Measurement is becoming increasingly important in any marketing program. With budgets tight—savvy marketers and business owners want to know that their marketing is working. Measurement can be hard, making many marketers shy away from it. Now, with new tools and techniques, measurement is becoming easier and easier. One of the best places to start is with measuring your Web site. It’s easy to gather relevant information—and put it to immediate use. Often, it can also be used to measure the effectiveness of your offline marketing efforts, too.
What Tools Can I Use?
There are a variety of tools available to measure your Web site statistics. Most hosting providers offer basic Web site monitoring tools like AW Stats, but these can provide limited data and can be hard to interpret. There are a variety of paid tools available, but these can be expensive—an expense many business owners just can’t justify right now. Several Web sites offer free traffic metrics—like alexa.com, quantcast.com, and compete.com—but these can have incomplete data, and they often don’t have data available for small sites. A good solution? Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free Web site measurement program offered by Google, which offers loads of features, is easy to install and use (though there’s a lot of data)…and did we mention it's free?
What Should I Measure?
People often ask, “How many hits am I getting on my Web site?” Well—hits don’t really matter. It’s a common misconception that “hits” equals “traffic.” A hit is really a request for a file made by a user-agent (such as a web browser like Internet Explorer or a search engine spider). Each time one of your web pages is viewed, the user agent requests all of the files that make up the webpage—of which there can be many. So even though only one webpage may have been viewed—several hits could have been recorded. So what are some meaningful metrics to review? Check out the following list for a few important ones:
Visits: Visits simply means the total number of visits to your Web site in a given period of time. This number includes multiple visits by the same visitor.
Unique Visitors: Unique visitors represents the number of unduplicated (counted only once) visitors to your Web site over the course of a specified time period. A unique visitor is determined using cookies.
Returning Visitors: How many visitors returned to your site over a specified period of time.
Exit Pages: The page the Web site visitor left your Web site from.
Traffic sources: Traffic sources simply refers to where your Web site traffic is coming from. This is generally broken down into three categories:
- Direct Traffic: The visitor typed your URL directly into their browser window or accessed your site through a bookmark.
- Search Engines: Traffic that came from search engines, including Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, and others.
- Referring Sites: Traffic that comes from other sites that link to you, such as your banner ads or campaigns, blogs, affiliates, etc.
How Do I Use This Data?
Visits: Track the number of visits to your Web site over time. Is your traffic increasing? Great! If your traffic isn’t increasing over time, think about what can you do to increase your Web traffic. Can you post more content to your Web site? Create and send out an eNewsletter that links back to your Web site? If you ran an offline campaign that used your Web site as a call to action, did your traffic increase immediately following the campaign? What about right after a trade show? Consider using your Web site traffic as one indicator of your offline marketing efforts’ success—but only if your call to action was clear: "visit our Web site!"
Returning Visitors: If your number of returning visitors is low—or is decreasing—consider your content strategy. It may be that you’re not updating your Web site frequently enough; or with enough relevant, interesting content. If part of your marketing strategy is to draw visitors to your Web site frequently, you need to be committed to posting new content. Otherwise, there’s no draw for them to return. Use your returning visitors metric as a gauge for finding the right frequency for posting new content to your site.
Exit Pages: Pay attention to what pages visitors are leaving your site from. It could mean that they’re not finding what they’re looking for. If they’re exiting from a Contact Us, Locations, or “Your Order Is Complete” page, that’s ok—these are likely pages for people to leave from. But if they’re leaving from a page with a clear call to action such as “Buy Now,” “Click to Learn More,” or from some other page where they shouldn't exit from, then you need to review your Web site content. Is the content too long, or not well-written? Is the call to action clear, or is it hard to find or understand? Are you not providing what you said you would provide on the page? Review your content and try a different strategy to get visitors to complete the call to action, instead of abandoning the page.
Traffic Sources: Where is your Web site traffic coming from? If you’re not getting a significant amount of traffic from search, maybe you need to invest in search engine optimization so your Web site shows up higher in the SERPS (search engine results pages). You can also use this metric to track how your online advertising is doing. If it’s not sending enough traffic to justify the cost, switch your ad dollars to somewhere else or revise your keyword targeting strategy!
Measuring your Web site analytics is a great way to analyze and improve your Web site. Start with these basics, and see what you can do to improve your site, resulting in more traffic, and better traffic.
Want extra help? Contact the Web analytics experts at AVS Group. We can help you with set-up, measurement and analysis, and developing an action plan.