For people entering the world of marketing, starting their own small business or taking the first steps in creating their own blog, the term Web Analytics is one you’ll constantly bump into, but is often poorly defined or misused.
Web Analytics is a generic term used to describe the technology and approach for tracking the behaviour of users visiting a website. The practice is principally focused on increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of a website by understanding:
- User Behavior
- Marketing Effectiveness
Unfortunately, the majority of people use web analytics software as a simple visitor counter. There are significant opportunities to make more use of web analytics data than people realise. Most modern web analytics technology will automatically capture a huge amount of data about every single person who visits your website. The key principals of web analytics focus on the ability to segment visitors into key groups based on user dimensions. A user dimension is a way of categorising a user, or their behaviors. The most commonly used in web analytics are:
- Where they’re physically located
- How they arrived at the website
- What page they arrived on
- What pages they viewed
- What actions they undertook
- What technology they used
By understanding the way any group of people interact with our website, we can make changes to our website to better accomodate their needs, and hopefully have a greater percentage of users undertake desirable actions.
The majority of websites use a small number of analytics tools:
Google Analytics is by far the most commonly used web analytics tool (~68%). The software is provided free by Google and automatically captures the majority of critical information about users. The tool is easier than most to setup and has a range of advanced power user features to support larger and more sophisticated deployments.
Open source web analytics software that can be self hosted or deployed on a cloud installation on your behalf. Self hosted versions are completely free while cloud versions start from $29/mo. Piwik is often a the choice for orginisations looking to utilise cost effective analytics technology while not sharing all their user data with Google.
Woopra is a neat cloud based analytics solution that integrates a range of customer support features. While providing all the standard dimensions, metrics and reporting that you’d expect from a web analytics platform, it also includes 3rd party integrations that allow for constructing of user segments in DMPs (Bluekai), email marketing (Mail Chimp) and CRM interfaces (SalesForce).
Regardless of the web analytics technology you choose to you, I strongly recommend you spend some time reading how to get the most our of the technology, if you only use it as a visit counter you’re going to be missing most of the value and likely preventing your users from having the most optimal online experience.