By Nardo Kuitert, U-C WEBS
[Published in The Wellington Advertiser, April 2010 for the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce]
The title of last month’s column was “Is Your Website Converting Into Sales?” as well. Based on that heading you may have assumed that the article was about website statistics or analytics. It was not, but maybe I should still talk about it now. Because in order to answer the question [whether your website is converting into sales] you need to be in-the-know. I mean, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” So do you know where you and your website are going?
Here are a few tips to educate yourself about the effectiveness of your website, by learning from your website’s visitors:
- Your webhost probably already provides you with website statistics. Check your hosting administration area; it is likely called something like cPanel, vDeck, Admin or Member Area. Look for programs like Analog, Webalizer or AWStats: they contain valuable information about your website traffic. And once you have found them, make sure to visit these programs periodically. The number of visits your website gets is usually not the most important metric, although too little visitors will do nobody any good. But rather look for things like referrers (where do people come from?), keywords (to analyze search engine traffic), most visited pages (look for average time spent per page, or navigation paths from those pages) and exit pages (try to determine WHY people are leaving).
- Don’t have statistics with your current host? Well, apart from changing webhosts you can also insert a tracking script into your web pages. This allows an outside program to track your visitors and report on it. The most well-known program in this category would be Google Analytics, which is free to use.
- You can also use commercial services that will provide you with specific functionality that the free options mentioned under 1 and 2 may not offer. Some of these paid services are easier to use than let’s say Google Analytics, or are more flexible than say AWStats. You have to make sure that you use a tool that works for you – or you will likely not use the tool at all. Paid services may also carry a longer history than your webhost, for instance. I know of many hosts that only offer a year or two of traffic analysis, and sometimes only on a monthly basis – not allowing you to compare information grouped per year. Again, sometimes the free tools are just not flexible or user-friendly enough.
- For the fanatics under you there is another tool: log file analysis, based on your raw log files. This allows you to analyze things on a deeper level, based on criteria that you set. The Log Analysis software will then process the raw log files and report its findings. This can be very helpful to analyse suspected clickfraud in your Google AdWords campaign, gain greater insight into clickpaths, or analyze the behaviour of different segments of traffic at a granular level.
Looking at these statistics on a regular basis will help you understand whether your website is converting into sales, and what strengths and weaknesses your website may have. It provides you with the insight necessary to further improve the profitability of your website!
Nardo Kuitert is an Internet Consultant with Fergus Website Development and Optimization firm U-C WEBS (www.u-cwebs.com). U-C WEBS also offers Internet advertising opportunities on www.ferguspages.com. (link opens in a new window)
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