Chapter 8: Gathering Information About Your Visitors

Chapter 8: Gathering Information About Your Visitors

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This and the next chapter of the book are concerned with a single topic—finding out about our visitors. As we've discussed in several places throughout the book, there is almost certainly going to come a time when you need to justify to your financial backers (or just to yourself) that the Web site you spend so much time, money and effort creating and maintaining is actually producing results.

What those results are, and what criteria they need to satisfy, are not important to the focus of this book. Being able to measure 'success' on the Web implies that you know what the reasons are for being there in the first place. These reasons can be as varied as the different types of site that inhabit the Web—but, ultimately, making money is likely to be the root.

So in these two chapters, we are purely interested in the mechanics of producing the numbers, and we'll look at the different kinds of information that we can extract automatically from each visitor. While the next chapter is all about how we can use and report the information, this chapter (with one exception) concentrates on how we collect it in the first place. You'll see:

  • How to set up automatic logging of page and resource hits

  • How to capture user session information with ASP code

  • Some considerations concerning the volume of data, and how we can summarize it

  • How we can automate this summarization process

  • One example of the ways we can use the information we collect

We use SQL Server to store visitor information, and the techniques you'll see described in this chapter are aimed at this database system. However, most enterprise-level databases offer similar features, and you can tailor the techniques to suit your own particular environment. We start with a look at the kinds of information that are available, then move on to consider how we set up logging of page and resource hits, and other visitor information.

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