It amazes me how often when talking to a client (or potential client) and asking the questions, what analytics program are you using? can I get access to your reports? and what do you think are your top 5 strongest converting keywords?, I get the deer in the headlights stare. Most of them cannot respond to any of those questions. I would understand if they said, we are using Omniture and we can get you access, but we don’t know the top 5 words off the top of our heads, but we’ll find out. The problem is most don’t respond that way, they say something like…I have no clue, but we’ll find out and get back to you. You would think that most VP’s of Marketing would know this stuff. Anyway, this common happening has inspired me to write this post.
For those of you that are new to this, Web Analytics allow you to track traffic to your website.
Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web site usage. Wikipedia.
Notice that the definition says for “for purposes of understanding and optimizing web site usage.” Meaning you can make use of this data to improve your business…and make more money! Imagine owning a local ski shop and getting every customer to fill out a survey upon entering your shop. They would include things such as where they came from, what they are looking for, what car they drove to your shop, what isles they are going to walk up and down, how long they’ll spend looking at certain products, and of course what they purchased. This data would be invaluable to you as the store owner, but in reality no one would give you the time to fill that out, and if it was required they would never return.
All that data is available to you when doing business online. You simply need to be using a program that gathers that data for you and then reports it to you so you can use it to make decisions. Common data gathered by web analytics programs include: hits, new visitors, return visitors, session duration, pages viewed, bounce rates, browser used, search engine used, keyword searched for, entry and exit pages, and much more information depending on which program you are using to gather the data and how capable that program is. If you are new to this, or a VP of Marketing that couldn’t answer those questions up above, then you are probably thinking right now, man that info would be great to have, and my answer to you is…yes it is.
So, what next. Well first things first, if you are already using web analytics then get access to them and spend a few hours getting trained up on how to use them and begin data mining to give you steps you can take to improve your business. If nothing is installed, or you are looking to upgrade, here are a few options to consider.
- Google Analytics (FREE) – GA pretty much has the corner on free analytics software. There are others out there that can be used, but GA is the most common. GA provides great data for review and is easy to install and use. GA is aimed more at marketers as compared to web masters with the data is provides and you can set up to 50 site profiles on a single account. There are a few disadvantages however with GA, namely there are many ad filtering plugins, extensions, and privacy networks that block GA tracking code leaving the data a bit flawed and with holes in your stats. But, what can you say it’s free and pretty good.
- Have A Mint ($) – is a great solution for analytics on a budget. You pay $30 per domain for life. Mint is a bit more complicated to install as it’s done server-side, compared to GA, but will net you a few more advanced features and your stats are displayed in a much sexier way as compared to GA. The reporting data is simple to understand and includes a feed reader for RSS stats among other things. One bad thing, Mint only works with PHP scripting so no go here for ASP scripted websites.
- Omniture ($$$$$) – Omniture will quote you a price based off the product you want and the features you are looking to get. Comparably, Omniture will be very expensive in most cases, but their data is excellent. They claim to have the most accurate analytics data available and their reports offered are extensive. Omniture does a lot more than just provide analytics so they target more of a corporate user-base and often work with those VP’s of Marketing. Their flagship product is called SiteCatalyst. The bad thing, if you owned Omniture stock a year ago it was trading for $38/share, now it’s worth about $10/share.
Well, there you have it. You should now be able to answer my initial questions when I ask you and hopefully this has given some insights to how important having and using web analytics can be. Also, just an FYI…I was not paid for this post, this is just my personal take on some programs I have used.
Please share your take on what programs you have used and the ones I mentioned above. I would like to get your thoughts. Thanks.