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Importance of Referrer Logs and Tracking

Sep 3, 2008
The process of referrer logging allows web servers and websites to identify the sites from which people are visiting them, either for promotional or security purposes. You can discover what search engine they used to find your site, and whether your customer has come from a linked site. This basically amounts to the URL of the previous webpage from which your link was followed. In short, you can determine where your visitors are coming from which can be useful information in many cases, to optimize the success of your site.

By default, the majority of hosting accounts don't include referrer logs; but they may be accessed from your provider for an additional monthly fee. If your web host does not provide a graphic report of your log files, you can still view the referrer logs for your website by logging into the host server, using free or low-cost FTP software, like those outlined below. This software will give you optimum results in this area.

FTP Explorer: ftpx dot com
LogMeIn: logmein dot com
SmartFTP: smartftp dot com
FTP Voyager: ftpvoyager dot com

The log file is available via your web server, which can be downloaded into your computer at a later date. You can use a log analysis tool, like those mentioned below, to create a graphic report from your log files so that the files are more easily comprehended.

Abacre Advanced Log Analyzer abacre dot com
Referrer Soft softplatz dot com
Log Analyzer loganalyzer dot net

You can view these files with the use of programs such as Word, Word Perfect, txt or WordPad files, even if you don't possess the right tool. Do not neglect this important point, as this information is crucial to your business and marketing plans. This is a process that must be followed to ensure your success in this area.

In addition to identifying the search engine or linked site from where your visitor came, referrer logs can specify keywords or keyword phrases your client used to search. This is also important, as you can track the reasoning behind their visits to your site.

As referrer information can sometimes violate the privacy of the Internet surfer, certain browsers permit the user to disable the sending of referrer information. Proxy and Firewall software can filter out referrer information, to avoid pinpointing the location of private websites. This can result in other difficulties, as servers block portions of their sites to browsers who fail to send the correct referrer information, in an attempt to prevent deep linking or unauthorized use of bandwidth. Some proxy software gives the top-level address of the target site itself as the referrer, which prevents these difficulties and still not divulging the user's last visited site.

Since the referrer can be spoofed or faked with a great degree of ease, it is of limited use in this regard, except of course on a casual basis. Even so, it can come in handy when trying to profile your visitors, and exactly where they come from.
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