Many home-based online entrepreneurs keep their eyes on the ball, but fail to stop to check the score. In the rush to be online, these entrepreneurs focus too much on where they are going – e.g. increasing their traffic and sales, marketing their sites, improving their content, attracting a community of loyal visitors, and other goals. While important for the success of an online business, they often overlook checking where their businesses are. Many Web publishers fail to understand how users come to the site and what those users do once they get there. Not knowing where exactly a business stands is risky, particularly on the Internet where things change so rapidly.
A web site owner must put the task of understanding a site’s metrics and statistics as a priority goal every day. It must be on top of the daily to-do list, prior to other activities such as marketing and promotion. Everything else hinges on statistics, because it provides the essential measurements of performance and market competitiveness.
While there is not one statistical figure that can neatly summarize audience activity and the associated revenue-generating potential of a Website, assessing the daily statistics could provide the owner with a clearer direction and focus. A site’s metrics provide a wealth of information to help businesses attract and serve customers, enhance marketing effectiveness, and engage advertisers. Particularly, web metrics could present the online entrepreneur with a handle to:
1. Monitor overall site growth.
Traffic and sales (whether advertising sales or product sales) measure the overall growth of site. Assessing a site’s traffic entails counting eyeballs. Hits and page views are the traditional metrics to determine a site’s growth and reach. Early on, however, the online industry has discarded using the notion of hits to measure a site’s effectivity. Hits counted the number of individual requests for data from a Web server, be it text or art. With a click, a single loaded page could account for four, five, even ten hits at a time. Hits made for seemingly impressive Web traffic numbers; but are a lousy measure for a site’s growth and even advertising potential.
Page view, which is a metric that tracks how many individual HTML pages were served up to Web surfers, provides a more accurate measure of a site’s popularity. Advertisers look for a site’s page views to determine the potential reach of a site.
Online entrepreneurs, however, must clarify where the increase in page views is coming from. A rising page view is a direct result of three things: (a) an increase in traffic; (b) an increase in the number of the site’s pages; or (c) a combination of both. Web publishers must strive for an increasing page views resulting from an increase in traffic. Alas, any correlation between the company’s revenue growth and its traffic boosts could be considered almost coincidental.
2. Easily monitor marketing campaign performances.
If a visitor clicks on a link or a banner to get to a site, the visitor’s browser will send the URL of the site he or she just left, along with the request. This URL is called the “referrer.” Referrer statistics provide the information to determine the effectiveness of a site’s marketing campaigns. Most web statistics software provide data on where visitors come from – whether from referring domains, URLs, social media sites, emails, major domains, referrer countries, search engines and keywords used, and path from referrer.
Taking time to look at where visitors are coming from could yield answers to marketing considerations:
- How effective are the banner or text advertising campaigns? Are visitors coming from banners and text links placed in other sites? Which sites sent the most conversions?
- What campaigns brought the most sales or revenue?
- Is the site getting enough traffic from emails? If traffic is coming from emails, what percentage are due to: (a) newsletters regularly sent out to subscribers; (b) visitor sent email to a friend recommending the site; or (c) email campaigns? Is the traffic commensurate to the amount paid for the email lists?
- How many people are coming to the site via the search engines? Are the pay-per-click search engines bringing enough traffic? How cost-effective are paid search engine submission services, which submits to thousands of search engines and directories? If traffic comes only from ten search engines and directories, perhaps the site owner could reconsider paying to submit to search engines and manually submit its site to directories and search engines that actually bring in traffic.
- If part of the marketing plan is to submit articles to other sites, how effective is article syndication in bringing in traffic? Which among the sites that uses the articles actually bring in visitors?
- Is the web site getting the needed exposure from its partnership arrangements?
- Are the numerous postings in newsgroups and discussion boards resulting in increased traffic?
- How does referrals change over time? Tracking the changes can provide information on how to mix and match various marketing options.
Referrer statistics show which among the marketing campaigns are bringing the best results. The data helps Web publishers determine where to put their advertising dollars, what sites to partner or collaborate with, and identify the banners or links that are bringing the desired traffic.
3. Track customer interest in products and services.
A web site owner can gauge the interests of its visitors in a number of ways. The first is through the popularity of a site’s pages. Statistics to measure this include the most requested pages, time spent on pages, time spent on site, depth of visit and content grouping statistics.
Knowing the pages that people visit will help a web site owner understand the kind of information that his or her visitors want. Take a gaming site, for example, that offers role-playing games, card games, online games and video games. If the owner finds that online games is the most popular section, he or she can decide to beef up this section and expand its offering. The owner can also start to rethink the least popular pages, and develop strategies to improve its popularity.
The search function installed in a site can be an effective tool of knowing what the users want. What information is the user looking that is not in the site? Referrer statistics also provide some insight on visitors’ interests by showing what other sites these users visit.
4. Drive e-commerce sales.
A sizeable traffic does not guarantee skyrocketing sales. Rather, the quality of traffic influences a site’s sales numbers. A site’s metrics can help pinpoint where the desired visitors are coming from. Are most of the product buyers coming from email campaigns, or are they coming from targeted links? Are the visitors that search engines bring buying, or are they merely browsing your pages?
5. Improve site design and navigation.
Statistics that show the percentage of page views from various versions of browsers and operating systems can provide a glimpse of how a site is experienced by a user. How many visitors use Macs or PCs? Is the site enabled for both users of Netscape and Internet Explorer, and its various versions? A site enabled for use by different versions of browsers and operating systems can reach a wider audience.
The length of a user’s visit and the number of pages used by a single visitor is also an indication of the effectiveness of a site’s design. A huge number of users who leave after logging on to the homepage should prompt questions on the quality of the site. Why are the users leaving? Why are they not enticed enough to enter the site and explore the contents?
The kinds of queries on the site’s search engine can provide a clue on the quality of the site’s navigation structure. An often-repeated search for information that exists on the site is an indication that users are finding it hard to find that particular section.
6. Improve customer service and technical support.
Part of a web site owner’s responsibility is to understand the capacity of their site (even if a third party host is used). Technical problems can be minimized, if not eliminated, if information on when users are accessing the site is known. This entails understanding page views by time – and whether people visit your site before work hours, during work, or after work. The technical support and customer service system can then be designed accordingly to respond to various timeframes of peak users. If a substantial percentage of a site’s users are from other countries and come to visit while the owner is sleeping, auto responders can then be set up to reply quickly to some of the most common queries of visitors.
In order to attain the goal of enhancing visitor and customer experience, a web site owner must be able to assemble a picture of their site’s traffic. It will not be perfect – far from it – but it will provide with enough information to get an idea of how the site is doing and how it can be improved.