Reading User Agents to Identify Bot Traffic

by demtron on Monday, February 02, 2009 08:41 AM

Sometimes, it's a real pain to tell the difference between a human visitor and a bot when reviewing a Web server traffic log.  I recently had an acquiantance ask me for information on this topic.  I found a great resource at http://www.botsvsbrowsers.com/category/1/index.html that catalogs nearly 3000 known user agents that are associated with bots.

In many cases, there are identifiers such as GoogleBot, msnbot and Slurp that are easy to spot as these are common bot user agent signatures.  Unfortunately, there's no common identifier among all of them.  I figure that this list could be pulled into a lookup table and used for matching against a server log.  What I wan't able to identify is how frequently this list is updated for new signatures.


Custom Reporting in Google Analytics

by demtron on Thursday, November 13, 2008 09:36 AM
Google recently began offering a beta test version of their custom reporting tool for Google Analytics.  With this enhancement, Analytics just got a whole lot better.

Like any reporting tool, one common complaint with Analytics has been Google’s limitations on reporting data with multiple variables or criteria.  The Customer Reporting feature is a way to move beyond the canned reports supplied by Google and create one that fit specific business needs.

Custom reports are made first by picking dimensions and metrics.  A dimension is an attribute (time of day, geographic location, or page name) to report on.  There is sometimes confusion between dimensions and metrics.  One easy way to remember the difference is that a dimension is like a column title (like "city") and metrics are the numbers that appear in the column (like the number of hits generated from that city).

Any metric can be chosen for reporting.  One important point to note is that not all dimensions can be paired with all metrics.  Google supplies a chart to identify which pairings are possible.  There are some combinations, such as network location, page names, and visits that would be highly useful but aren’t possible.

All in all, this is a great additional to the free Google Analytics tool that is a "must learn" for those that are serious about using Analytics as a reporting tool.

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