Online Exclusive: Building Online Relationships and Evaluating Marketing Initiatives Via Web Traffic

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Many marketers think that building Web traffic is the object of an online campaign, but that's only the start. Do you know who's perusing your homepage, who's clicking to your sales pages and how to distinguish a "wrong turn" click-through versus a tire kicker versus a potential purchaser?


If you want to start a relationship, you need to know who you're interacting with before you can devise a plan to keep them coming back. Until marketing crystal balls hit the shelves, identifying Web site traffic is a multistage process that involves close coordination between your marketing team and IT department.


Collection. Identifying who visits your site is not an exact science. It takes careful planning, integrated marketing, help from your IT department and educated guesstimates. The most detailed results will be generated from online surveys and building a registration section into your site. A general user registration page, which requires all visitors to register, will cull targeted and detailed demographic data about each site visitor. To avoid hassling visitors by asking them to register or login each time they visit, build a cookie into the registration process so users will be "recognized" each time they visit.


Avoid turning visitors away (and Google spiders, too!) by setting this page to pop-up when a user clicks through from anywhere on the homepage, allowing visitors to see the basics but requiring them to pony-up a little demographic information before going deeper into the site. This also will let you distinguish a tire kicker from a true visitor. General visitor registration pages are not beneficial to every Web site, and if you're not careful about how you implement them you may actually turn visitors away.


Strategically placing registration sections on your site will avoid this problem but often reduces the volume of information collected. For example, putting a white paper, research or earnings report, or access to data sheets or design specs offer on your site and into your marketing material will drive qualified contacts to the site (boosting traffic while building your contact database).


Posting a registration page on the site before allowing any of these offers to be downloaded gives you the opportunity to collect some valuable data too. Since this portion of the site traffic is motivated by the "free information" offering, they are more apt to give up more demographic information (careful not to ask too much or they will go away).


Going one step further, creating specific landing pages driven by the call to action of various marketing collateral will give you the opportunity to introduce the registration page once more -- again to an already pre-qualified audience. Once the visitor has filled out the registration form, they are passed through to the rest of the site or onto a specific portion of it. Aside from endearing yourself with the IT department for asking more of their time to create these splash pages, you'll be able to better gauge how well various marketing efforts have been at driving traffic to your site.


Evaluation. Just as important as registration pages, paying attention to Internet provider addresses for your site's traffic will reveal a lot of valuable information about who's visiting the site, what pages are getting the most traffic, and whether they are intended or accidental clickers.


A visit to your IT department (with coffee and muffins to make up for the last visit) will give you an idea of what your systems capabilities are and how to leverage them to see useful information -- making life easier for you. Several off-the-shelf software tools are available to augment your systems capabilities as well.


Through the eyes of your IT department, you will be able to "read" IP logs and see that they appear in either one of two ways -- either as a company-specific ID or as an Internet service provider identifier. For all those logs showing a company ID, geographic location will be apparent which may be a useful demographic.


What to look for? Frequency of visits, length of time spent on the site and page click-throughs. A visit of more than a minute is a good indicator of a unique visitor and not a tire kicker. When compared to total traffic numbers, this filtered data will highlight meaningful traffic numbers, geographical information and even some specific companies the sales team might not have on their radar.


Another useful bit of information IP logs show is referral traffic, or how each visitor came to the site. For example, if a person clicked to your site through a link on a different site, that will show up. Alternatively, if a person is coming straight to your site (either via typing in the address, clicking from a browser bookmark or clicking through from an e-mail) that person's log will not show any referral address.


Why is this useful? Referral information will show how much traffic the site is actually getting from outside investments (i.e. online advertising, directory listings, etc.), what percentage of traffic is repeat traffic vs. first time visitors.


What does all this mean for your business? Collecting traffic demographics via controlled registration pages adds continually qualified contacts to your database without having to rent or buy lists. Controlling the registration questions ensures you will be able to slice and dice that list any way you want. Monitoring traffic patterns and details provides benchmark data to evaluate marketing and advertising campaigns, traffic trending data and webpage evaluation. After all, a Web site can be an integral part of any marketing and sales program if used effectively.


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