Throughout this series we’ve guided you from the conception of your Website to its completion-helping you avoid common mistakes and even offering tips on how to increase traffic. In this final installment, we’ll help you find out if your hard work is paying off-and make sure the Website earns its keep.
Measuring success on the Web is more complex than just hanging up a “hit counter” to tell you how many people have visited your site. The simplest Web traffic analysis tools can tell which pages of your site are most popular, letting you make informed decisions about the content and navigation of your site. “If I see 10,000 people come to my home page and only 5% are going into a section I’ve spent a lot of time and money developing, I’m going to dig in and find out why,” says Steve McGuire, manager of Internet and Relationship Marketing at Saturn Corp.
Even if you’re selling goods via the Net, don’t be fooled into believing profits are the only measure that determines your site’s success. Maintaining a site is an ongoing learning process and you can never have too much information about your customers and their interests. “If someone comes back every week to read our magazine but never buys anything, our marketing people might try to modify the content to lead them toward a purchase,” says Cliff Sharples, president and CEO of Garden.com, an Internet-based store that sells gardening products. Many very successful sites take years to turn a profit. For them success is not only about revenues but how well the site meets its other goals-such as building customer loyalty and finding out how to create the best possible user experience on the site. In some cases, Web measurement tools can also help quantify and qualify your offline marketing efforts.
There is a wide variety of Website traffic analysis tools available. The prices range from a free download to upwards of $10,000, depending on the level of analysis you require. Many of these programs offer trial downloads at their Websites. Web analysis can also be outsourced to companies like iPro (www.ipro.com) or NetGravity (www.netgravity.com) that specialize in that area. Before you make any decisions about buying or downloading any program, find out what kind of traffic analysis the company hosting your site can provide.
Start by deciding which features you absolutely need and those you can live without. For instance, AccessWatch 2.0 (http://accesswatch. com) is a $25 Web analysis tool that offers basic reporting, including most visited pages, browser type, operating system and the URL of the page that referred the visitor to your site. Armed with this information you can enhance the pages surfers are most interested in, refine unpopular pages to draw in more viewers and develop partnerships with the sites that most often send visitors your way. If your site solicits advertisers, this knowledge could enable you to charge a premium for placement on frequently accessed pages.
For more detailed reports on how each visitor is navigating