How to conduct website analytics?
“I am afraid I don’t have enough information about my website performance! How visible is my website among thousands of other competitors’ websites? How many people visit my site? Who visits my site? When? Why? What do my site’s visitors do on my website? What percentage of the site’s visitors gets converted to my customers? What ads are drawing the most traffic to my site? How many other sites link to my website? Most importantly, what is my online marketing return on investment? Finally, who am I? (Just kidding)”
Ivan: Wow. It looks like you are well due for “a regular website health checkup.” Fortunately, there are lots of tools that can help you discover how good your website performance is. The good news about the Internet is that it provides plenty of opportunities to track, analyze and improve your online performance, which is the whole idea behind the concept of “website analytics.”
Cyri: Exactly. We used to spend a lot of money to gain insights about our customers, and their preferences or behavior, and now most of this information is absolutely free. No wonder Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, once said that “The Internet will transform advertising because of its trackability, not its beauty.”
Ivan: Here are some options for your website analytics. Firstly, we would like to recommend setting up proper website traffic analytics. While there are many online and software solutions for website traffic analysis, such as Webstat (www.webstat.com) or AWStats (awstats.sourceforge.net), we would like to recommend one of the most widely used: Google Analytics. To set up Google Analytics on your site, you need to follow this four-step process: (1) visit Google.com/analytics, (2) open an account there, (3) copy your own unique short code provided by Google, and then (4) have your designer insert the code into your site’s HTML pages which you want tracked, usually the home, or “index,” page. You can also do this quite easily if you have access to your website files and can upload edited versions using a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) tool… (you don’t need to be a computer nerd). Start viewing your results!
Cyri: Google Analytics is an amazing tool. It will enable you to analyze lots of data, such as how many people visit your site and when, who is visiting your site (e.g. from what regions or countries), what pages they visit most, what their most common path / click stream on your site is, what phrases they use to find you, etc. You can also link your Google Analytics with your Google AdWords account in order to be able to track the effectiveness of your ads (note: AdWords is Google’s own pay-per-click advertising program described in one of our previous columns). With this tool, you will be able to track conversion rates, i.e. what percentage of your pay-per-clicks turned into your goals (e.g. a sale, filling in a form, etc.).
Ivan: … You probably remember a famous quote by John Wanamaker from more than one hundred years ago: “I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted… I just don’t know which half.” Well, on the Internet, it looks like this is actually no longer true!
Cyri: Yes. In order to learn what ads convert best, you can use Google AdWord’s conversion tracking and ad click trough rates. A click through rate of about 2% is generally considered to be quite successful (this means that while your ad was shown a hundred times, two people actually clicked on it). To compare the click through rates (effectiveness of different ads), you can use an A/B split test such as: http://loweryourbidprice.com/splittest/. Run the two ad stats through this test, choose the winning ad, replace the loser with a new ad, and repeat the testing process until you maximize the effectiveness of all your ads.
In addition to Google AdWords and Split Test, you can also track a website’s search engine rank or “website visibility.” For this purpose, you may want to use services such as Webposition (http://www.webposition.com). These types of tools help you monitor your online rank, the number of inbound links to your site, and they can also provide you with a “Page Critic” in order to improve your pages.
Ivan: … Finally, and most importantly, you want to know if your website or online advertising produces a positive financial result. For this purpose, feel free to download this free calculator on my blog: whereispuck.com/2011/10/21/search-engine-marketing-calculator/. We also recommend fabulous calculators provided by ClickZ at http://www.clickz.com/stats. They will even help you decide how much it pays to invest in your website, or what your average online customer acquisition cost is.
Future Management of Condition
Cyri: We recommend doing at least regular monthly and annual web health checkups. The more often, the better. Outsourcing your online advertising / web analytics to an e-marketing professional might be a good idea, but make sure to define your monthly reporting expectations before you start.
Generic Name & Alternative Medicine
Cyri: Web Analytics would be a generic term for all these tools. There are quite a few alternative tools not mentioned in this article. One of them probably deserves a special attention: Google’s Webmaster Tools (www.google.com/webmasters/tools/). This tool will help you bring additional powerful insights regarding your site’s overall health.
Ivan: Most of these tools are completely free. Webposition.com (the search engine rank reporting tool) starts at $29.00 per month, but you can try it for free for 30 days.
Precautions / Warnings
Ivan: Regular checkups are a valuable tool in maintaining good online health… regular tests can help you find problems before they start!
Cyri & Ivan’s Medication Rating:
Cyri Jones teaches at BCIT and Capilano University and is the founder of ZENPortfolios.ca. He blogs at 24posts.com. Ivan Surjanovic is a marketing faculty at Capilano University and CEO of iPower Lab. He blogs at whereispuck.com, www.twitter.com/whereispuck, and at bizpharmacy.com.