Analytics: Turning Data Into Dollars

Five basic areas of Web analytics information to evaluate for important performance issues you need to address to boost your bottom line.
Posted February 7, 2007
By

Matt Jackson


Web site analytics provide valuable information about who is coming to your site and what they do once they get there. At the simplest level, a counter that displays the number of visitors to a page is a source of Web analytics, but analytics when interpreted properly, is much more than that. Knowing information about your site visitors and the actions they take can help you determine some important factors.

For instance, analytics can point you in the direction of the best and worst performing pages, the pages that attract the most visitors and those with the highest conversion rate. This data can also provide a detailed review of how well any of your advertising campaigns are performing and provide you with details of your most effective referrers. Using this information it is then possible to optimize almost every conceivable aspect of your online business.

Many Web hosts provide a degree of analytical reporting as part of their service, but generally these are lacking in the amount of information they provide. For a single-page fledgling site they may provide enough information, but for a multiple page catalog you'll need more. It isn't necessary to pay large amounts for a service, though, and free services such as the highly-rated StatCounter provide an excellent basis from which to begin your analytical journey. Generally speaking, they all provide similar data, which can be used in the following ways:

Referrers: Where Did They Come From?
Referrer statistics show you the pages that directed visitors to your site. Whether you are paying for advertising, trying to judge the best performing links to your site, or you want to see how well your article marketing efforts are holding up, the referrer's report is the important page.

The statistics alone, though, are close to useless without looking at them in context. If you notice that a link from a particular referring page is doing worse than you anticipated, you need to look at the reasons why. Perhaps your anchor text (the viewable, clickable section of the link) is unappealing. If you've agreed to a reciprocal link agreement and have placed a link to the other site in a prominent position, you should check where your link appears. Whatever the reason, you should attempt to address the balance.

Keyword String: Keyword Activity Or Keyword Analysis
Search engine results are a great source of inexpensive traffic. Web analytics not only show the search engines that are performing best by directing traffic to your sites, but also the keywords that visitors used. This is invaluable information for a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign.

By closely monitoring the keywords people use to find your site it is possible to adapt your service and your site to match their needs more closely. If searchers entering specific search strings are visiting your site then you know the kind of information they are seeking. It is possible to alter and optimize your pages, your products, and even your offers to increase revenue and performance.

Visitor Paths
This shows the route to and through your site that visitors take. This can prove to be helpful information in a number of ways. First, it shows which pages prove to be popular with certain types of visitors. Those that enter a search phrase will generally follow a path that is relevant to that phrase, but what about visitors that came through a referring link from another site? They, too, are important visitors and knowing what they are interested in can prove vital.

Second, these statistics also offer a method of determining which of your visitors are more likely to purchase. In most cases, the more specific a search term or the more targeted a link, the more likely a person is to eventually purchase through your site. Because the visitor path displays the way a visitor found your site and shows if they made it to "checkout" or not, you can soon determine the most responsive sources of traffic.

A good way to encourage people to spend more money on your site is to offer them "related product" links. On product pages you can place links to related items that they may be interested in and the visitor path information is the ideal way to find the perfect combination of products.

Visit Length
This can prove harrowing reading if you are unprepared. The visit length is literally the amount of time a visitor spends on your site. With statcounter this information is broken down into the following categories:
  • Less than 5 seconds
  • Between 5 and 30 seconds
  • Between 30 seconds and 5 minutes
  • Between 5 minutes and 20 minutes
  • Between 20 minutes and 1 hour
  • Longer than an hour

Hopefully you will witness a small percentage of people that remain on your site for less than five seconds, but in reality it will depend on how targeted your traffic is. Well-targeted traffic is more likely to remain on the pages of your site whereas poorly targeted traffic will leave if not immediately interested.

Take a closer look at visitors that leave quickly and determine where they came from. If a PPC ad is providing you with visitors that only look at the resulting page and then leave, that's an area you should spend time studying. Letting a poor-performing PPC campaign go unevaluated is one of the quickest ways lose money.

On the other hand, you should take advantage of sources of traffic that are generating persistent visitors. Look for similar sources from similar sites. Consider whether people who land on a certain page make lengthy visits. There are many reasons it could be happening so you may have to do some digging. Slow loading pages, broken links, unrelated content, and poor products are all potential reasons for a visitor leaving quickly.

Demographics And System Statistics Knowing where your visitors are located is important for companies that only operate in certain regions. It can help to explain why visitors don't complete purchases and it can also show a high traffic referrer to be sending inappropriate leads to your pages. Acting on this information can save you money, therefore increasing your profits.

System statistics includes information like the browser that each of your visitors uses, or the resolution of their screen size, the operating system they use, and even whether their browser is Java enabled. This is invaluable for ensuring that all of your visitors are able to effectively view your site and provides you with potential reasons for any unusual activity on your pages.

While Internet Explorer is usually the browser of choice for 50 percent or more of site visitors, that still leaves a lot of shoppers using Firefox and other browser alternatives. If your site has only been tested in Internet Explorer and does not display correctly in other browsers, you could be losing as many as half of your potential customers.

Conclusion: Make the Most of Your Numbers and Information
Web Analytics programs tend to contain a lot of important information. While the above tips give some crucial ways to use this information, they only touch on the surface. The possibilities are truly endless and can provide you with massive potential to improve conversion rates, increase average sale value, and even attract more traffic to your site. Exactly how you use the information is up to you. The more innovative you are, the more success you are likely to witness and the greater the profit.

Matt Jackson is a regular contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com and a provider of Web site content and articles for new media publication. For more information visit his Web site at webwisewords.com.

This article was first published on e-commerce-guide.com.






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