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How to set up AW stats for website analytics - the super-easy illustrated guide

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AW Stats is free software that lives on your web host - in fact it's built in with most hosting plans. It is a fantastic alternative to standard website analytics tools like Google Analytics, Matomo, and so on. And because AW Stats is a log file parser, you don't even need to add any code in your website to allow tracking.

We'll move along shortly to show how to get it set up. First, let's be sure you understand what it is and what it isn't. AW Stats is pretty powerful, but it's done by parsing raw access data, as opposed to placing a cookie like Google Analytics does. So some things you might be able to track in Google Analytics, you can't easily do with AW Stats. You also can't make custom reports looking at specific date ranges like you would with Google Analytics.

Despite a few limitations, the obvious advantage to AW Stats is that it doesn't use cookies, and you don't need a third-party analytics solution, which is ideal if you want to protect user privacy as much as possible for GDPR purposes. You're also not letting that third party see your website stats, so it actually helps your privacy too as a website owner.

What does AW Stats do?

AW Stats goes through your raw server log files and works out all the details for you, presenting it in a nice report (here's an example). If you're not sure if you want to use AW Stats, I suggest switching it on, but also keeping your existing tracking tools. That way you can see how they compare. I actually did that for awhile, and found the numbers very similar between Google Analytics and AW Stats. Eventually I stopped using Google Analytics. In part, this was because later, to make things GDPR-friendly, I set my sites up to not allow Google Analytics tracking unless users opted in. Needless to say, most users did not opt in. Therefore, there was no point to me using Google Analytics; there was virtually no data on it! So now I rely entirely on AW Stats.

Some of the things that AW Stats tracks:

  • Numbers of visitors by country
  • Most popular pages (all)
  • Most popular pages (entry)
  • Most popular pages (exit)
  • Referrers - search engines
  • Referrers - other websites
  • Search keyphrases and keywords
  • Unique visitors
  • Number of visits
  • Number of pages
  • Bandwidth
  • Visitors by operating systems
  • Visitors by browser

There's more too, such as bot/spider visits, HTTP Status codes and Error hits, but the things most site owners care about on a regular basis are listed above.

How to see your website stats with AW Stats

Now, all of the tutorials on this site assume you have a host that offers cPanel, since those are the hosts we recommend. Odds are that AW Stats has been active all this time and you just need to see the results, so I'll cover that first. If it hasn't been doing that, I'll show you how to turn it on.

If for whatever reason you're with a host that doesn't use cPanel then you'll have to ask them through a support ticket about how to install AW Stats, if they allow it. They may have a different log file parser you can use, although AW Stats is my favorite.

Step 1: Find AW Stats under the Metrics section on cPanel

So assuming you have cPanel, log into it (it'll be at https://yourdomainname.com/cpanel ) and use the username and password given to you in the welcome email from your web host.

You'll see something like the image below; you'll want to scroll down until you see a section titled "Metrics" and then you'll need to click on "AW Stats" as shown.

Screenshot of cPanel after logging in; Metrics and AW Stats are circled in red.

Step 2: Select the domain for which you want to see stats

After clicking on AW Stats, you should see a list of your domains on the left and "View" on the right, as shown below.

If you do not see the screen shown below, i.e. if it doesn't show your domain(s) of interest, then AW Stats isn't yet activated. Skip to the next section which tells you how to activate AW Stats.

Screenshot of domain list after clicking on AW Stats

Assuming you see the screen above, then select the domain of interest and click on "View". Your site is likely to be listed twice above, once with SSL beside it and once without. If you have an SSL certificate for your site (i.e. if your site uses https), click on the SSL version. If not, then click on the non-SSL version. It'll give you the report for the current month. Done!

That was easy, right? You can look at past months by selecting from the drop-down menu at the top of the report. You're done.

How to activate AW Stats: only do this if not all your domains were listed above

If none or only some of your domains were listed in the above process, it means that AW Stats is not activated, or at least not on some of your domains. Here's how to do that. First, go back to your main cPanel screen. After logging in, don't go to AW Stats but instead to "Metrics Editor" in the Metrics section as shown in the image below.

Screenshot - How to activate AW Stats in cPanel

When you click on it, you'll get a screen that looks like this image:

Screenshot of Metrics Editor - how to activate AW Stats

Make sure that the checkbox in the Awstats column is checked for the domains that you wish to track. After checking the box, it can take up to 48 hours for tracking to commence.

If you have done all of the above...

... and you still can't get AW Stats to track after the 48 hours, or it has a lock symbol and it won't let you make any changes, just put in a support ticket to your host. Ask to have AW Stats activated for your domains, or if the issue is that it's not tracking after 48 hours, tell them.

Conclusion

It really is quite simple to use AW Stats as a website analytics solution and just requires a few clicks. It's built in to most hosting plans, meaning that it's probably got reports for you to look at since the time you first started. In some cases it may be there but not activated for your domains, and we've shown you how to do that step by step. You're all set now to get your traffic stats.


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