Web Analytics Best Practices – Perficient Enterprise Content Management Blog
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Web Analytics Best Practices

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As online conversions are becoming more and more prevalent it is important to maintain process and a plan for your online presence.  The way to calculate ROI and other conversion metrics is with analytics.

The Best Practices model used for analytics can be broken into seven steps which are listed below.

1. Identify Conversion Goals & KPIs

There are two types of indicators to monitor traffic and conversion.

Traffic monitoring is the practice of recording every person on every page regardless of source, relationship or authentication.  Typically a tag of source code is placed into a global footer of a website so that every page includes the tag.  Once the tagging is implemented you can review the traffic using a dashboard provided by the analytics tool which will report on information about the traffic like how long was the average customer on your site and where they went.

Conversion tracking is different than traffic tracking in that you will want to define a goal and track that independently of the traffic monitoring.  An example of this may be that you have a landing page used for an email campaign or perhaps a confirmation page after an ecommerce transaction.

Conversion tracking is very powerful because you can include values used in your application in the reporting dashboards.  Typically for an ecommerce site the itemized receipt values would be important to track so those values can be used to populate the dashboard and then your reporting will include sales data in the summaries.

Every site and organization has its own unique set of goals and these goals may change rapidly as data is collected and tuning is performed.

2. Define & Acquire Target Profiles

Do you know who your customer is?  Is it possible to define the average customer that visits your site, perhaps using attributes such as average age, sex, education level and experience on the internet?  Depending on your site you may have a singularly definable user profile, but probably not.  Generally, there are a few types of users that can be defined as profiles to whom you can exclusively market.  If you do not yet have profiles and are looking to begin, a general rule of thumb is to try and break down the user community into 3 groups of 40%, 40% and 20%.

Understanding the user profiles is extremely valuable information to have when considering changes to your site.

3. Organize and Optimize Site Structure

An organized website seems to make sense to everyone and every webmaster will tell you that they’re site is well organized; but then why this paragraph?

Analytics will not determine if you site is organized but it will tell you if your customers think it is organized.  Heat map reporting and traffic analytics can show you how customers by the 10’s, 100’s or 1,000,000’s are traversing your site.  Analytics review is an opportunity to review your customers’ behavior and learn what they find confusing in an effort to make your site better for your customer.

4. Develop a Compelling Message

Does your site clearly present a message that defines why it is important to your customer?  Is your content organized so that everything has a place and there is a place for everything?  It is important to ensure that your website pages all have a distinct message and reason to be published AND that those messages build a site-wide message that is clearly a benefit to your customers.  If the messages are unclear, inconsistent or unorganized then users can become frustrated and will try another site.  If a customer learns that another site speaks more clearly to them then the customer has made a decision to choose your competition.

5. Place Effective Calls to Action

Once people get to your site it makes sense to get them to where they want as efficiently as possible.  Instead of using text links hidden within paragraphs that say ‘click here’, showcase the navigation you want people to use.

Analytics will help you decide what is important by review of what people are using.  In addition to what there is also a where.  Analytics packages generally offer a form of A/B testing that allows sites to present different version of a webpage.  Perhaps you have decided on a great call to action but are considering multiple places to showcase it within the page.  A/B testing allows you to publish multiple versions of a page which will be presented in a round robin fashion to your customer.  Once combined with the data available from heat mapping, traffic analytics and conversions you will be able to race each page version to see what is more successful.

6. Enhance Shopping Cart / Lead Capture Process

After investing the time to get your content organized on your website and then putting the maintenance in place to make the incremental improvements that your analytics indicates it’s natural to take a big sigh of relief.  And it is well earned.  The good news is you are almost there and we have already introduced the tools needed to take the last steps.  The reason for this section is because more often than not people stop here.

Shopping cart abandonment refers to customers who actually put products into a cart and then leave without purchasing.  Form abandonment is also used to describe this phenomenon but both terms refer to the process when customers fail to finish a form based process whether it is a cart purchase, newsletter sign-up or an employment inquiry.

After organizing your content and incorporating testing and process to make incremental changes for improvement why would you not perform the same diligence on capturing customer data?  On paper it seems silly that a company would choose to skip this step, it can only be called ‘taking your eyes of the prize’.

It is unfortunate that at this stage companies stop but most of them do.  Why?  It is usually a complex answer that includes resources competition for other projects that have been waiting and the 80/20 rule.  Often websites are purchased systems that are customized and it is easier to leave the data collection components to run as they came out of the box; they work right?  It is true that they may work however so your site before did and so did analytics when you merely referred to a traffic count monthly and if you have come along this far you know better.

Setup conversion based analytics on all form verification pages so you can track as much data as you can about the form entry process.  A personal recommendation that works very well is to modify your forms to include a quick submit.  A quick submit is a data-store call that submits each field of data as the individual field is exited and the next one is entered.  Once you have SOME data to work with you can at least learn where the process failed and possibly even follow up with that customer with an apology that your form didn’t let them finish and perhaps save a conversion.

There are lots of reasons that people abandon carts, maybe the process is too difficult to finish or maybe the shipping information is hidden and the customer has to start the checkout process to get a real price estimate of a product.  Maybe the customer started filling out a contact form and decided halfway through that the required information was too intrusive.  At the end of the day, all that really matters is that it is your responsibly to convince that customer that it is worth submitting their data; and if they do not because you cannot work on your forms then the 80/20 rule is a failure.

7. Test, Measure, and Refine

One of the most important things to consider when you are reviewing analytics is that the data is your window into the behavior of your customers.  Analytics is a powerful tool but it can only be as good as an organization is willing to use it.  If you have a website that has confusing navigation or perhaps some objects that look like links which are not you will be able to determine that by reviewing your users activity – but knowing is only half of the battle.  The wonderful power of analytics is that it allows you to make decision driven by the data.

Don’t neglect your analytics. Analytics is not something that you install to review to merely wonder why traffic is increasing or decreasing, it is there to make sure you that you can make your traffic increase.

3 thoughts on “Web Analytics Best Practices

  1. Pingback: News: Web Data Mining

  2. John,

    Great blog. You bring up some excellent points that combine real business value with technology. Most blog’s tend to be technical in nature. Your blog is an excellent summary of the business metrics and key performance indicators that can track the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Your message helps business owners identify how and where to invest in technology, not just investing for technology sake. Many bloggers discuss optimization strategies, however, they fail to let the business owner understand how their investment can be monitized. Excellent points.

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