Categorized | Site Analytics: Software

Web and Ecommerce 7.12. Site Analytics: Software

Site Analytics: Software

In the world of Web marketing, site analytics is the most crucial success factor . . . but also universally overlooked by small business owners. Site analytics tell you if your site is working. It tells you how people are finding your site, what they’re doing when they get there, how many leave, how many do the things you want, and how many times they return.

At a more sophisticated level, however, site analytics teach you how to modify your Web site and Web presence strategies. If you are paying for ads on Google and those ads generate 500 hits a day, great. But if none of those folks actually do anything on your site, you may want to rethink having to pay Google for their traffic. You may find, however, that a link on an obscure Web site only generates three hits a day, but two-thirds of those visitors consistently turn out to be buyers. Which do you prefer; the 500 non-buyers per day coming your way through Google, or the two buyers coming your way through an obscure Web site? Your answer will probably change your Web presence strategy.

The foundation of Web analytics are conversion events or key activities. These are, in your calculation, the things that users do that have value to you. For an e-commerce site, the most important conversion event―out of many―is to actually purchase something. However, conversion events could also include placing an item in a wish list, viewing a product, viewing a special, giving you personal information (name, email address), signing up for a newsletter, or viewing a strategic page.

Before you even start your Web site, you should determine what the key activities or conversion events are for your site. In other words, you want to determine all the desirable user behaviors that your site needs to elicit from its visitors. Once you have those determined, Web analytics is your primary tool to increasing the number of users who perform the desirable behaviors. So you see, it’s not about the number of visitors that makes a site successful, it’s the number of conversion events. These are related, but not really the same thingthat’s why, in our vignette above, you’re getting more value from an obscure Web site delivering almost no visitors rather than Google dumping a horde of them on your door each day.

So, what are the basic questions you should be asking your Web site?

  • Number of visitors is, of course, your biggest worry. You need to be more concerned about where they come from and why. You also need to relate where they come from with the key activities that make your site successful. This is particularly important if you’re paying for visitors, for instance through a pay for click advertising campaign. Cross-tabulating conversion events to these ads are the key to determining your return on investment.
  • You also want to know how people navigate through your site and how this relates to key activities. This allows you to reengineer your site to put more visitors on a path to a conversion event.
  • You also want to build profiles of the people that come to your site. That will tell you a lot about what people want and what kind of people generate the most revenue for you.

A Web analytics software tool could run you anywhere from $20 to $20,000. The biggest bruisers on the block, like Time.com or Nordstroms.com, are bashing around with a 20K number. Determining which software is best for you―and how much hard-earned cash you’re willing to part with―has everything to do with the questions you want to ask of your Web site statistics. If you’re just interested in the relationship of visitors to your overall Web presence, you’re not asking for much (and you won’t get much). But if you’re trying to build sophisticated profiles of your visitors and use that information in advertising, direct mail, and email campaigns, you’re asking for much more. Since you’re putting actual marketing dollars into play, you’ll want your analytics software to do some pretty sophisticated statistics analysis―you’ll want to not only compare data using cross-tabulations, but you’ll want to subject the numbers to statistical validation using complicated statistical tests. That’s getting into bigger bucks.

Web analytics software comes in a few flavors depending on what you’re after.

  • Log analysis―the most common Web analytics software simply evaluates the “logs” that your server keeps about each visitor, where they come from, what keywords they used when searching for you, what pages they viewed, and how long they stayed on each page.
  • Remote tracking―some Web analysis tools work by inserting code into each of your pages. The software then tracks each page. Although remote tracking packages may not give you any more information than log analysis, you can install page analysis software on any server and use it for multiple sites.
  • Search engine marketing and optimization tracking―this is scaled-back log analysis software that monitors and evaluates referrals, that is, how visitors get to your site.
    • Keyword research applications help you identify keywords that will drive traffic to your site―they are particularly helpful in finding the keywords that are “opportunities,” that is, not being used heavily by sites similar to yours.
    • Rankings monitors track your position on various search engines relative to certain search terms―for instance, a rankings monitor will tell you that your Web site is number 347 in the list if a user searches “books” in Google and the twenty-fifth listing on Hotbot.
    • Link monitors track referrals from links to your site from throughout the Web. Links to your site not only provide traffic, they also increase your search engine placement, so link monitoring is often a key aspect of search engine monitoring (we talk about rankings monitors and link monitors in greater detail in the next chapter).
  • Pay-per-click bid management―we discuss pay-per-click in the next chapter. Suffice it to say here that pay-per-click involves “bidding” for keywords in terms of placing ads on search engine or other sites. Pay-per-click management systems help you track the value or return on investment (ROI) that you’re getting from your bids in real dollar terms―this allows you to modify your bids to increase your ROI.
    • Click fraud monitoring is a subset of pay-per-click bid management and is also discussed in the next chapter. Suffice it to say that your competition can eat up your entire ad budget by fraudulently clicking your ads whenever they appear (this can be done with automated software); click fraud monitoring tries to identify ad clicks that are made fraudulently.
  • Integrated analysis―now we’re in the big bucks. Integrated analytical tools do all the above (log analysis, etc.) and track and monitor email and other campaigns to determine the effectiveness of a larger array of Web marketing tools and techniques.

You should do all your research about search engine marketing and the Web analytics tools you want in place before any serious work begins on your site. These tools often involve putting special code into your Web pages and may involve some special tools be installed on to your server. The real meat-and-potatoes of Web analytics will take place after your site is up and running.

7.12.1. AWStats

http://awstats.sourceforge.com

AWStats is an open-source, free log analysis software package that is installed on your server. While it is designed for webmasters and other technical folks, we are including it here because it comes free with most hosting packages. (It can only be used on UNIX or Linux servers).

AWStats is a powerful tool―in fact, one of the best pure log analysis tools out there. Most pros I work with swear by it and a comparison to other major log analysis software packages bear this out. Log analysis has several advantages over remote tracking: it includes FTP and email usage, as well. Statistics do not have to be updated as they do in remote tracking software―every time you open it, the stats are current, and you get valuable information about your users (computer system, screen size, and any “Add To Favorites” command, etc.).

Most Web analytics professionals rely heavily on log analytics even if they’ve hired another service, like Hitbox or ClickTracks. Because the remote software services are slightly inaccurate, log analysis is a valuable corrective as well as a source of greater detail.

7.12.2. Google Analytics

http://www.google.com/analytics

Google Analytics is a remote tracking software originally designed to help Web site owners and administrators track the effectiveness of their GoogleAds campaigns (see section 8.6.1). Since its introduction, however, it has evolved into an extremely powerful tool to measure referrals, user visits, and the effectiveness of other online, pay-per-click, and email campaigns designed to increase traffic to your site.

Google Analytics tracks your Web site usage based on codes you insert into all the pages you want tracked. The Google search engine tracks these pages―in other words, Google Analytics does not work from your normal hosting Web logs.

Google Analytics tracks:

  • Referrals and keywords
  • Google AdWords campaign results
  • Email and other advertising campaign results
  • E-commerce tracking―the reports tell you where each order comes from: what sites, what keywords, and what advertising campaigns
  • Traffic and conversion information
  • Lost conversions
  • Geographical tracking

Google Analytics also offers professional consulting and reporting for an additional (steep) price.

7.12.3. Clickalyzer

http://www.clickalyzer.com

Clickalyzer is an excellent, medium-priced Web analysis software that focuses on segmenting your site traffic and focusing heavily on visit analysis. Most site analytics software presents aggregated statistics, but Clickalyzer is designed to break up your visitors into segments―such as visitors who buy, visitors who leave quickly, visitors who arrive via search engines, visitors who arrive by typing in your URL, etc.―and analyze what each of these segments do when they show up. In addition, the Clickalyzer interface has been designed for non-technical people―marketers, in particular―so there’s no need for specialized knowledge. Since conversions are the holy grail you’re seeking with Web analytics, having the ability to easily segment your audience is, we believe, an immensely powerful feature.

Clickalyzer also allows you to monitor Web sites you do not own (like your competitors’ Web sites), monitor how much of a page a user scrolls to, and allows multivariable testing. The remote tracking feature means that you don’t have to add special coding to your pages.

A seven day trial costs $1.00. Month-to-month use costs $30; a year’s subscription costs $300; a lifetime account costs $600.

7.12.4. Stuffed Tracker

http://www.stuffedguys.com/products/tracker

At least one of the authors of this book LOVES statistics, and folks who love statistics get their jollies from crunching numbers from every angle possible. Stuffed Tracker is the Web analytics software product for people who like to see site statistics from every angle. Designed for marketers and business owners as well as webmasters and other techie cowboys, Stuffed Tracker has one of the best reasonably-priced reporting packages we have encountered.

The software comes with a report constructor that allows you to create up to several billion different types of reports. The software tracks web traffic, all site activity, conversion rates, campaign ROI. It also tracks multiple sites, analyzes pay-per-click data, and can be used to segment visitors.

Stuffed Tracker requires special code written in JavaScript, PHP, or HTML. The software can be installed on Linux, UNIX, or Windows servers, but the software requires a PHP 4.0.3 or higher interpreter, a MySQL database (version 4 or higher), and, if you want to track sales, SSL protection.

Outside of a free, 30-day trial version, Stuffed Tracker comes in two versions:

  • Merchant

Track five different Web sites

$130

  • Agency

Track ten different Web sites

$400

7.12.5. HitBox Professional

http://www.websidestory.com/products/web-analytics/hitbox-professional

Designed for small- and medium-sized businesses, HitBox Professional, like Clickalyzer and Google Analytics, is a remote tracking software service rather than software you install on your server. It offers search engine tracking, promotions tracking, visitor browsing aggregate analysis, and sales tracking. The service starts at $35 per month.

Hitbox requires a special code to be inserted into your pages.

7.12.6. ClickTracks

http://www.clicktracks.com

ClickTracks is a premium Web analytics software package designed for marketing professionals who wish to get down and dirty with the data by enabling desktop data mining in addition to standard Web analysis.

ClickTracks provides the following data:

  • Page-by-page navigation and user behaviors
  • Keyword density on each page as seen by search engine robots
  • Keyword ranking on the major search engines
  • Search engine robot activity reports
  • Referrals and keywords used
  • Google, Yahoo, and BidSearch keyword tracking and ROI
  • Email and other advertising campaign results
  • Click fraud reporting
  • E-commerce tracking―the reports tell you where each order comes from: what sites, what keywords, and what advertising campaigns
  • Traffic and conversion information
  • Lost conversions
  • Segmentation and segment labeling

One unique feature of the software is the WYSIWYG features that overlay statistics right on top of each page of your site. For instance, you can go through your site and see statistics overlaid on each menu item to see how visitors are moving around on your site and navigating from each page. A “robots” view shows you exactly what your page looks like to search engines, so you can modify the site to maximize keyword density.

ClickTracks offers three products.

  • Optimizer

Designed for SEM and SEO specialists and consultants

Uses log files

Reports: Search engine robot report; What’s Changed report; campaign tracking

$995 for 3 users and unlimited URLs

  • Optimizer Hosted

Designed for consultants and companies managing online marketing

Uses JavaScript

Reports: What’s Changed report; campaign tracking

$79 per month for unlimited URLs

  • Pro

Designed for medium to large Web sites or shopping cart sites

Uses log files

Tracks Google, Overture, and custom campaigns; revenue, sales, and ROI

$9,344 for unlimited users and unlimited URLs

  • Pro Hosted

Designed for Yahoo! stores and other shopping carts

Uses JavaScript

$239 per month for unlimited users and unlimited URLs

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