Website Analytics – What Tools are Right for Me?


I recently had a client discussion about the significance of measuring the success of Online Marketing campaigns, and the importance of defining criteria of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This discussion led to the big question – what analytical tool for my website is right for my business.

While there are many tools and free apps on the market any business could use, some great for mom & pop businesses, I’ll cover the use of the available tools to measure online business performance, and identified KPIs that would further help gauge the conversion goals defined for the site, and the web marketing efforts. If you’d like to learn more about what website analytics can do for your online business, visit our website analytic services page to get an overview of the areas where we can help you understand the business intelligence of how your website is performing, and where and how to improve the site to increase sales and conversion rates.

What is The Right Analytical Tool for Me?

web analyticsConversation rates and goal conversion. What is it and why is it needed? Goal conversion, which can be defined into separate conversion types, and measured via KPI’s, is simply a measure of a pooled data, and requires proper planning and delivery.
There are a number of analytical tools that are readily available and can be used for the purpose of website data collection and interpretation…interpretation in the basic sense. Some of these tools are free (hint hint mom & pops) and others smaller to more significant investments. Omniture Site Catalyst, Click Tracks, RedSheriif, Web Trends, Google Analytics etc. 

The appropropriate choice of which application to acquire should be based on the source of data that is used, business drivers that need measurement and the functionalities available.

Some clients may simply require to understand basic level of information of website visitors, traffic patterns, inbound source referrals, attrition pages, page views, etc. Others may require more indepth analytical capabilities to define conversion goals and funnels, integration with email marketing apps. and measuring of the after-click and attrition rates, customer / visitor profiling and more.

It is also just as important to understand the source of the data being applied to the analytical tool to validate its accuracy and reliability. Some common sources of analytical data include:

  • Data collected from a ‘representative panel’ of users (visitors / member base)
  • Anonymous data provided by Internet service providers. (ex. IP address)
  • Measured data collected (ex. tracking codes and cookies) 
  • A combination of audience (panel based estimates) and measured data (data collected from tracking codes and cookies).
  • Tool app. data (ex. tool bar applications Yahoo!, Google etc.).
  • Data provided by bookmarking websites.

The information or data obtained in alongside with other web analytic tools, provides the basis for information/metrics that can be used to analyze the your web marketing performance. Whether your campaign involves a PPC campaign, email campaign online advertising, etc. that uses cookies and/or referal / tracking codes, all this information is used anecdotally.

Many online marketers lean in the direction of Google Analytics as its one of the more popular tools available. Not necesarily due to its cost (ok – its free), but because the Google analytic tool is a credible app. that offers accurate measurement, reliability, and best of all, it’s user friendly.  

Google Analytics offers comprehensive reports, incorporates flexible parameters like customized tags, set up of conversion goals and funnels. Though while Google is a powerhouse in the market, there are other web analytical tools that are equally effective, and better in some cases….those these typically come with a price tag associated.

Measuring Web Metrics: Methodology

After helping clients identify the right web analytical tool for their business, the next steps a client typically need to understand is the right methodology to collect the data.

Most objectives we help clients define for their website is to narrow down and crunch the business metrics that are specific to their business drivers. These metrics may include conversion rates, attrition rates, browse to buy rates, customer acquisition costs, etc. This is done in order to optimize the marketing strategy in-market and the bottom line.

For example, a client implementation of Omniture Site Catalyst saw specific metrics set up to generate an online sales full to measure sign up conversion rates, purchase conversion rates and amounts, and attrition. These were all tied back to specific campaigns inmarket, including email marketing campaigns, online advertising (Doubleclick) and affiliates. By defining the sources of the inbound traffic and applying the appropriate measures to each, the sign up to purchase sales funnel could be broken down by source to understand the best performing web channel, and the best performing vendor/affiliate/advertiser/list of each channel.

Use of web log files with apps as SFA (Sales Force Automation) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management), if available, also can be integrated to provide a full circle of how customers are interacting on the website and performing via the specific marketing channel.

An integrated use of these applications (web analytics, CRM, click tracks, email tracking, etc.) provide concrete answer in terms of ROI of an individual campaign or channel or affiliate/vendor/list.

What to Measure?
While the essentials of goal conversion form the basis of this analysis, the parameters may vary depending on the nature of the online marketing campaigns efforts (ex. Organic vs. PPC).

Organic Search Marketing (SEO)
The first step of analysis is to check the strengths of the website that is being promoted. Certain website design aspects like Flash, Frames, Ajax etc. are not Search Engine friendly and require extended efforts to promote. However use of such design features cannot be neglected altogether because of their ability to enhance the visual appeal of the website. One should check the cached version of their website to ensure that these features (and the content contained within) has been registered by Search Engine crawlers.

Popular Flash websites (Disney, Reebok) perform effectively by the virtue of their brand value, and hence do not necessarily require SEO to capture audience. However, flash website for a business with comparatively lower brand recognition would definitely need to take measures to be able to attract visitors.

Following this, an analysis should be carried out to understand the efficiency of the targeted Keywords. The targeted keywords should be analyzed, against its potential to generate sales (and both using a micro and macro strategy approach). While it is established that keywords are selected on the basis of its searched volume, it is still important to evaluate on the obtained results. After collecting data for a few weeks, you would be in a position to judge the effectiveness of targeted keywords. Industry trends show that 40% of the keywords yield traffic and 60% of that traffic is unbranded. A metrics like this would assist in identifying the most potent keywords and support the effectiveness of the campaign.

Example: A similar analysis of a clients website showed that only 10% of visitors coming to the website after searching for “XXXX company” contacted them, while the conversion ratio is 3 times higher for “widgets for tools company”.

Paid Search Advertising (PPC)
Successfully managing a Paid campaign is more than just finding the right keywords, designing an effective ad and hoping for the best. It requires paying attention to regular bid management practices, be it banner advertisement,  Adwords, Adsense, etc.

It is important to calculate the potentials of  ‘business verticals, keywords, geographic locations, demographies, etc’, for a paid campaign analysis. However, the most effective evaluation involves using manual intervention with a blend of automated data to provide choice of actions.

Example: Using 15 low priced keywords having a combined ROI of 20%, instead of 10 high priced keywords having a combined ROI of 6%. It is essential to note that though the cost of campaign may be the same in both cases, the ROI vary significantly.

Affiliates like Google review the CTR (click through rate) history of a Paid campaign to decide the final cost per click (high CTR equates to greater quality score and therefore lower bid cost). Using analytics to determine this would help you weed out under performing ads and enhance performance.

Example: It is an established fact that developing a richly-detailed Adwords campaign that satisfies the specific need of the visitor, generates more traffic.

A unique analytic feature of Google provides “the industry benchmarking” metrics. This enables an online marketer to compare their website stats to that of the industry average. It facilitates the comparison of site’s visits, pageviews, pages per visit, Bounce Rate, Average time per visit and new visits data against benchmark data from similar categories of other participating websites. It flags and address all the actionable analytics. This assists in identification of areas that require improvement and thus achieve a higher level of performance.

Intepreting Results – How?
The essentials of measuring a website performance is to compare the behavior pattern of visitors and profitability derived from each channel (ex. Links, Search Engines, Emails, etc.) and gain valuable insight into the conversion process of a website. Analysis of the results involve measuring the findings of the analytics, and comparing these to the Industry average or to the established benchmarks. And outside of the Industry averages, executing on continous A/B tests for emails, landing pages, etc. is crucial to understanding and interpreting the data to optimize a campaign to its fullest.

Comparing your web analytics against Industry benchmarks, or A/B esting of your own, should answer….

  • Did the website reach for brand value and ad awareness increase over a specified period of time?
  • Did the campaign message increase customer acquisition, retention or attrition?
  • What was the conversion rate of the defined KPI’s, and how did it benchmarch against previous data or industry data? 
  • What was the impact of the marketing efforts on the retention-percentage of repeat business.

These results would demonstrate the factors that influenced the lift in traditional brand value, achieved by your online marketing efforts.

An effective analysis of site’s presentation could be obtained by developing a “Web page prototype” and observing what people do once they arrive on that page. While these metrics are also provided by analytical tools, it is essential to frame an appropriate website usability questionnaire and then try and identify the answers to them.

  • Is the prototype easy to navigate?
  • Do visitors perform the desired action?
  • Do visitors understand what page they’re viewing?

Mentioned below are five Website analytic tools that can be used to assess, through a qualitative approach, of how well the site is doing and how its marketing initiatives perform. 

  • Click density analysis: Segmenting different type of users across the site.
  • Visitor’s primary purpose: Measuring why people come to the Web site.
  • Task completion rate: Migrating away from clickstream data toward successful task completion.
  • Segmented visitor trend: Segmenting customers and their behavior for a richer understanding of their interaction with your Web site.
  • Multichannel impact analysis: Measuring the impact of other marketing activities such as newsletters, articles etc.

While it is not hard to reap the benefits of using web analytics, however interpreting these results incorrectly may be counterproductive. The right approach and analysis of the appropriate KPIs is helpful to correct any assumptions.

I hope this general guideline of web marketing analytics helps you analyze and understand your online marketing campaigns better, and correct any pitfalls. Remember, choosing the right tool to measure the your business drivers, defining how you’ll measure these via KPI’s and an integrated approach to analytics through your marketing channels (search – organic, PPC, email marketing, affiliates, online advertising, etc.) will give you a well rounded understanding of how your website performs and how customers interact with your brand and offerings.

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