Maximizing ROI via Web Site Traffic Analysis
We are clearly well past the innocent "golden age" of the Internet - Darwinian
economics have become the order of the day today. Any company worth their salt must
maintain a web site as an information resource and/or to generate incremental ecommerce revenue.
Qualified traffic is the name of the game, as it's the oxygen that keeps a good
ecommerce web site thriving. Consequently, it's very important to have an
understanding of your web site traffic or visitor activity; i.e. baseline
information that includes the number of visitors during specific time periods,
originating location (domain), where the visitors went on a site and how long they
stayed on specific sections or pages of a web site.
The de facto industry standard traffic analysis tool application is Web Trends,
manufactured/supported by netiQ, Inc., which we will focus on in this article.
Fundamentals and Jargon Watch
All traffic analysis tools rely primarily upon information that is extracted from
log files; i.e. files that are maintained on your server which show where a visitor
came from, what keyword(s) they used to find your site (if applicable), what
Operating System and Browser versions they are using, etc.
There are literally hundreds of excellent log file analysis tools that can be located
via CNet's Download.com or TuCows - both sites are excellent resources for software and information.
It's critical in today's bottom line business environment to have the ability to
analyze web traffic (visitors) and patterns and then integrate this knowledge with
your overall business processes - what do you pay for traffic, is it converting
(people are buying your goods and services), how long are people staying on specific
sections or pages of your web site, what marketing expenditures are working and which aren't!
You know your entering the reality distortion field (we marketing types need to
justify our fees & services) and need to raise your jargon filters to stun level
when you here and/or see these keywords; i.e. clickstream traffic (fancy way of
saying traffic or visitors delivered via mouse clicks to your web site), ebusiness
solutions (meaning - selling your products/services via an ecommerce site) or my
all-time personal favorite, "ebusiness intelligence" (what's ebusiness and what
determines if it's "intelligent").
Traffic Counter Applications
First and foremost, do you really need a comprehensive product like Web Trends (more
on the different applications later) or can you get by with a click (traffic) counter
application like the Hit Box? The latter company provides a free plain vanilla
traffic counter which can be easily set up in minutes via your web site. Hit Box is a
great product and used by hundreds of thousands of web sites, so it may be sufficient
for your business, if you just want very basic info ("Page Views and Daily Unique
Visitors) and don't mind advertising for another company via your web site.
But, there are some downsides to utilizing Hit Box, you must install their "button"
on your Index (home) page and it only provides you with basic traffic information
(how much per day with a forecast based on these numbers). You can upgrade to their
HitBox Professional which is very similar to Web Trends basic application ("Web
Trends Log Analyzer") - but, you have to pay for this service on a traffic basis
which can get expensive, depending on your overall traffic.
Web Trends Applications and Interface
Web Trends (the company) was acquired by netiQ, Inc. the parent company about 18
months ago due to their strong market leadership position with web traffic analysis
software. Like many good web-focused software companies, netiQ enables you to
download all of their apps for a 30 day trial period.
Estimates range from 60-80 percent market share for one of their three primary products;
i.e. "Web Trends Log Analyzer," their baseline $500 USD application which is a good
solution for most web sites that have a single domain or under 25 in total;