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Understanding Basic Web Analytics

Nov 18, 2007
To find out more about the features of a website that contribute the most towards the achievement of its business objectives, the behavior of its visitors is studied and this process is termed as web analytics.

Click heat mapping and other user performance data, response rates for emails, sales and lead information, data for direct mail campaigns, besides reports for web traffic, are usually among the data collected for web analytics. It is then compared against the benchmarks for performance, in order to gauge response to the campaigns for marketing and to make necessary improvements.

Web analytics tools are increasingly powering enterprise-marketing efforts, after being integrated with other tools. Used as stand-along products, traditionally, these have mainly been used for counting the number of hits on websites.

Marketing driven by business rules is being fueled by web analytics, as the more sophisticated ones among its uses continue to evolve.

The potential of some of the tools, however, is often not exploited fully by the companies that purchase these, because of the lack of proper resources in terms of trained personnel.

Services and software for web analytics are provided by a number of different vendors.

However, the market for such services and products is symptomatic of confusion, presently, as companies attempt to cater to the requirements of different kinds of customers with products of different kinds. It often becomes difficult to piece together information about how some of these services and products are supposed to be used in conjunction with other such services and products, to achieve the best possible results.

Categories of users:

The users of web analytics may broadly be categorized into Business websites, RSS feeds, Basic websites and Blogs.

1. Business websites

The most robust are the solutions for web analytics that are employed for tracking websites that have been put up on the Internet for commercial reasons. Information regarding the advertisements on the site, the details with respect to the visitors, besides the conversion rates, is provided through the analytics tools.

2. RSS Feeds

Sites with a small number of feeds may require a general idea only. Sites with a large number of feeds, on the other hand, may require analytics in greater detail, like the identification of feeds that are attracting more subscribers. Generally, statistics like the subscribers' click-through rates form part of advanced web analytics, while those like trends for growth and the number of subscriptions are included among the basic ones. So, the requirement for a tracking solution depends upon the number of RSS feeds for a website and the purpose for which these are to be used.

3. Basic websites

Web analytics of the advanced type are often not required by most of the basic websites. Even if the prices are not considered, most of the information can often prove to be useless for the operators of personal websites, as they do not understand it. The geographical location of visitors, the number of people that visit the website and the referring websites are among the basic information required for such sites.

4. Blogs

Since different bloggers have their own reasons for blogging, the kinds of data that they wish to collate through web analytics also tend to be different. Some blogs are personal, others are company or corporate blogs and yet others are hybrids. Many have become quite popular and attract vast amounts of traffic. The web pages that visitors are referred from, the number of visitors within a specified period of time and the posts accessed are included among the things that are often tracked by bloggers.

Major challenges faced by web analytics

These include the following:

1. The most appropriate methods for measurement and the web analytics tools required for these have to be identified, so that there is not an overload of data and, more importantly, so that these can be processed fast enough for action to be taken to implement corrective measures, if required, for the achievement of marketing goals.

2. A dedicated team comprising professional from the IT, web services and the marketing functions of an organization has to be assembled, for the successful implementation of the tools for web analytics. This is often not very easy, as they are busy with work related to the routine functioning of the organization.

3. The data obtained from web analytics are often not in agreement, even as these are consistent.

4. Voluminous data have often to be gone through, in order to gain insights that are few and far in between.

5. Benchmarks are often not available, to compare the data against.
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