- Perhaps you’ve been told to add it to your site.
- Maybe your client is asking for details that your raw web logs can’t answer.
- Maybe you’re so deep into your tactics you’ve come to realize the only way you can optimize them is with the sophistication provided by web analytics.
Those of you in the above categories can already answer the question, “why use web analytics” and have a solid, concrete reason to do so.
I’m going to speak to those who have heard of it, but aren’t sure why they should use web analytics?
Is This You?
- No boss to report stats to?
- No active campaigns tied to a marketing campaign?
- Early in implementation of something big that’s not ready for prime time?
- Not really interested in the complexity of tagging or the resulting reporting tools?
- Don’t even have a website to tag with web analytics?
These are common situations I run into and you can even group and expand them to include more people who may not even be as close to their web presence as these people are. Those people may also benefit from web analytics in support of their tactics, campaigns and initiatives.
If you look at these roles and their interest in web analytics you can really speak to them as a whole. You can bring them with you as they lose their web analytics virginity. The result is a Kool-Aid drinking fanatic who will help you promote implementations, customizations and dependence on web analytics into higher level business decisions.
The Top 3 Answers: “Why Use Web Analytics?”
1. BENCHMARKING DATA
For those who don’t need it now, you will one day. If you don’t know why you need or didn’t even know about web analytics until recently, this is the first reason you need it. One day you will need to know how well your website and web presences are “performing”.
Don’t even worry about what I mean by performing. It doesn’t matter. The reason it doesn’t matter is that with just the most basic of implementations of web analytics (the same exact tag on every page) you will begin collecting so much data that you will be amazed one day in the future.
This basic tagging is so simple I consider it a zero dollar ($0) investment. How can you argue that math?
Whether that future need is for you or for someone you bring in to manage it, they will need historical data. If you bring someone in (internal or external) and immediately ask them to affect the following changes:
- Increase our organic rankings
- Track our pay-per-click campaign success
How can you expect them to measure their progress without historical data? Sure you could tag your site and collect two weeks’ worth of data as a benchmark, but what if you have peaks and valleys within a month? Or even within a year?
If you have data back to the beginning of time (when your website went live) then you will be able to slice and data all future work and set goals for that works with a much higher level of certainty!
2. TODAY’S PROBLEMS
With a basic to basic Plus implementation of web analytics you will quickly find problems on your website from day two. I guarantee it. There is always room for improvement. Here are some of the common quick wins I find almost immediately with my implementations.
- Pages not found – Error 404. While this does require one additional implementation step to your tagging process (you need to implement a custom 404 error page and tag it slightly differently than the others), it will almost certainly illuminate your 404 errors. Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a site and initially landing on a bad page due to a bad or outdated inbound link.
While this will not solve that first visitors experience, once you find out what the bad link is you can correct it with some simple redirecting.
- Internal traffic is muddying up your data
Your report can quickly hone in on your website visitors and many times I have found that internal visits are artificially inflating either poor performing metrics or overstating the important high performers. Rarely does anyone want to track their internal visits in the same view as their targeted external visitors. Next step is to exclude yourself from your web analytics reports.
- Misspellings on your website
Taking a quick look at the organic keywords that are driving traffic to your site, I am continually surprised at how many misspellings this tactic finds on a website. The value of this exercise eventually drops off but in the beginning it pays big time.
I am continually taking the keyword string that a visitor used to find one of my sites and actually running it myself on the search engine they used.
Make sure you’re not using personalized search for this exercise otherwise your results will not closely match what your visitor saw. For example, not only should you log out of your Google account, but you should also append “=pws=0” to the resulting search result to truly make them non-personal.
Now looking through these search results, if one of the search terms was a misspelling and one of your pages is in the results, audit that page to see if there is a misspelling or if the search engine did the right thing by interpreting the misspelling. Rarely will you find a misspelling on your website. But when you do, it’s gold.
Nothing is worse than a misspelling on a website. I will gladly lose that search traffic rather than have a visitor see a typo.
3. DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH
There is always an opportunity waiting to be found in your initial web analytics reports. (Actually viewing visitor actions is an even more enlightening experience) . Stumble around some of the predefined reports and gain insight into how your visitors are using your website, where they’re coming from and where they’re going. After that create advanced segments (in Google Analytics) to target a specific question.
If you’re lucky you may find some diamonds like:
- High pageview pages (other than the usual first place page – the homepage). Does this page surprise you? Is it a deep page on your site that you paid little attention to? Does it not only get high pageviews, but people spend an abnormally large amount of time on it? Is it a popular entry page? If so, where are they coming from? A referral? A search engine?
What you do with this information can vary. Maybe you highlight it on your homepage because you now know people are interested in it and you want to ensure that as many people know about it as possible.
Maybe you add some promotions on that page in hopes of more sales. You could drive people from it to a tailored sales landing page that is explicitly written for someone who just read that high pageview page. From here you’ll be able to track your web analytics goals.
- Tagging your footprints. Maybe you’ve found that certain domains are driving traffic to your site. And maybe those are sites you are actively participating in, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter referrals. Especially if you have multiple links on those sites you should tag them appropriately and peel another layer back to see more detailed forensics into how your other web presences are performing.
Why Use Web Analytics?
While these reasons are strong enough on their own, they aren’t the types of reasons that convince most people to answer the question “Why use web analytics?”
I find many times you either need to convert them into being a believer in the concepts of tracking data as a foundation to better decision-making. Or you just need to go behind their back and do it yourself without permission.