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-- by Mark Cohen and Paul Silverman
Since a growing number of executives regard their corporate Web sites as marketing and sales tools, Webmasters must focus on the one measure of a Web site's worth: audience satisfaction. To gauge this, Web gurus and marketing mavens alike can turn to Marketwave's Hit List Professional 3.0-a top-notch traffic tracker that will handily meet your Web-analysis needs.
Hit List does an excellent job of reporting essential, top-level site traffic information, including the number of total hits, requests and visits; average requests per visit; average visit duration; most popular pages and directories; and most popular access times.
Once installed, the program presents a window of predefined, modifiable report types, including comprehensive, executive summary, ads, cookies and details of the previous week and month. Simply select a report type, then specify your log file's location, and Hit List will churn out a hit report.
Hit List also supplies several detailed reports that Webmasters can use to tailor a site. These identify the most common entrance and exit pages, referring pages and users' browsers. For many of the more detailed reports, however, you'll need REFERRER and HTTP_USER_AGENT fields in your log files. Hit List autodetects your log file format and also supports Lotus Domino 4.5 standards.
Designing custom reports was remarkably easy, since the drag-and-drop interface lets you select and combine criteria from predefined reports. Advanced features let you design reports that filter specific directories and objects, such as graphics, scripts and errors, and include or exclude specific IP addresses-which is helpful if you want to exclude spiders from report results or measure the number of hits from popular search engines.
With Hit List you can also modify an existing report, customize report styles or display them as charts and graphs-perfect for presentations to corporate management. Other output formats include HTML, CSV (spreadsheet), RTF and ASCII text.
Hit List's outstanding database technology could potentially save you hundreds of megabytes of hard disk space. The program lets you store past reports, ad statistics and report types, instead of storing and reanalyzing the hefty original log files.
Another useful feature is Hit List's ability to group files and directories into more global, common-language categories. For instance, hits to a /files directory of downloadable ZIP or EXE files and a /software directory of HTML-based descriptions of the respective files can be grouped within a report as a global Downloads directory. This lets administrators easily translate report data into a common language that's clear to less-technical audiences, like the marketing department.
Hit List handles ad tracking with ease by detailing click-through rates, impressions and ratios for multiple creatives from different advertisers-an increasingly important capability as more sites try to earn ad revenue.
The program also scored high marks with its user interface. Initial setup lets you preconfigure several features, including the level of report detail the database stores. In addition, an on-screen description accompanies nearly every setup and reporting function, making Hit List's online documentation top-notch.
Hit List also comes in Standard and Enterprise versions. The bare-bones Standard edition costs only $195, but it doesn't include the database technology, remote administration, ad tracking or report scheduling found in the Pro version. The $2,995 Enterprise edition complements the Pro version with Microsoft SQL Server database support and advanced advertising and database-management features. Fully functional, 15-day trial versions of each edition are available for download from Marketwave's Web site (http://www.marketwave.com)
If your budget falls under the $500 range, you may also want to consider e.g. Software's WebTrends 3.5. For only $299, you'll get a full feature set and a built-in database for report storage, though it doesn't offer Hit List Professional's level of customization.
Overall, we were impressed by Marketwave's range of traffic-analysis packages. Hit List Professional 3.0 masterfully mixes an impressive feature set with an outstanding interface, which is why we're placing it on our WinList of recommended products.