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Web-AnalyticsSay the words “web analytics” to some entrepreneurs, and they cringe. “That’s for the tech guys,” they may say. “I don’t need to know that stuff.”

The truth is business owners need at least a basic understanding of Web analytics if they want to leverage their websites and gain the maximum value from them. Even if you outsource your business intelligence program management, it is vital to include a level of Web analytics in your planning and marketing strategy — or you could be wasting time and money on an ineffective website.

Better Customer Data

You think you know who your customers are. At least, you have an idea of who your ideal customer may be and who you are targeting. But are you actually reaching that customer? Are the people you think you’re serving the ones visiting your website? With Web analytics, you can use data to determine who is really visiting your site — and discover if your customers aren’t exactly who you think they are. While you probably won’t be able to determine specific demographic information about individual users (unless they provide it), your analytics provider should be able to pin down the location of your site visitors, how they arrive on your site and what they are doing when they arrive (90 percent of buyers only buy after reading the FAQ page, for example). With this data, you can better serve the customers you have while finding new ways to target those you want to have.

Knowing Where People Are Coming From

Perhaps some of the most useful information Web analytics can provide isn’t about your site but about where visitors were before your site — and where they go after. Sure, you might get 10,000 unique visitors on your page in one day, but without analytics, you won’t know where they came from, meaning you won’t know how to replicate that success, nor will you be able to measure the return on investment of your marketing efforts. It’s important to know how visitors come to your site, whether it’s via search, a link from a blog or review site, an advertisement or some other source. If you spend thousands of dollars on an ad only to have the majority of your customers visit via organic search, you may wish to revise your strategy.

By the same token, you want to know where visitors go after they visit your site, especially those who do not make a purchase or answer your call to action. Are they visiting a competitor’s site? If so, what can you do to keep them on your site instead? Again, capturing this data allows you to maximize your marketing investments.

Identifying Issues

No website is perfect. Sometimes, making even small tweaks to the layout, copy or navigational path can make a major difference in your bottom line. By analyzing what visitors are doing on your site and the pages they visit, the time on those pages and the path they take through the site, you can identify areas where you need improvement.

Some analytics programs even allow you to test different versions of site pages to analyze what does and does not work. Known as A/B testing, this process helps you pinpoint the aspects of your page hindering your success and make the right changes.

Competitive Edge

Web analytics can tell you how your site compares to your competitors’ sites — and show you areas where you need to step up your game. You may not be able to access specific information about your competitor’s Web statistics, but most programs will offer at least a rudimentary comparison, showing areas where you can improve. And keep this in mind: Your competitors are likely assessing your website, too. Don’t you want the same edge?

Improve Social Media

There is no escaping it: Social media is vital to almost every business that wants to engage with its customers. While having a high number of fans and followers is great, social-media-marketing success is more about engagement and getting people talking about you. By measuring the number of times your content is shared, the number — and quality — of comments it receives and the “applause” your posts receive (likes, for example), then you can see where your engagement efforts are working and where you, again, need to improve.

Gone are the days when a business could simply launch a website and forget about it. Today, it’s all about measurement, improvement and engagement — and Web analytics can help you rise above the competition.

About the Author: A self-described social media and Web analytics nerd, Haley Wheatley blogs about website optimization, data interpretation and social media engagement.


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