Just the Stats, Ma'am - Just the Stats
Your IT staff is quite familiar with the logs of your organization's web site and the statistical information that they contain. You collect them every day and either read the raw data or run them through a site analysis program such as Web Trends. But tracking traffic is not the same as tracking customers, or, more importantly, tracking the results of your organization's marketing efforts. Your IT staff needs to understand the business needs of your organization in order to give the business side the necessary information to track the results of their business decisions.
A large amount of data can be mined from the logs and provided to your business managers. Such data can help the business side of your organization optimize advertising and promotion campaigns, improve site navigation, track visitor-to-purchase frequency, learn where visitors are coming from, and improve the value proposition on your site's home page.
Your organization may be spending money on advertising vehicles such as banner ads, keywords, search engine placement, newsletter advertising, email marketing (as well as offline advertising mediums such as magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV). Your log reports can track the different online ads; this information can be used to evaluate which advertising vehicles generate the site traffic that provides the best return on investment (ROI).
Visitors don't always enter your site through your home page. Other entry points include pages listed in search engine results, pages bookmarked during prior visits, and pages sent from other visitors as referrals to your site. The logs that point to these popular pages are telling you that the content on these pages has high value to your site visitors. This content can help your organization frame the value proposition on your home page. (Refer to Part 1 of this series, "Communicating a Clear and Concise Selling Position.")
The pages from which visitors exit your site are just as important as the pages where they enter. Exit stats can teach you two things: Visitors are telling you that they've found all they need to know, or that a particular pageand thus your siteis no longer worth visiting. The business side of your organization needs to know which are the exit pages, so they can analyze why visitors leave your site.
Your logs can track visitors around your site. Why is this important to business managers? Think of your web site as a physical store. The most popular products in a store are located in the back, to make visitors pass other items that they may not have thought of buying. This is merchandising. Understanding your visitors' traffic patterns can give you the opportunity to present merchandise to them in the context of the visit.
Traffic logs can also help you identify bottlenecks or confusion in your site navigation structure that may be frustrating visitors and driving them from your site.
Finally, let's talk ROI. One of the most import pieces of data that a site log can provide relates to your close ratiothe relationship between the number of site visitors and actual sales. Your site logs can tell your business managers how many times an average consumer visits your site before making a first purchase. How many times before making the second purchase? The third? Taking these ratios as a benchmark, your business managers can use the information generated by the log reports to make improvements to advertising campaigns, value proposition, and navigation structure to enrich the visitor-to-purchase ratio.
Obviously, traffic logs can provide a vast amount of marketing information to the business side of your organization. Instead of just handing off a printout of your web site tracking report, take the time to analyze and organize the information in a way that will provide your business colleagues with the five pieces of data described above.