by Philippa Gamse
Your Website visitor reports are a goldmine of information. If you don't review these on a regular basis, you can't fully evaluate the return on your Web investment. And, you could miss critical clues as to how user-friendly your site is, how effectively your message reaches your visitors, and what unmet needs they may have.
But the reports can be overwhelming - a confusing mass of graphs, numbers and URL's. How can you find the information that you really need, how do you know what to look for, and how do you make strategic decisions using the answers that you obtain?
Step 1: Knowing your markets
First, identify all the different types of visitor to your site, together with the reasons that they might be coming to you.
This may sound obvious, but in my experience there are nearly always visitor segments that are overlooked. Here are my starting suggestions for an association site:
The content seekers category describes visitors looking for content that you provide, but who are not prospective members. They might be searching your member database for a referral, or they might be interested in your information products - and so they're great prospects for non-dues revenue.
Step 2: Knowing your goals
It's also key to know the required outcomes, not only for your overall site, but also for each individual section and page.
I have a mantra in my speaking programs:
"Every page of your site should have a strategy".
Too many pages on the Web give great information, and then tail off, with no clear call to action. They expect visitors to go back to the navigational elements, and decide what to do next - but instead, many of them will leave. You should be absolutely clear about the outcomes you expect from each page - event registrations, newsletter sign-ups, product sales, etc. Or perhaps you want the visitor to go to another page - you'll be able to track this as well.
Step 3: Asking the right questions
Now that you have the audiences and outcomes for your site, you can start to make sense of all those numbers and graphs. Based on what should be happening, you can formulate questions with which to approach the traffic reports to measure your site's effectiveness.
Here are some ideas:
The good news about the Web is that it's a great testing ground for new products and ideas. When you find an area on your site that isn't performing optimally, you can make small incremental changes, and immediately see the results reflected in your traffic reports. So you can keep tweaking until you hit the winning formula for each page.
Your internal search engine allows you to track the keyword searches that visitors perform once they're on your site. This also has some valuable clues:
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