Article: Web Analytics

A Measurement of Success

If you launch an ad campaign on the web and you can’t tell whether it drove anyone to your site, is it still an ad campaign? How do know whether the customers had clicked on the URL’s in your opt-in e-mail or newsletter, surfed in through a link, or found the site via a search engine?

A common misconception is that a website is ‘working’ if it receives increasing page-views and user sessions. But this idea of a ‘successful’ website misses the real point of running a successful business and having a website.

Web Analytics is a process of measuring and analyzing the effectiveness of your e-business website in terms of customer experience, return on investment, and site effectiveness. You have a website which collects massive amounts of site visitor and usage data but how do you analyze the data to provide a better customer experience and determine ROI?

Web analytics were born out of hit counters and Web server log files and it’s amazing how many online businesses don’t use Web metrics regularly.

Basically, whenever someone’s browser or application makes a page request from your Web server, the instance is recorded or logged with every other request that comes in. At the end of the day, the log contains information about how many users have visited, based on IP addresses. The file also shows where each visitor came from and since requests are saved by session, where the person went on your site. If your site uses cookies (markers left on users’ PCs that store information and can be used to identify repeat visitors), the log will store even more useful data, such as which browser someone was using and when they last visited.

There’s a big problem with log files, however. A log file by itself is just cryptic lines of text. That’s where analytic tools come in. The most common solution being analytic software installed on your Web server, separate server, or a desktop PC.

Web analytic software, takes the raw data from your server log files and turns it into structured information in the form of reports.

As a businessman you would be wise to consider the information gleaned from Web analytics. With greater intelligence regarding how your business operates, you can execute precision marketing, effective sales, and spot-on service. This is particularly important in an ailing economy, when you can’t afford to waste time, resources, or money.

It allows you to better quantify your business results by observing specific page views and visitor tracking, and learning the correlation between your online visitors and actual bookings and sales; or assist in your Web site design and navigation through a close evaluation of a visitor’s journey through your Web site and measure such things as marketing initiatives and campaigns.

Web analytics are the key to your viable e-business strategy; unfortunately however, many businesses dismiss this area as relating only to Webmasters and their tiny area of the company and not to the business managers involved.

No matter which web analytical tool your company uses, the benefits are apparent within days or even hours of implementation, depending on the size and scope of your site. – John Shenton – July, 2002