As this is my first post, it’s only right that I should start at the beginning and address the importance of analytics. Before this, however, I do need to mention that the original article I wrote on this topic was first published in Start-up magazine and this post now borrows from that. If you want to read that article you can find a web version here
So why should you analyse your web traffic?
Websites have moved on
It used to be the case that websites did not contribute greatly to your business. It was just one of those things your Marketing manager said you needed because everyone else had one ajd it allowed customers to find your contact details. Things have changed. These days, chances are many of your customers would rather interact with your website than with one of your employees. The average website has changed from a pure marketing tool to a tool with huge operational benefits.
Web analytics has moved on
Just to be clear, web analytics no longer involves dry, website visitor numbers, and the often misused and completely useless measure of ‘hits’. It used to be that web analytics was only of interest to webmasters so they could understand the “technical” performance of the site. However, web analytics has evolved – It can now truly be said to provide useful business information, and can help you understand the value of your website on the business bottom line. Interfaces have improved as well, making it much easier for anyone to access the information.
Helps improve website performance
In short, you now have business intelligence and not geeky techno-data. This window into your visitors’ behaviour allows you to find weak spots where visitors may be dropping out and make changes to your site that ultimately lead to more business. Because costs are lower in online business models, this means that there is more online competition. In my experience, the websites that perform the best are not those that come up with one great idea – as these are easily copied – but those that can identify and understand visitor behaviour and then make a large number of small changes that together provide an overall competitive advantage.
Improve your marketing spend
Clicks and mortar businesses, i.e., those that conduct business through both their website and offline will want to know whether diverting budget into your website and its marketing is going yield better results than spending the same money through traditional avenues. The sheer quantifiability of analytics data means it’s easy to establish what is and what’s not working. If not, can something be changed so that it does work? If it does work, can you maximise this avenue further or even try related avenues – be it email marketing, PPC, search engine optimisation or something else?
What’s the alternative?
I’m not suggesting analytics guarantees success but consider this basic difference: in traditional bricks-and-mortar business market research helps you to understand what works and why. Your market is local so it’s not too hard to learn about its opinions, attitudes, likes and dislikes, allowing you to better target your product or service. However, with websites, the physical distance of your target market makes this impractical, so all you can do is observe their behaviour – what keywords they search with, which ads they click on, and so on and so forth. You may not fully understand why something works but you know it does, and that helps.
It no longer costs the earth
So why put down good money for web analytics? Well, you don’t have to. Google Analytics, for instance, is made available for free; which in this case doesn’t translate as ‘rubbish’. It is seriously sophisticated and I know of many high profile websites for which it provides everything they need.