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Good Web Statistics :: How to Measure the Success of Your Site

Before you start:

When you are considering starting an SEO/SEM campaign for your or your client's web site, what should you pay attention to? How to define your goals and milestones? How to foresee risks involved and the time your expenses are likely to cover?

One important tool that can help you at this stage is a good web site statistics script. Using good statistics software, you can know at once how many visitors you have per day or per week. You know your current sales already, right? These two figures give you your current conversion rate. Now take your desired level of sales, and use your current conversion rate to calculate the targeted number of visitors (of course, if in the process of promoting your web site you manage to increase the conversion rate also, that's great).

Now look at the "referrers" part of your statistics. Which sites are bringing you traffic? Do the search engines play an important role in delivering traffic to your site? If yes, what are the keywords that bring you visitors most often?

Do your visitors browse the site jumping from page to page? Or simply take a quick look at your home page and go elsewhere?

These questions and many others easily get answered with the help of a good web statistics script.

Why monitor the progress?

As soon as your SEO campaign is launched, you get impatient to see the results. You shouldn't expect them very early (the first month is not likely to show any changes at all), but your web statistics may already be quite useful to you. Have you submitted your site to directories? Have they accepted it? Are they bringing you direct visitors? You've got no way to answer the question except by looking at your web stats (unless you are willing to parse your web server logs manually, which is very painstaking work).

You are exchanging links. Again, do your link partners bring you direct traffic? You will be surprised to know that they actually do! Not much, perhaps - but you never know which visitor finally turns into a customer, so every visit is valuable.

You've just uploaded a page containing some good tips and advice for your potential customers. Has anyone found this page yet? For how long did the surfer stay there? If you see something like 4 or 5 minutes, chances are the content is read, and your web site remembered for good. But if the "time" column shows 15 seconds : well : looks like your page should be tweaked a bit to become more readable.

How many pages did each of your users visit before leaving your site? How many of them clicked on "Contacts" or "Checkout"? Where did they go and what did they do on your site?

As soon as your SEO work starts giving results, it becomes even more interesting to play with your web statistics. You start applying filters to check the number of visits for one page only (the page you've recently optimised) and view graphic charts that illustrate your progress. If you are doing SEO for a client, attach one or two charts to your monthly report - they look so impressive!

Reporting

Since you will not see your or your client's web site progress without viewing final results and milestones, a handy reporting system is quite important for any web site statistics tool. When planning your online marketing strategy, you refer to the data shown in reports.

That doesn't mean it is better to get as many reports as possible. Some web statistics software can generate heaps of reports, providing a user with all possible information, both necessary and absolutely needless. Do you really need all of them? If only some of them are really important for you, it is more cost effective to take quite simple and affordable (maybe free) tools? If the reports they generate are accurate and complete, you can certainly benefit from them.

As soon as you are planning to realise a complex long-term marketing strategy for your or your client's web business you should base it upon multiple parameters derived from quite a number of reports. You will certainly need that information to make the deepest tracking of your visitors' origins and behaviour, strategic changes evaluation, and other search engine marketing parameters. And that's where the most powerful and feature-rich web statistics tools will help you.

Unlike simple and free web analytics tools these can automatically generate reports that show summary site statistics which are easier to analyse than disembodied data. Planning your online strategies will be more effective, and in the long run more of your visitors will convert into clients.

To Whom May It Be Useful?

Almost anyone involved in running an online business or in maintaining a corporate web presence can benefit from using web statistics tools. Whether it is a small website or a full-featured e-commerce portal you should take a comprehensive approach to make profit from it. Big commercial portals are maintained by a team of professionals, such as marketers, e-commerce and merchandising managers, content editors, web developers and others. Anyway, if you run or promote just a small site you accumulate all these functions, and take into consideration all data provided by your web statistics software.

Good web statistics tools can generate reports specific to the functions of each of these specialists. For example, marketers can find out which ads, keywords, search engines and referrals deliver the highest quality traffic, target high ROI markets and market segments and understand the effects of their strategies.

And what about your consumers? Do you or your e-commerce managers really know them and their demands, where they come from and what products they prefer? You can learn this from your web site statistics reports and they will help you determine the right product mix for your e-business and better understand your clients.

In order to check how design and usability affect sales and ROI, content editors and web developers can also use web statistics software. For example, comparing reports before and after some alterations in the website design and structure have been made, they can monitor how consumers' loyalty has been changed, thus understanding the value of usability improvements.

Web statistic software also lets you find dead links, referral errors and redirects, as well as monitor bandwidth usage and server throughput. It is very important to keep your web pages free from bugs, since it also influences visitors' loyalty and, in the long run, improves conversion and ROI.

Irina Ponomareva
http://www.spiderfriendly.co.uk/web-statistics.php