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Step 12 - Visitor Analysis

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Introduction

Do you get intimated by these jargons: "visitor analytics,” "referrers,” and “conversions.” Although these words may seem to come out of a "techno bible,” the truth is, the concepts of measuring who is visiting your site are very similar to measuring the results of any direct marketing campaign. When you spend a great deal of time and effort selecting your keywords, optimizing your pages, and building links to your site, you don't want to be left in the dark about how your search engine optimization campaign is progressing. Running ranking reports can alert you to any new algorithm changes and can give you a good idea about your competitors' strengths; however, the ranking reports will not tell you anything about who is visiting your site.

While monitoring your search engine ranking is very important to stay up-to-date on any fluctuations in your site's ranking, it's only one half of the story. The other half of the story is what happens after someone clicks on your URLs in the search results. If you don't know the answer, you owe it to yourself to invest in a server log or tag based visitor statistics tool that can give you powerful insights into your online marketing campaigns' performance.

The advantages of visitor analysis tools

If you don't use some type of web visitors’ analytics tool, you are most likely to have no idea how many visitors come to your site and which search engines referred those visitors. Without these vital statistics, how can you effectively improve your website's ranking and profitability?

Today's modern web analytic tools can provide a wealth of valuable information that can not only report basic user, referrer, and site usage information, but it can also report specific actions users have taken on your site.

Moreover, visitor statistics tools can even tell you if a "conversion" has resulted from a specific search query used to send a visitor to your site from the search engines. You are probably already familiar with the word "conversion,” but in the context of visitor statistics, it may mean something completely different from what you think. A "conversion" is any action a user takes on a website. Actions can range from signing up for a newsletter, downloading, or completing a purchase on the site. Conversion improvements are one of the fundamental goals of visitor statistics tools.

We can break down the advantages of visitor statistics tools into these important categories:

  • Basic website statistics, including the number of unique and returning visitors to your site by hours, day, month or year. This is the minimum requirement for any serious visitor statistics systems. Accurate numbers on visitor traffic volumes is key to your optimization efforts and can set a baseline for targeting new keywords or launching other web promotion campaigns.

  • Gathers referrer data of every visitor, and further breaks down the reports by search engines and keywords used. This is probably the single most used report by search engine marketers. It's a wonderful feeling to see your optimization efforts paying off by seeing hard evidence, your site is being found on the search engines using your target keywords.

  • Demographic analysis provides answer to the question, "where are my visitors  coming from?" The website visitors can literally leave a trail of evidence behind them about their location and their PC's configuration. A good analytics package should be able to report not only the IP address of the visitors accessing your site, but the actual location, down to the city and state level.

  • Live reporting of visitors on your site. It's not an absolute requirement, but if you are investing in pay-per-click campaign and testing new keywords, it's essential to get an immediate picture of how well your PPC campaigns are doing. You can analyze in real time how different groups of visitors respond to your campaign landing pages, page layouts, offers and discounts.

  • Reports page views, bounce rates and visitor click paths. Increasing your website's "stickiness" is achieved through improved usability and publishing great content. The more pages your visitors "see,” the higher the page views score will be. The bounce rate is the measure of a single page load. This could be the home page or any other page on your site. A bounce is said to occur when a visitor exits you site from the same page he entered on. Higher bounce rate means, the site has some navigational flaws or doesn't have the right appeal to get visitors to click through to other pages.
    The click paths can pinpoint confusing page layouts and unappealing content pages. Determining which pages on your site help your bottom line and which ones hurt your profitability is very important. By studying the most common exit paths from your site, you can quickly discover which pages are driving people away from your site.

  • Conversion reporting helps to continually improve search engine marketing and increase your bottom line. Web statistics systems should be able to monitor both organic and PPC referrer results and separate them into drill down reports. A further segmentation of the organic and PPC results is necessary by search engine and keyword to get a complete picture of your search engine marketing ROI breakdown. Getting a glimpse into which campaigns are successful and which aren't, from email and online advertising to affiliate and partner programs, is also an important consideration. You can achieve substantial increase in web site conversion by finding out the conversion rates for each page, path, and conversion scenario.

Conclusion

There is a wealth of information buried in your web server logs about your visitors and their navigational patterns. Most importantly, you want to identify trends in your website's traffic which can be traced back to your search engine optimization campaigns. This is important because optimizing your site for the right keywords can make all the difference in your website's success. The higher your site ranks for well targeted keyword phrases the higher your website traffic will climb. Remember, traffic alone is nothing without persuading your visitors to take some favorable action on your site with well laid out design and clear compelling content.

For more information on visitor analysis tools, please visit this list of commercial log analysis products. The Google directory category covers most of the popular visitor statistics tools that are available for tracking your visitors. Google also offers its own visitor tracking solution for free called Google Analytics. It's a very well designed package and recent improvements had made it an almost unbeatable option for visitor analysis. The only drawback is the delay in reporting is over 24 hours, which makes real-time analysis impossible. If you need a live visitor statistics program without any reporting delay, you may want invest in a top-notch visitor statistics program such as web-stat.com. You can even use both tools side-by-side giving you the ultimate tool in website traffic analysis.

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