The web has become crucial to businesses. As the online world evolves, more and more businesses’ websites are now running in real time. In addition, the explosion of search engine marketing (SEM) has resulted in getting potential customers to Web sites even easier than before.

This makes web analytics more pivotal than ever. As the understanding of Web analytics increases, it’s definitely making its presence felt. Web analytics are no longer just about dashboards, but have instead, become an integral part of and tool that measure and manages businesses. This has resulted in a proliferation of web analytics tools and services in the marketplace. But just how to decide which web analytics system is right for your business? It is vital that marketers look closely at the analytics solutions they are using as most of the products available still tend to be based on the ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy.

It is also important to bear in mind whether you are selling to businesses or consumers because of course, firms that concentrate on B2B sales often have a completely different set of requirements than those that target consumers. For example, in the B2B environment, marketers need to know which industries are most interested in their website, the size of the companies and where the clicks are coming from in order to optimize their website traffic.

Most savvy marketers understand web analytics at the basic level: using the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data to optimize their website usage. However, many marketers still fail to realize how to use web analytics to supercharge their marketing campaigns, how to use it to arm the usability of their website and how to increase their marketing ROI.

It is important to remember that most web analytic programs are actually built with webmasters in mind and not marketing teams. It is therefore important for marketers to clearly define the purpose of their web analytics campaign and identify what they want to achieve after analyzing the web data. Bear in mind the following questions at all times:

  • What do I want to accomplish with my web analytics data?
  • What do I think are the important steps to get me to my end game: Overall traffic and awareness? Downloads? Lead volume?
  • Which metrics will help me reach my goals?
  • Can I make changes based on what I find?

The three most important Web analytics metrics to understand are:

  1. Traffic sources- where are your visitors coming from?
  2. Visitor action - what are people doing when they get to your website?
  3. Keywords - what keyword queries are searchers typing into search engines to find your website?

Know Your Traffic Numbers

Do you know who is coming to your website? Do you know how they're getting there? Do you know if they've been to your site before?

If you don't know the answer to these questions, you can get this data by installing Google Analytics on your website. Not only is Google Analytics one of the best Web analytics software tracking packages available, it’s also free! Once installed, you can find out how many visitors are coming to your website on a daily basis, what hour of the day they're visiting your website, as well as how your visit numbers are trending.

Armed with this information, you can use the data to make improvements to your website. As you continue to upgrade your website, you can track the changes and see if they are helping to increase your traffic numbers. The more you increase the traffic to your website, the more people you can expose to your business, your service or your products.

Understanding Your Visitor Behavior

When people do get your website do you know what they are doing when they get there? Are they staying on your website long enough to learn about your company, or are they leaving soon after they arrive?

Bounce rate is a Google Analytics metric that tells you what percentage of people immediately "bounce" off your website. A high bounce rate means your website may be in trouble. The number of page views users are triggering is also a good indicator to the health of your website. Low page views means users aren't exploring your website.

To try to reduce bounce rate and raise page views, you can:

Add more inline links - these are anchor text hyperlinks you should include in your sentences and paragraphs to take users deeper into your website.

Add better visual cues - be sure to add design elements to your web pages that are calls-to-action for visitors, such as sign-up forms, free estimate buttons, colored text boxes, etc.

Simplify your site architecture - make sure your website navigation is clear and straightforward. Create a usability focus group to navigate your website. Give them specific tasks to accomplish on your website. Listen to their feedback.

Do Your Keyword Analytics Research
Do you know what keywords searchers are using to find your website?

Google Analytics records the specific search queries (also known as keyword search terms) that visitors use to find your website. Having access to this information is extremely beneficial to your website. Once you know what keywords users are associating with your website, you can optimize your website accordingly. This means that you can begin to create keyword-specific content for your website that are themed around these keyword queries.

Having more relevant keyword rich content for your website will make for a better user experience and more traffic from the search engines.

If you are planning to buy or go more intensely into web analytics, here are some guidelines that will hopefully prevent you from falling into the common pitfalls web analytics has:

Ask yourself whether and why you need a web analytics system

Do not fall into the trap of installing analysis for the sake of analysis. Do your research well. Find out which data and metrics are crucial and which will make a difference to your business, then see which vendor’s solution caters to these needs.

Place value and accuracy of analytics before consensus

Make sure all your departments are involved in the planning stage of your web analytics system and get the opportunity to voice their opinions or put forward suggestions. However, don’t let this impede you and don’t fall into the consensus trap. Keep projects focused by deciding which metrics are crucial to your business, and which are distracting and have to go.

Focus on the future

Plan well and focus on your future business needs. A very common pitfall is businesses which focus on metrics that were important in the past. Always remember that you should have a web analysis strategy in place and it should be more future-oriented than anything else. Many tend to fall into the comfort zone but this can prove to be a costly mistake. Don’t get caught up in what you are or were used to when it comes to data metrics, but instead, zoom in on what it should look like.

Misunderstanding metrics and their methodology

This may seem very straight-forward, but it is vital to never forget that online marketing and media are still in their infancy, especially in Asia. It is important not to take your web analytics system at face value. Remember that definitions and methodologies that determine metrics such as page views, visits, unique visitors, and ad deliveries are different in every system. There are still no real standards in peripheral metrics. Bear in mind that counts can vary between 5 to 30 percent. Counts can differ between different products from the same vendor as this often depends on whether you use its installed or ASP products, or how they are configured.
There is still no easy solution to solving the above problem. It is however key to understand how various systems count, resolve that with your own needs and then accept the compromises that have to be made.

Ensure you are taking real advantage of the systems' intelligence

Do not hamper your web analytics success by getting caught up in rules and procedures. Concentrate on training the users of your web analytics system well and thoroughly, and then step back and enjoy the benefits of wide-use of your system.

Don’t get caught up in just pretty data visualization

Everybody likes pleasing visualization tools but more often than not, too many people worry about pictures first, and the data and analysis second. Graphics are fantastic at getting attention, but it is essential to remember that that often, they are not very good at putting data into action. What looks good in reports should be a means to the end, not the end in itself.

Beware: Ensure your data is not compromised

It is imperative that you read the fine print of your web analytics agreement. Sometimes, the vendor may reserve ownership rights of the data, data aggregates, and/or metadata derived from providing analytics services. It is not uncommon for companies to use subsidized analytics services to create aggregated research products they sell back to the marketplace, or even use analytics services to build a databases of anonymous consumer profiles and their behavior to use in ad targeting when those consumers visit other sites. Very often, this is done without the knowledge/approval of and compensation to the publishers whose sites were harvested.

Remember your privacy policy

Do not create conflict with your own privacy policy. Again, read the fine print of your agreement with the web analytics vendor. If service providers harvest consumer behavior and reuse it for targeting on third-party sites or resell it, it may violate your privacy policy. Be aware and vigilant.

Ensure your web analytics system allows you to take the action you want

This again may seem like a no-brainer, but remember that there are as yet, few systems that enable an enterprise to take immediate, tactical steps to leverage data for value. Being actionable for many of these vendors often refers to the system being able to generate reports (like user navigation). Remember, while this knowing and understanding this may improve your users’ experience, very often these reports do not gel with real-time action.

The above best practices all reinforce the same thing – always be alert, understand your web analytics wants, needs and actions, and never assume anything.

By Shanti Anne Morais