How to do Stuff: Online Marketing

Web Analytics Tools: tracking website visitors for decision making

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Web Analytics Tools: tracking website visitors for decision making

How to KILL your website [or boost it’s effectiveness]

What’s the best way to have a dead website ?

… to not know what’s going on and do nothing about it … because if you’re not watching what’s happening on your website, you’re flying blind and losing contacts.

Google Analytics does a great job of displaying & segmenting aggregate data into information you can use for decision making. But things are moving super-fast on the internet and these days there are other seriously competitive analytics tools.

I have a favourite combination of apps, and a routine that I like to use to find out what’s happening on a website.

But first,

what sorts of things do ( and should ) you want to know about your website ?

Some examples …

  • The best place to display a message or a pop-up offer.
  • Which pages people have hung around reading for 30 seconds, but dropped off without taking the next step.
  • How many people are doing what you ask them to ( usually called a conversion – like leaving an email address or buying something ).
  • Where they’re clicking things – there’s a funny example of this at the bottom of this post.
  • Which pages have high bounce rates, so you can tweak them and reduce it, or send a different audience to it from Facebook, Google and elsewhere ( you can check the referral sources & Mediums to see which get the better results ).

I’ve played with a lot of Analytics programs since I’ve been in web development, but none ever matched up to Google Analytics. Then I tried out a couple more this year and boy has the competition advanced.

My preference is now PIWIK, though I’ve also been using Woopra. I’ll describe these ( and another useful service ) next, then show how I use them and my favourite heat-map tracker to get intel on website activity.

PIWIK

I prefer PIWIK because of the granular data you can get and I like seeing what individual visitors do.

I’m interested in the surfers who stay on the site for a while, because they’re the hot prospects, and I find the PIWIK visitor log makes it easier to get this data to base decisions on. It’s a lot about the workflow – the faster you can get the data and most you can get done in a space of time.

The visitor log displays each visitor session in a list and you immediately see the path they took through the website. And you can click on the top-right, visitor profile link and get details of all their visits.

This avoids jumping between pages as in Google Analytics.

Google has great reports showing aggregates of user interaction. But I find that scanning down PIWIK’s visitor log gives me a just as good an idea and there’s also the option of a graphical Users Flow chart, similar to Google’s ( though Google’s is still the better ).

Google Analytics has some great data displays – bounce rates, session durations as histograms etc. And their Real-Time is fun to watch as columns representing visitors moves across the page. But there are some serious reason’s I’m moving away to other tracking services.

  1. Google has been removing keyword data.
  2. Google name everything with esoteric terms that don’t communicate as quickly as the more familiar ones used by PIWIK.
  3. Another consideration I’ve developed is that I don’t like Google knowing everything about my site.

It started when I was doing a lot more SEO than I do now. SEOers fall into one of 2 groups – those that think giving Google all the info about  a website by using Webmaster tools and their Analytics is good, and those who think that’s a bad idea.

I didn’t like giving Google everything because then they can tell straight off that you’re trying to boost your exposure in search results which violates their terms. And more lately it’s coming out how extremely out ethical Google are ( which you can read about here) so who knows what they’re doing or will later on do with the data they collect about you !!!

I’ve noticed that many analytics apps & services are now including individual behavioural profiles and improved visitor segmentation. Here are 2 more good ones …

Woopra

Woopra’s a smooth-looking app that’s worth using. The visitor list and logging is really good, but you can’t see as much in the same amount of time as with PIWIK, as you need to click on each visitor in a left column to bring up the details. It takes longer to get the data you need, which may deter you if your time’s precious and more important.

Fastbase

I found this service a year back – http://fastbase.com – and they take logging to the next level.

Their home page reads Web leads for Google Analytics and that’s what it provides – it’s an extension for Google Analytics that provides incredibly detailed visitor data. After logging in with your Google Analytics details it connects and locates the company visitors are connected to, contact emails and phone numbers for lots of the people visiting your website.

An Investigation

  1. What’s happening on a client’s website ? This is how I go about investigating.
  2. I create 30 day trail of PIWIK in their name and install their tracking code on the website.
  3. I hook up heat-map tracking and visitor session recording for the website pages.
  4. After about 14 days of data’s been collected we have answers to the questions listed at the top of this post and can take the correct actions.

Heat Maps

Why did my opt-ins decrease on this page ?

Per this heat map of clicks, people were clicking on the heading rather than the button.

I’ve written more about heat maps in an earlier post here.

Related Information

How to Increase Leeds by Spying

What are people doing on your website ?

Tracking Clicks From Your Emails

How to know in 30 minutes or less, exactly what your customers like, without spending a cent ?

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