Monday, April 10, 2006

Analytics: If You Aren't Measuring, You're Wasting Your Time

If you aren't measuring and analyzing what visitors do on your web site, you aren't really running a web site. Oh sure, you have a website, but you aren't managing it unless you're measuring what happens, and taking action to improve your website's performance.

One thing for today: if you don't have any kind of analytics program in place, do something about it. In fact, if you're playing the "box of dreams" game with me, just forget about pulling anything from that box until you've got some way to measure success.

This is essential, folks! It's not optional. It's not something to do some day in the future. In the "future," I will have a flying car and a robot maid. Today, I need to know what visitors are doing on my website so that I'll be able to afford all that cool stuff when the future actually gets here.

How can knowing what happens on your website lead you to that promised land of flying cars? Well, here are just a few things you will be able to do once you start measuring:
  • Identify important search terms from your organic and pay-per-click campaigns, and create a feedback loop so that your SEO campaign tells you what to add to your PPC campaign, and your PPC campaign tells you what your priorities should be for SEO. This translates to acquiring more targeted traffic to your web site.
  • Measure the performance of key pages on your web site, using key performance indicators (KPIs) like the bounce rate from your home page, the conversion rate from your landing pages, the opt-in rate for your email newsletter, etc. When you can measure these things, you can test different ideas to see if your KPIs improve.
  • Analyze visitor behavior, to see which links visitors click. This can help identify navigation and usability issues, but it also gives you a clearer picture of what visitors want. This allows you to give them more of what they want (and make it easier to find). The result of this activity should be increases in the average time on site and page views per visit, which should translate to a higher conversion rate.
  • By measuring and managing to a set of key performance indicators, you can develop a clear direction for the long term and short term management of your web site. Every incremental improvement you make adds to the others you have made. The cumulative effect can easily mean tripling or quadrupling your profitability within a few months.
In my free keyword strategy video, I discuss different ways to use testing and analytics to improve the performance of your website's search engine marketing campaigns.

When you start measuring and testing, you will begin to see that small changes can lead to big results. Andy Jenkins of Yahoo Store Profits showed me how changing the wording on his free shipping offer from "free shipping on all orders" to "we pay for your shipping" led to a substantial boost in sales.

You can see Andy's Tapestry Standard store for more examples of little things that lead to big increases in conversion and sales. Those 3-D tapestry pictures aren't there because they're pretty, they are there because people buy more products when they see the product in 3 dimensions. There's no way he could have done any of this without a good analytics and testing program in place.

In terms of getting started, you have a couple of choices:
At this time, I am suggesting IndexTools (tagging) or Clicktracks (log files) for most of my students. My personal preference is to use page tagging rather than log file analysis, because I believe that it works better for tracking visitor sessions. Most page tagging solutions do involve monthly subscriptions and fees, but when you factor in your time/labor, the overall cost of ownership is comparable to logfile-based solutions.

I will continue to post about analytics and conversion as the "one thing a day" series continues, but don't worry, my next post will take us back to the familiar world of SEO. For now, let me suggest a few good resources and let you get on with the rest of your day:
Watch this space.

Shameless Plug: If you're finding this series helpful, but would like to address specific challenges you're experiencing with SEO, SEM, conversion, or other topics, I offer private one-on-one coaching. It's just $495 for the first month, and $395 per month thereafter. What do you get? A weekly conference call with a small group of other students, up to two hours of one-on-one time with me each month, and access to our private website with a huge library of recorded video trainings. Start any time, quit any time, and keep your private site access for a full year.


At 9:55 AM, Mr Apache said...

If only they could make the interface more user-friendly and intuitive. sigh.

Speed up the loading of your site by hosting the Google Analytics urchin.js file on your own server.

--Mr. Apache
Host Google Analytics Locally

At 10:54 AM, Dan Thies said...

Thanks, Mr. Apache! :D


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