Per-user link tracking for research
February 17, 2006 11:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm a web server admin and have a university faculty member that wants to do a research project that would involve recording (on a per-user basis) the links clicked on a web site they have created. Suggestions???

They are interested in seeing how deep people will "drill" into the information. I'm not sure if they want to have the user log-in first or just track unique visitors on a per user basis. If they have a log-in, I'm guessing that it would have to be cookie-based. They are after more than just totals of how many hits each page gets and want to break it down to a "per-user" experience. I have to believe that this has been done before and scripts are out there. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
posted by spock to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Yep, definietly done before. The basic way is to use cookeis, and this works great- unless the user doesn't allow cookies. Then you need to start re-writing urls to be custom per session.

Apache has modules to do this for you... see this article:
posted by gus at 12:01 PM on February 17, 2006

google analytics might be a good place to start.

Scripts that really track a per-user session sort of thing all either cost money or kind of stink from what I have seen so far.
posted by twiggy at 12:02 PM on February 17, 2006

Google Analytics will do most of what you are asking.

You can actually create 'goal' pages, and it will track the paths that people take to get to them, and will tell you which pages are exited from most frequently.
posted by empath at 12:06 PM on February 17, 2006

I'm willing to look at Google Analytics (I should learn how it works anyway) - however "Google Analytics has experienced extremely strong demand. We are sending invitations to new users to sign up as we add more capacity. If you would like to receive an invitation code, please enter your email address below and we will send you one as capacity becomes available.

Anybody have an invitation code they aren't using?
: )
Also, what part of what I'm asking won't Google Analytics do?

On a side note is the TOP result on a Google search for "Google Analytics" - beating and Google's Analytics home page. Give their SEO guy a raise!
posted by spock at 12:15 PM on February 17, 2006

Urchin = Google Analytics
posted by empath at 12:18 PM on February 17, 2006

Mint should be able to do what you'd like to do, if you extend it with the Session Tracker Pepper, which can also be made to work with the XXX Strong Mint, Download Counter, and Outclicks peppers as well. The results are presented like this:

Mint costs $30, but in my semi-professional opinion, is worth it. Drop me an e-mail if you are interested in playing with Mint before buying it.
posted by charmston at 12:22 PM on February 17, 2006

Solicit volunteers. Stand nearby. Observe.

Classic, because it works. There's a reason why none of those stats packages come up with the same count.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:31 PM on February 17, 2006

mint... looks...... so perfect....
posted by soma lkzx at 12:43 PM on February 17, 2006

Mint is quite amazing...worth every penny, for sure. Here's a demo in 'client (read-only) mode' for those interested. Also: a demo movie.
posted by charmston at 12:50 PM on February 17, 2006

The thing to remember here is that you will never get this working 100%. Many solutions come close, sometimes close enough for the required purposes, but it is practially impossible to accurately track "sessions" with certainty. Because the web was designed to operate in a completely stateless manner, the whole idea of a session is a foreign concept that is superimposed by humans, sometimes with the aid of hacks like cookies, javascript trickery, or server-side scripting. But it does not exist at the core of the protocol. And things like NAT, transparent proxies, and personal firewalls (with certain "privacy enhancing" features like referer munging) all conspire to cause edge conditions that make this an impossible task in the general case.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:19 PM on February 17, 2006

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