Web Analytics for Amateurs: Part 1

Those who are new to the mysteries of web analytics may ask: What is web traffic analysis?  What are its principal metrics?  How can measuring it help me grow my business?

Web analytics is the study of user behavior on a web page.  The Web Analytics Association defines it thus: “Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage.”

Those who are unfamiliar with web analytics usually consider it a technical tool.  But make no mistake – web analytics is, first and foremost, a business tool, which can and should be used by any organization with a digital presence.  Good web analytics tools measure critical factors such as return on investment and site usability with speed and precision at a reasonable price.  They allow users – even those without a technical background – to measure their digital marketing strategies in minute detail.  Stakeholders can see results in real time, allowing them to make critical business decisions quickly, or look at “big picture” reports that clearly show whether or not their ebusiness communication strategy is going in the right direction.

What does web analytics give us?

Web analytics allows businesses to better identify user preferences, and understand how visitors interact with their website.  Stakeholders can easily determine which site features and content are the most popular, and which are leak points.  They can uncover visitor preferences according to geography, user actions, length of visit, or completion of certain tasks.  This type of segmentation is an organization’s best ally, allowing marketers to customize their offerings based on actual user behavior, rather than simply throwing around hypotheses based in conventional wisdom about what works and what doesn’t.

What tools do you need to get started?

People: It’s impossible to overstate the importance of investing in talented analysts, who possess the education and experience necessary to transform raw data into valuable information.  Avinash Kaushik isn’t exaggerating when he says that, for every $10 spent on analytics tools, $90 should be spent on the people who are going to use them.

Software: Business owners who don’t invest in web analytics tools are like store owners who close their eyes every time a customer walks through the door – they’re turning their backs on their best bet for growth and success.  Web analytics tools help organizations improve not just their websites, but also their entire digital media strategies.  Fortunately, there are a number of online traffic management tools for organizations to choose from –some free and others paid.  Not all have the same functionalities or measure traffic in exactly the same manner, but all will provide valuable insights to any organization that wants to grow its online presence.  The most prominent include: SiteCatalyst (formerly Omniture), Coremetrics, Google Analytics, Webtrends, and Yahoo Analytics.

Stay tuned for our next post on Web Analytics for Amateurs.  We’ll be discussing KPIs, key metrics, and objective setting.

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Paul Lima

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