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Frank Remarks: Golden Logs: Mining Marketing Data from Your Web Site

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You know more about your online visitors than you think you do. You just don't KNOW that you know it, as Frank Fiore explains.
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Psst! I'll let you in on a secret.

How would you like to optimize your advertising and promotion campaigns, improve your site navigation, know your visitor-to-purchase frequency, track where visitors are coming from, and improve the value proposition on your home page—all for pennies a day?


By mining the customer data found in your server logs. If you're not a member of the Information Technology (IT) cabal and, like myself, a card-carrying member of the business side of the Net, the phrase server logs may bring a blank look to your face. Not to worry. Today I'll take you marketing folks by the hand and prove to you that there's gold in them thar' logs!

Server Logs from A to B

So let's start at the top. What are server logs? Every web server keeps track of the number and type of hits your site receives and where they come from. Trust me. The information is all there, but it's buried in that black box of a web server you have. The logs can be printed out by your IT department for a look-see, but unless you're trained in the Art of IT, trying to interpret this raw data is an exercise in reading hieroglyphics.

To grasp this data and make sense of it, you need the a web log analysis program to act as your Rosetta Stone. One of the best and most competitively priced is Web Trends. The Web Trends company has been around a long time and was one of the first easy-to-use site log analysis programs for the web. Their standard edition costs as little as $999 and is packed with just about all you need to generate reports that can help immensely with your site marketing and design. These reports speak your language—not that of the IT department—and are easy to generate and understand.

Here are some of the most important pieces of information that site log analysis programs like Web Trends provide the e-marketer. A full sample report in Microsoft Word format can be found at the Web Trends site.

  • First of all, a log analysis report will give you a set of general reports about the traffic to your site—information such as the number of hits, page views (the number of pages viewed in a visit), number of visits, and unique visitors for any time period you choose. The general reports also provide the average number of hits per day, average page views per day, average page views per unique visitor, average visits per day, and average visit length. Visits can be tracked by IP addresses, domain names, and cookies.

  • Second, these reports can tell you where your visitors are coming from: geographical location, type of browser, pages they most commonly use to enter your site, and which visits were referred by which search engine or other URL.

  • Third, the reports can tell you not only on what page a visitor entered your site, but on what page he or she left your site.

All well and good, but what use can an e-marketer make of this data? Armed with this kind of information, an e-marketer can discover the following:

  • How well an advertising and promotion campaign is doing, and whether it's worth the ROI

  • Which web pages—that means information—seem to be of most interest to site visitors

  • How well—or not so well—visitors navigated your web site

  • Ratio of visitors to purchases at your site—that is, how well you're pitching your product or service and what your close ratio is

Let's take this market intelligence one item at a time.

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