Your website may be the first encounter a prospective customer has with your business, and you want it to have the most impact possible. There are several key aspects of this online interaction that can be evaluated to determine if your site is delivering the message you want. Although some of these factors are subjective, many are measurable through the use of web analytics.

How Web Analytics Impact Marketing

Web analytics are one of the most powerful tools that business owners, website developers and marketers can use in the evaluation of their online presence. This term describes the use of a software package or service to measure who has been visiting your website, how they got there and what they looked at.

Savvy marketers realize that they can use the data generated from web analytics to continually assess not only the quality of the website but also to measure the results of various marketing initiatives. For example, when running a media campaign that is designed to drive prospects to your site, you should see a spike in the number of visitors to the URL mentioned in the ad. You can also take it one step further by using different URLs for the various media you’ve placed (dlacreative.com/TV, dlacreative.com/radio, dlacreative.com/DM, etc.). You would then be able to see what specific page the visitor lands on when coming to your site.

While on the subject of site visitors, it’s important to note that there are two types of visitors—new and returning. The value of each type of visitor is dependent on your business model. If your goal is to have visitors come to your site regularly to conduct business online, gather information or for other repeat activities, then you would want to dig deeper into the patterns of return visitors. On the other hand, if you’re in the process of ramping up your business and want to see a great number of new prospects viewing your site, the new visitor trends should be a more critical part of your evaluation.

The Popular Pages

Another key measurement of web analytics is page popularity. In many cases, the most popular page (after the home page) is the “contact” section where individuals can find basic information. But if you look beyond those obvious high-popularity pages, you can begin to evaluate what pages people are commonly viewing on a regular basis.

If you find that visitors are looking primarily at your various product lines, then perhaps you should consider increasing how much information you have online regarding the products. Maybe you want to add more of your in-store products to the website, increase the details about the current products or establish e-commerce on the site. Another interesting factor is how long people stay on each page—if they immediately click through to another page, then perhaps that page isn’t as engaging as it could be.

Hide and Seek

Web analytics can help you determine how people found your site, including whether they “googled” you or came to your site from another location. First, a quality web analytics sotware/ service will show you what keywords individuals used when searching for your organization. It can also show you which search engines they’re using (i.e. Google, MSN, Yahoo!, etc.).

Second, web analytics can help you determine your top referring sites. For example, if you’re listed on the www. peoriachamber.org site, you may notice click-throughs to your own website from this organization. Analytics can also help you see if paid ads—such as those on local media sites or national online ad campaigns—are generating hits on your website.

In the Eye of the Beholder

Unfortunately, in some cases, website evaluation becomes a matter of personal taste and preference—color schemes, photo choices, navigation styles, etc. And while you want your site to appeal to the majority of your target audience and primary site visitors, it’s important to avoid making website decisions based solely on individual opinions. Web analytics help take some of the “subjectiveness” out of website evaluations and provide powerful objective data for this critical marketing tool. Of course, it’s important to look at the data in terms of long-term trends and not react too quickly to isolated spikes or declines in statistics.

In this short article, I’ve only begun to cover the many ways web analytics can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your current site, plan for an updated site and measure your marketing efforts. When business owners combine their expertise with the skills of professional website marketers, it’s a recipe for great success! IBI