Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Help with Analytics

Most businesses consider their website an integral part of their marketing campaign. However, simply putting up a website and hoping for the best just isn’t enough. It’s essential to track your site’s traffic. This will let you know which marketing campaigns are working. For example, is your new website copy helping you make sales, or causing people to leave your site right away? Without tracking your visitors, you’ll never know.

Once you have your website analytics installed, and can see all those visitors coming to your site, you need to interpret the visitor activity information. What does it all mean?

Let’s break it down:

Hits: Many people confuse hits with visits. They are not the same. Hits are the number of times that an http request is made to your server. For instance, if a single visitor visits several pages on your site and pulls up images and other files on each page, the visit can count as several hundred hits.

Unique Visits: Tracking a visitor’s IP address, browser and operating system will measure the number of actual unique visits generated on your website. A visitor can browse several pages on your site, but their activity will only be counted as one unique visit. This number is the one you want to pay attention to, as it will give you the most accurate representation of how much traffic your website is generating.

Bounce Rates: Pay attention to your pages’ bounce rates. This number measures the number of visitors who come to your site and immediately exit. A high bounce rate can indicate that your page isn’t capturing your visitors’ attention. The page is either in need of updating, or is attracting visitors who are actually looking for something else. You can experiment using A/B testing to see which designs, content, and graphics work to lower your bounce rate.

Top Entry Pages: Where are visitors entering your site? Often, you’ll see direct hits to your site without a referrer. You can use the top entry page statistics determine how your visitors are arriving at your site. They may be coming from an online article or blog you’ve written. Make sure that your visitors will be able to easily navigate your website, no matter which page of your site they arrive on initially.

Top Exit Pages: This statistic shows the pages from which the majority of your visitors are leaving your site. Factors such as page content, graphics, navigation, and even color can affect a visitor’s decision to exit a website. Altering your website’s pages can work to keep a visitor’s interest in the site. Again, using A/B testing will show which design works best to retain your visitors.

Traffic Sources: This is by far my favorite in the analytics toolbox. I love checking our analytics every day to see which one of our ads, articles, or campaigns is driving the most traffic to our site. Use this resource to find out which of your marketing efforts are most effective.

Keywords: Another fabulous tool that will let you know what search terms or phrases your visitors are typing in to arrive at your site. Use this information to create articles and page content to drive visitors to your website.

Map Overlay: This tool will reveal where your visitors are located geographically. You will be able to see if the majority of your traffic is coming from the United States, or other countries. It will even narrow down tracking to certain cities or territories. This is extremely useful for honing your marketing message, as well as for scheduling staffing and determining your business hours.

Browser/Capabilities: It is essential to know how your visitors access your site. Do you have a slick flash website with Javascript? If so, visitors who are using dial up, or don’t have Java installed won’t be able to see your site. Viewing browser information will tell you which browser the majority of your site users are using. You can then make sure that your site is optimized for that browser. It’s also important to note here that you should always test your site to make sure it has the look and functionality that you require, in all browsers.

If you’re using Google Analytics, you have the added bonus of the site overlay, which is a fun tool that shows you how visitors found your content, and moved through your site, as well as funnel visualization and conversion goals.

All in all, it’s crucial to have analytics for your site, so you can maximize your marketing efforts by determining whether you’re reaching your target audience and converting visits to sales.


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