by Kristin Tucker and David Kocs
Do you want to know who visits your website and how they get there? Do you want to know what they are doing once they get there? Web analytics tools (many of which are free) provide this data and more to help you target the right markets, engage potential customers and ultimately increase revenue for your business. Your website can be your best “salesperson” – one that works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Let’s take a look at a few web analytics tools and what they can do for you.
The most widely used web analytics software in the world, Google Analytics is a free tool that allows you to view detailed statistics about visitors to a website. Google Analytics tracks visitors from any source (e.g., search engines, other websites, paid advertising campaigns). It can be integrated with Google AdWords, which is used for online advertising, and provides customizable goal tracking. Data reporting can be useful to everyone from the casual, nontechnical user to professional search engine optimizers looking to manage every conceivable detail of a website’s search engine presence.
Google Analytics does not provide real-time data updates, which may be important to some users.
Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools is a free tool that provides detailed data about how the Google search engine sees your website. Google Webmaster Tools lets you know how Google crawls and indexes your site, what search terms are driving traffic to your website, and what the configuration details of your website are. This data would typically be available only through paid third-party software. You can even update configurations and parameters to influence how Google drives traffic to your website.
Although Google Webmaster Tools will display ranking data for any Google search, it doesn’t provide actual data for low-volume searches, which can leave you relying on other tools to track this data.
Yahoo Site Explorer
Yahoo Site Explorer is a free tool that provides detailed data about how the Yahoo search engine sees your website within its index and what links are pointing to your website. The link data is widely held to be the most accurate available in the search engine optimization industry. Links can be viewed from all pages on your website or from external websites. Yahoo Site Explorer also provides tools for submitting information to Yahoo to help increase your web traffic.
Yahoo Site Explorer doesn’t demarcate between the types of links that can influence your website’s ranking in the search engine index, which can be valuable information when analyzing your website.
If you are looking for real-time analytics and more detailed behavioral analytics (e.g., heat maps of site usage, videos of user browser sessions), you might consider looking into a paid service such as clicktale.com, omniture.com or www.coremetrics.com.
The software tends to have a steeper learning curve than the free web applications from Google and Yahoo and can cost anywhere from $99 per month to thousands of dollars per month, depending on the volume of traffic, size of the website and number of features.
There are a number of tools available to help you understand how effectively your website is working for you. With an investment of a little time, you can learn how people are using your site and where you can make improvements to better support your business.
Kristin Tucker & David Kocs (www.tdktech.com) are principals of TDK Technologies, a local IT consulting firm.