Sizing Up Your Site's Performance, Data
Because nearly all site activity is measurable, frequent site analysis can help determine whether a site is meeting its business goals.
Questions that may have you scratching your head are easily answered through site analysis. How did visitors get to the site? Who referred them? Did they click on an e-mail link, respond to a banner ad or come from a search engine? What is their specific path through your offerings?
These variables are easy to track through reading your log files by using one of the popular software products, such as WebTrends, HitList and many others either on an application service provider model or on a subscription basis.
Other questions are harder to answer. Did visitors read about the company or your product and guess at the URL? Or have they visited frequently and bookmarked the site? Is a person already a customer from your store? How many times has this person visited the site?
In these cases, the tracking is a bit more complicated. There is still no way to track such referrals from offline sources other than using a unique URL or importing other data. Therefore, marketers will need to mine site and customer data and track the results over frequent periods to establish patterns of use.
To maximize the online performance, data should be coordinated from advertising campaigns to the site analysis and to transaction data (purchase, download, registration) in order to measure the marketing return of the efforts. You will be able to track precisely incoming referrals from banner campaigns, e-mail marketing, affiliate programs, etc. This will allow you to determine where your money is best spent and what media are ideal for future efforts.
Even more specifically, the log file and ad serving data can tell you which banner ad campaign resulted in the most sales. By merging this information with the customer, registered user or member base database, you also can measure the degree of repeat uses from that visitor. Site analysis auditing is also critical if the site is reporting on page views and demographics for ad sales.
Overall, marketers want to be able to understand visitor behavior as it relates to your product or service. This will allow you to make concrete changes that will result in increased page views, stickiness and conversion rates and ultimately revenue. Understanding the most valuable visitors and what they do to generate that value is the key to business survival.
To begin, data marketing programs should be designed to assess efforts and recommend changes in the creation of a company's database of user and registrant information. These programs will help gather the applicable demographics, record long-term data trends and interface or merge with out-of-house networks and databases. This technique uses all available client- and site-side information as well as any useful external information to improve or enhance marketing capabilities and efforts.
This can be most effective to evaluate new markets, the potential of new products, the targeting of specific customers or new prospects or to measure the results of marketing activities. It also is the perfect tool to improve customer service.
Soon companies will be able to make changes that can take further advantage of enhanced data and profiling in real time. That said, there are certain challenges in conducting this type of data digging. However, mining enough (and not too much) data to perform valuable analysis and metrics is a challenge.
One difficulty facing marketers in the collection of shared data is that sales and marketing are often separate departments in certain companies. If this is the case in your organization, then there may be challenges in getting access to data unless there is a high-level champion of the project.
The organizational readiness to integrate all of the data and the tools at your disposal is the key to success. Also, privacy concerns will continue to limit the amount of data that can be accrued across media and multiple Web sites.
Additionally, the full-view picture of site and campaign performance can only be achieved by the study of data from sources that originate outside the company. These firms, such as the ad agency, the e-mail vendor, the Web site, the third-party ad server, the rich media ad delivery, the shopping cart and the Web developer, all house different pieces of the data picture that need to come together.
To get the big picture, implementation of large-scale data projects may be necessary, but they can take months to get usable data from the sources. Today, though, you can likely measure critical performance in:
• Acquisition, conversion and retention.
• Product profitability.
• Budgeting by cost or momentum/rate.
• Market penetration.
• Customer retention and loyalty.
• Response; campaign success.
• Return on effort or return on investment.
If you can assess your risks, develop more streamlined promotions, identify opportunities and spot site-performance weaknesses, much of the analysis is already achieved and you are well on your way.
• Sandra Gassmann is president of Sage Marketing, New York.