Web analytics: A necessity, not a luxury

Friday, October 9, 2009 | 2:33 PM


[This article was originally published at iMedia Connection in July 2009]

Web analytics has fast become a necessity rather than a luxury for online marketers. The ability to measure every click received, every bounce, and every goal met, brings better measurability and accountability for the marketer. Armed with this information, the marketer is able to tune their integrated marketing strategies for larger returns on investment (ROIs) and become the darling of the company.

Working with online media is always an eye-opener for marketers who traditionally operate with offline media. Tracking the effectiveness of offline media is faith-based. Data provided is based on a sample of the total audience, and who is to say that the reader even flipped to page 37 where your ad was? Working online, suddenly every impression, every click, every visit, and those visitors' behaviour, becomes measurable using web analytics. You no longer have to rely on demographics, sampling and guesswork.

Getting started with web analytics is easy using a tool like Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides a suite of advanced features for free. Once you have signed up for an account, you take the small snippet of tracking code provided, and ask your webmaster to place it on all pages on your website. Once done, everything else can be configured and customised using the web interface.

Google Analytics measures comprehensive data along three key areas: how visitors are arriving to your site, how they are behaving and engaging with your content, and how and when they leave your site. That data is then presented as a set of useful reports. Let's take a quick look at how these reports can help a marketer improve ROI.

One of the most useful set of reports in any web analytics tool are the bounce rate reports. A bounce is a single page visit that signifies the visitor did not proceed beyond the landing page. In other words: they didn't like your content! One of the reports in Google Analytics can show you which keywords have high bounce rates. These are keywords that you are spending valuable dollars on to drive clicks to your site, but then the visitor does not hang around. Valuable dollars now become wasted dollars. As a marketer, you can either reduce spend on those keywords, or tune the landing page to better match the keywords (i.e. if your keyword is "pencil" make sure your landing page is about pencils!) and also be more visually appealing. The end result: improved ROI.

Once you've got people to stay on your site, the next thing to assess is how well are they meeting your objectives. Every site, whether it be a digital storefront, a lead generation site, or a campaign microsite, has a set of objectives. These objectives can be defined as goals in Google Analytics. It keeps a track of when these goals are being met and what contributed to the success. Goal conversion metrics are available in almost every report and allows you to easily identify success and non-success factors for your site and content. You can easily identify which campaigns and keywords convert well (invest more budget here); which countries and cities have better converting visitors (consider geo-targeted campaigns); which referral sources drive more conversions (partner with these sites to drive even more high-value traffic); and much more.

You've now seen how Google Analytics can answer two of your most pressing questions: Is my online marketing driving valuable clicks? What are our site's success factors for reaching our goals? Google Analytics answers even more questions. We haven't even touched on exploring where your visitors are located, what brought them to your site, which search engine and keyword combinations work the best, and more. These are topics for future articles.

Web analytics is crucial today when every marketing dollar counts and must be measurable and accountable. As you are setting up and exploring your web analytics tool of choice, take a moment to step back and remember that data on its own is not valuable. It's what actions you take based on that data that makes the difference.