by Philippa Gamse
Recently, I talked with a speaker about her "extremely successful" Website. She based this opinion on the fact that she was selling several e-books every day and generating "some calls". When I asked if she was reviewing her traffic analysis, she said "No, why should we - it's clearly working - we can tell that from the sales". I didn't ask if she knew how her sales and calls compared to the actual visitor numbers for the site - I suspected that she'd have been shocked to learn how many more opportunities she was losing.
If you don't know what's happening with your Website visitors, where they go, what they're looking for, what they respond to, and what turns them off about your site, you can't possibly make the most of your online potential. Your Web traffic reports offer unprecedented opportunities to analyze these relationships on a one-to-one basis.
Here are some examples of using your metrics to ask intelligent questions and make informed adjustments to your site:
Tracking your Promotional Efforts
There are many ways to promote your site, both online and offline. Some are free and some, while not costing money, do take up time and effort. It's important to know the marketing options that generate the best return on investment for all your resources.
Joyce Weiss works with her public relations consultants to analyze the immediate impact of her radio appearances on her Website traffic. She said "This way we can decide if the Website needs to be tweaked for radio shows, or if I need to say something different on the shows to get people to sign up."
Following the links to your site (called "refering URL's in the reports) can be very useful in creating good professional relationships. Often, site owners won't tell you that they've quoted you so it's important to check that the reference is appropriate.
And, it's important to say thank you. I once followed a link to my site and found that one of my articles was required reading for a course at the University of Southern Oregon. When I dropped a note to the Professor telling him how honored I was, he replied "Not at all, I really like your ideas - and by the way, we're looking for a speaker for our next conference . . ."
Dave Paradi does this too: "I do check out those sites that link to mine. One time I found that the link was to an old page, so I wrote to them and suggested that they update the link. I was also able to mention my other articles that would benefit their visitors."
If you're paying for traffic, make sure that the keywords you've selected, or the sites that you're advertising on are generating good quality leads. Abby Marks-Beale told me how she does this:
"I've set up separate portal pages for those who come to me from my pay-per-click program through Overture. This way I can see if the program is really working."
In other words, you can create special entry pages for visitors from Overture, Google AdWords, e-zines that you sponsor, or other campaigns. If a visitor enters through one of these pages, they can only have come from this one specific source. Then you can follow where on your site these visitors subsequently go, how they respond and ultimately decide whether they're good leads and whether your money is well spent.
Hot Content Areas
Your traffic reports list the most requested pages on your site, telling you what's hot and what's not about your content. If you're offering downloadable articles or special reports, you can see which of these are most popular.
Mitchell Gooze makes a point of doing this: "We track white paper downloads by person, and we know exactly who downloads which white papers. We store this information in their data records. We also know which topics are most interesting to visitors."
Knowing the hot content areas on your site can give you great ideas for future product and program development. Rita Risser developed a whole set of online checklists and policy guideline documents based around the subjects that her visitors were searching for.
Calls to Action
One of my favorite mantras is "Every Page of your Site Should Have a Strategy". You should absolutely know which segment of your target audience each page is aimed at, what's in it for them and what you want as a result. Provide clear (and clickable) calls to action at every point in your copy where the reader might be ready to make the next move - whether it's "Sign up for our newsletter", "Buy our product", or "Contact me to ask about our services".
Sometimes this means directing the visitor to the next page that you'd like them to see. Dave Paradi told me:
"I realized that people were entering my site on one of two specific pages, which are a couple of my articles that now have great placement on Google. I also noticed that almost all of these visitors entered and exited on that page, not visiting any other pages.
"So how could I get them to see the rest of the site - particularly the products that I hoped they would buy? I included a link to my products page at the bottom of each article. And last month, the products page jumped to the second most visited page, and it appears that many visitors, based on the value of the articles, are checking out the products."
And he's taking this a step further:
"It hasn't yet resulted in increased orders, but I think the next area I need to address is writing more successful copy for the products page."
At the Risk of Repeating Myself . . .
I like to think of Web traffic analysis as "market research that cannot lie". The reports show you what visitors do on your site of their own accord, without prompting or other influence. Not to discount focus groups, surveys and asking your favorite clients for feedback - those are important tools as well, but not as powerful.
So, if you haven't clearly defined the strategies, target markets and outcomes for your site, and if you aren't looking at your metrics to evaluate the success of these, then you're shooting in the dark with your Web investment. The examples in this article show you just a few of the many ways that you can use this information - I hope that you're now motivated to find out more about your own site.
Philippa Gamse, 1998-2003. All rights reserved.
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