our library (we post non-library, metro area events in our Subject Guide pages and calendar), and click the link to go to that organization’s description of the event.

They are clicking a link from a page to an external site (usually a subscription database).

They are searching our local history database, and then going “somewhere else” – not sure where.

They are reading about specific jobs (and hopefully applying to them).

They are checking hours and locations to our branches, and getting contact info (phone numbers, emails, etc).

They are searching our site and catalog – if they chose catalog, that’d explain why they exit our website – our catalog site is separate from our website (different servers), so going to it would be considered exiting by the web stats software.

They are also going to our Guides pages and RSS feeds, reading a news item, clicking on book links to the catalog, and then going somewhere else – hopefully to a related event, related website listed in the Guide, or to a book in our catalog!

So… That’s all cool and interesting, but how does it help me deal with my website? It’s a good thing to know something about where and why your library website customers are leaving your site. If they have gone to your catalog, that’s a good thing. You want to continue providing access to books outside of the catalog and linking them into the catalog.

Same with external web links – if customers are exiting from our Guides pages and RSS feeds, then those pages are doing what they are supposed to do – direct customers to good info on a specific topic. The hope is that they’ll continue to use those Guides pages to stay informed about their favorite topics.

And, our customers are finding our “tidbit info” helpful – phone numbers, job ads, directions to the library, etc. They’re (hopefully) finding what they need.

Website Statistics – Top Entry Pages

Update: direct links to all my website statistics posts:

Top Entry Pages (this post)
Top Exit Pages
Top Referring Sites and URLs
Top Search Keyword and Phrases
Top Search Engine Words and Phrases

In my last post, I said: “But we could go … further with this idea. How about seeing who our “virtual competition” is – looking at our web traffic and seeing where our website visitors are coming from, and … where they go when the exit our site (I think some web logging software shows this – I’ll have to look)?”

So, I thought I’d follow up with that idea (“NEVER say “I’ll have to look” :-) with a series of posts. This series will address just what you can do with log files and statistics to get a grasp on what your customers are doing at your site, and what they are looking for.

First, a few guidelines: I’m using SmarterStats (at to do web statistics. So everything I mention will be functions of SmarterStats – but most, if not all, of these features are also found in LiveStats, WebTrends, and other web-log statistics type software.

For starters, let’s look at Top Entry Pages. An Entry Page is where a customer first entered our website, and Top just means “popular.”

In my website’s top entry pages (I think I checked the top 25 entry pages) are expected pages like the main page of the website. Interestingly enough, that’s not number!! It was about #5 on the list. The Top Page for October (so far) is our online calendar. Also in the top 25 entry pages:

Site search page
Library jobs page
Hours/locations page
Databases page
Local History site
Our Crafts xml rss feed!
Search Engine Guide pages
Contact the library page
Mystery books xml rss feed

If I look from June 1 (our redesigned website was released in late May), here’s what the top entry pages are:
Local history
Main website page
Databases Guide
Guides Main page
Local History Subjects browse page
Local History Collections browse page
Contact the library page
Search engines Guide
Library news
Harry Potter RSS feed
Children’s Guide page
Mystery books rss feed
Arts and culture rss feed
History rss feed

So, what’s this mean? Here’s my best guess: library customers are bookmarking their favorite pages. Those favorite pages are: calendar, locations, search and search engines (probably for the Google and Yahoo links?), Local History pages, and the Children’s pages.

Some of our customers are RSS-savvy, and like to keep track of harry Potter, Mystery Books, and the local Arts and Culture scene in the library and around town.

And some customers are finding our website through search engines – probably from the calendar (specific events), Jobs (linked from job classified ads), the main page of the website, and probably some other pages.

So the point here? Top-level pages aren’t the end-all-be-all pages that attract all our users. Many of our customers bookmark their favorite pages and re-visit them for changes, or they find our pages from web searches. That means that we have to make certain our websites are fine-tuned, so website visitors can easily navigate to other pages. Also, we need to keep pmping our original content out to our customers – because that’s apparently what they want from us!

Ideas from Library Web Sites

I’m reading “Library Web Sites: Creating Online Collections and Services” right now, and came upon this quote: “Users expect to find those same practices implemented on the library web site. Imagine all of the other sites (eBay, Travelocity, Yahoo!) that users visit in between trips to the library’s web page … In fact, studying the design of some of the very heavily visited web sites helps libraries in adopting some of the very principles that makes these sites polular” (page 30).

What a cool idea! We do this at my library – in our last couple of redesigns, we realized that we didn’t want to look like what we thought of at the time as “our competition” – other area library websites. So we started looking at corporate websites for design ideas, and I think it’s worked – We have what I consider to be a nice looking website (

But we could go one (or two, or three) further with this idea. How about seeing who our “virtual competition” is – looking at our web traffic and seeing where our website visitors are coming from, and (more importantly) where they go when the exit our site (I think some web logging software shows this – I’ll have to look)? Then, take the say, top 5 sites and check ’em out. See what those sites do that yours does/doesn’t do.

Figure out why someone would be interested in those sites who was using your site. Then, figure out a way to keep those people on your site.

Why? More web traffic equals more library customers.