A Beginner’s Guide to Web Analytics

web analytics tools

Because of the importance of having an online presence, small businesses are developing websites. But it doesn’t end there. It’s just as important to track online traffic to your site as it is to track product sales. To help you, there are a lot of options for a web analytics tool that can both record and report information about your site, like page views and keyword effectiveness.

Tracking Trends

As a Microsoft Business article by Monte Enbysk notes, many businesses create websites with high hopes but without making sure what they put on the web is working. Elisabeth Osmeloski, a search engine marketing consultant, said that “people are not taking the time to look at web log files or traffic trends,” saying “it’s more common than you would ever realize.” It is recommended to use a web analytics tool to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing efforts, discover where traffic is coming from, and find any defects on your website.

Choosing Solutions

There’s no shortage of available analysis tools. They range from free, lightweight options to bulkier, proprietary offerings that you can pay over $10,000 for. Google Analytics is one of the most well-known free tools on the market, along with Urchin, its counterpart that requires a fee. This web analytics tool offers features including keyword analysis, social networking reports, and marketing success rates. It’s not perfect; data isn’t reported in real time, and Google’s updates have significantly changed the way it reports website traffic. Google also occasionally alters the way it tracks browsing sessions or reports image searches.

Other tools include Spring Metrics, Woopra, Clicky, and Mint. Each of these tools has its own particular focus, but all include the benefit of stats returned in real time, making trends easier to track and changes easier to identify. Spring Metrics, which costs $50/month, focuses on simplicity as fundamental in reporting. Woopra has multiple payment plans and offers the ability to chat live with site visitors. At $30/site, Mint is easily customizable with free add-ons. Clicky, which is free with one website, provides Spy View, a feature that lets companies tune in on what current visitors are doing.

Hyper-focused options like UserTesting and Crazy Egg are also available for companies looking for very specific data. UserTesting, which costs $39/participant, pays for testers to evaluate a website and records their interactions and thoughts about their experience. Crazy Egg starts at $9/month and uses what are known as “Heatmaps” to track where users click and move their mouse on a site. This helps businesses identify which parts of their website are most compelling and which need improvement.

One Is Good, More Must Be Better

SEOBook points out that it’s difficult to find a single web analytics tool that provides both granular, historical data and real-time tracking. To cover website metrics end-to-end, it’s ideal to use at least two analysis tools, especially two that don’t entirely overlap tracking metrics. However, companies can benefit from some duplication in their reporting; tracking visitors is a good example. Not only can two solutions provide an answer faster than one, but they can help you discover any anomalies on your site. Take a sudden spike in web traffic as an example. If you use a single method like Google Analytics and Google changes its algorithms, then the increased traffic may be nothing more than a temporary error. Secondary or tertiary solutions provide confirmation that the primary tool is reporting accurate data.

To effectively leverage the host of analysis options, companies need to identify what they want to monitor, how they want data reported, and how much they’re willing to spend. Once you choose a primary selection tool, consider at least one cost-effective backup solution to act as a second opinion in the event of anomalous web traffic or customer behavior data. Find tools that work for you so you can build a stronger site for your customer base and profit in the long run.

Lisa Poulsen

Related Web Analytics Resources

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