Web Analytics Special Report: Analytics, Registration Yield Better Deal

Web analytics is essential for any commercial Web site. But when combined with user registration and paid content, it can raise a publisher’s game to a whole new level.

Like most Web sites in 2002, TheDeal.com, a resource for corporate and financial deal makers published by The Deal LLC, had few firm facts about the size, nature and behavior of its audience. It neither asked site visitors directly for information, nor did it have an analytics package sufficient to gather actionable data from its traffic.

Yet TheDeal.com offered valuable original content free to users and relied on ad revenue alone. After the Internet bubble burst, demand for online advertising decreased, and the lack of hard facts about its users made selling online inventory more challenging.

TheDeal.com offers reporting and data combined with perspective presented through analysis, commentary and features for an influential, affluent business and financial audience. These corporate executives, deal advisers and institutional investors – whom TheDeal.com calls the deal community – are a desirable target for advertisers. But with neither the necessary technology nor information, TheDeal.com could not demonstrate their use of the site.

To better monetize its content and maximize online ad revenue, TheDeal.com shifted to a paid subscription model in 2002 and invested in 24/7 Real Media’s advanced Insight XE Web analytics platform. Readers defined themselves by their willingness to pay high subscriptions for specific content and provided geographic and industry information that TheDeal.com could not have acquired otherwise.

Meanwhile, Insight XE’s analytics identified audience segments that TheDeal.com never realized were there. Students, for example, were on the site in far larger numbers than had been suspected. Insight XE also gave detailed information on what subscribers were doing on the site, letting it attract advertisers that had not even been prospects.

These two data sources – Web analytics and registration – have let TheDeal.com not only attract advertisers willing to pay premium prices for its inventory, but also offer those advertisers a broad, flexible range of ad packages as well as options for targeting a well-defined, high-value audience based on virtually any criteria.

Insight XE’s traffic reports also gave TheDeal.com information to adjust editorial to increase high-demand content and reduce or scrap less popular material. When one reporter was transferred from writing a popular column to another beat, Insight XE showed that traffic to the column dropped 10 percent. TheDeal.com reinstated the reporter and gave the column greater prominence, increasing traffic not only to the column, but throughout the site.

A kind of self-perpetuating synergy resulted: Better-targeted content increased subscription income, while greater numbers of subscribers made the site’s inventory increasingly desirable to advertisers, and greater desirability has led to higher returns on TheDeal.com’s investment.

Another way Web analytics helped TheDeal.com was in ensuring compliance with subscription policies. TheDeal.com always suspected that subscribers shared their logins with multiple people in their organizations, which undermined the site’s revenue potential. By helping TheDeal.com realize which subscriber logins were being shared, it often let the site upsell additional subscriptions to those organizations or take steps to prevent further login sharing.

The key to attracting advertisers is not only to have an audience, but to have solid information about that audience and to be able to deliver segments of it reliably to the advertiser. For most publishers, a powerful Web analytics tool is the most important and often the only key to understanding the nature of the audience, and the key to maximizing ad revenue.

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