You’ve got a website. People are coming to it. Now what?
Your web strategy would be incomplete if you didn’t take advantage of its key difference from traditional marketing channels – the flexibility to change strategy on a dime. The information you gather from your web site can help you determine which product offers are working and which are not, whether your affiliate marketing strategy is effective, and how well your keywords are working in the search engines.
Collecting and interpreting this data is known as web analytics and there are a number of basic metrics you can use to track your success. However, before you even implement your campaign – let alone measure it – it’s important to be clear on the goals for your site and have a solid understanding of your target audience. Your bottom line may be to drive sales and revenue, but your web site can also contribute to lead generation, building a community or generating brand awareness and PR, and you can set up your site to track any interim goal
Your hosting company can supply web analytics for your site in raw form, and from it you can easily extract some key metrics of site performance such as:
Unique visitors: Unlike hits, a more accurate measure of who is coming to your site can be gleaned by looking at the number of “unique visitors.” Unless you’re setting cookies (see below) this will be at best an estimate as there is no reliable way to measure this.
Page Views: When a unique visitor comes to your site, you can mind out how many pages are looked at — the number of “page views.” This is a more useful measure of activity that can tell you how deeply your visitors engage with your site.
Referrers: The sites from which your visitors arrive. This is an easy way to measure the effectiveness of your Search Engine Marketing strategy.
To understand the paths, or routes within your site that customers are taking before they make a purchase, a more active measurement, known as page tagging, may be appropriate. Additional code must be added to each of the web pages on your site so that you can record how visitors are interacting with a particular page as well as what path they take through your site overall. Are they coming to your site through the homepage or some other landing page? What links are they clicking on most often? How deep into your site do they go; i.e., how many pages do they visit in one session?
For example, if you have a product slideshow or link to a video on a particular page, page tagging will enable to see which of these items, or modules garnered the most interest from visitors. You might consider a service such as Google Analytics, which offers all the tools required at no charge, as well as the ability to examine the results online.
Another option is setting cookies on your web pages. These are snippets of text that are sent to the visitor’s browser and then passed back each time they access your site again. They can hold information about the user (such as log-in details, or shopping-basket information) and also act as an accurate counter of the number of times they visit your site. This type of data can help you better understand purchase behaviors, and make targeted offers to specific visitors.
But beware: It’s very easy to indulge in information overload and begin making incremental enhancements that can be more costly than effective, not to mention time-consuming. So whether it’s using web analytics to provide a long-range check on the direction of your site, or a day-to-day tactical tool for staying current, you should find a balance between investment and results.