Web Analytics is the process of learning about how users use a web site. This is very important from a business point of view, as seeing how a site is used can lead to improvements in flow of users and thus conversions (lead generation and sales).
Looking at reports from the analytics software is easy. What is difficult is gaining meaning and insight from those reports. Some people call it finding out the “Why” of the information.
There are various tools to use, from AW Stats, to Google Analytics (formerly Urchin), Web Trends, and Omiture. Almost all web analytics tools work off of one of two ways.
- Log Files – they read the log files your web site generates and determines which files were viewed. If a page is viewed in a cache however, the page view is missed. This form is also often good for looking for web errors, like 404.
Each type of Analytics program will require a different set up method. Log File Analyzers normally have to be installed on the server, or have the log files copied to another machine.
All of the systems provide numerous canned reports for you to review.
This is used to provide a quick overview of your site. The nice thing is, that these mini reports can often be swapped out. Or you can select the report, and get more detail about it. It is good for providing overview, trends, and seeing history, but not for seeing reasons for these to happen.
Normally you will see these reports on a dashboard:
- Number of (Unique) Visitors
- Page Views
- Average Time on Site
- Popular Pages (overall, entrance, and exit)
- Traffic Source
- Pay-Per-Click Campaigns
- Goal Tracking
Lets look at some of these a little more closely. Just to give you a basic feel for these reports.
How many people come to your site. Do they return, if so how often between visits?
These are people who leave quickly, generally after only visiting 1 page, or less than a given amount of time (10-30 seconds depending upon the system).
Where do your visitors come from:
- Search Engines (organic search)
- Search Engines (paid search)
- Other sites (which ones)
- Direct Links
When people use a search engines, what words do they use to find the site.
Some systems allow you to filter your data (so me this info, but only on people who visited via pay-per-click campaigns, etc.). This can be extremely powerful tool to know how a type of user performs on your site.
Some systems also allow you to customize the canned reports, to extrapolate your own data from them.
However, I’ve not seen any free systems that allow you to do either of these. These is what gets your usage from a B-/C+ to a higher grade, if you grade yourself on your analytics usage.