Many businesses are discovering the importance of an online presence. But many managers do not understand how Web analytics can make that effort a true value.
A common definition of Web analytics is “the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of Internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage.” However, its influence can extend beyond a website to include marketing research of customers and even the structure of a business model. Why? The operations of business-to-consumer and business-to-business firms are becoming more influenced by their website’s performance.
According to a 2010 Pew Research Project report, 44 percent of U.S. adults research small and medium-size businesses online. And Business.com reveals that 69 percent of B2B firms are monitoring competitors by seeking keywords and reviewing traffic through panel analytics sources.
A small business reviewing analytics data periodically can glean a number of tactics to strengthen itself. Here are five ways the measurement of the online experience can make a difference for business performance:
- Web analytics visualizes the traffic performance of a business’s online channels: An analytics solution can identify worthwhile visitor traffic sources through visits, time on site, and page views per visits, among other metrics. Displaying these metrics through visual charts and graphs can help business owners know how well they are deploying blogs, social media, ads, and site features such as white paper downloads and embedded video plays.
- Online channel management leads to improved budget management: Web analytics can help a business adjust resources and budget allocated to online campaigns. This is especially important for small businesses with limited time and resources. Setting a goal within an analytic tool and reviewing how the channel is having an impact on the site allows for faster decisions and actions.
- Web analytics can infer improvements for online offerings to customers: Measuring only “hits” instead of kinds of visits is not real analysis. A view of Web analytics data trends should go beyond that to reveal what content catches the eye of website visitors. It can give you ideas for what offerings are interesting, or provide a starting point to survey visitors. If the source data reveals an increasing number of visitors arriving via mobile devices, for example, the response could be to develop an app to aid branding. The Web analyst reviewing the data can help to determine how the segment trends relate to the site objectives.
- Web analytics provides a means to establish distinctive new services or new service delivery: Aggregate visitor statistics combined with review of how site content is consumed can yield an idea of how to enhance products and services. According to Google Analytics, public radio station WNYC shifted its fundraising to online after an analytics review; this freed up airtime, essentially its inventory, for more programming.
- Web analytics can quickly confirm the validity of a business model: Deploying Web analytics won’t solve every flawed business model but it can help a business learn quickly if its efforts need to be revised. This can deter marketers from extending poor by-the-gut-only decisions and create consensus within the marketing team based on the data.
Many small business owners still believe they should measure website traffic only occasionally, or that traffic is a separate task from its operations. But a thorough Web analytics application can avoid strategic assumptions and actions that can leave revenue on the table.
Pierre DeBois is the founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and midsize businesses that rely on Web analytics data.