A website without an analytics program is useless. Without analytics data you have no idea where your website is or, even where it’s going. A web analytics program tracks your success and, your failures allowing you to steer the ship towards your destination ports.
Making structured changes to your website is an on-going exercise, routine maintenance aside it’s one of those things where a rising tide doesn’t raise all ships, and in-fact can just as easily sink a ship if not done correctly. Analytics help guide you on your journey and insure that you can adequately track your progresses.
Thinking your current course is fine or even worse charting an entirely new course without a map or analytics tracking is ignorance. Were you to encounter trouble you may have already hit a rock before realizing the ship is going down. Dropping an anchor doesn’t always help and may beach or completely sink the ship.
Choosing an Analytics program?
Google Analytics in most cases meets the needs of small to medium enterprises but there are tons of off-the-shelf products ranging from a low-to-high entry cost should you wish to explore your options. Google Analytics is free, but in exchange you are trading off the anonymous data sharing of your companies aggregated traffic data with Google.
Set goals early on to maximize data sets.
At first, data will likely be insufficient to make any concrete determinations however after just a few months you will begin to see patterns begin to emerge.
Setting goals early helps gather valuable data from day one that can be used later on. Set up and run regular analytics reports and make sure everyone in your organization receives a copy once a month or as needed and meet quarterly at minimum to discuss progress and emerging data sets.
Track the number of newsletter subscribers, newsletter unsubscribers, how many visitors reach the desired conversion or landing page and anything you consider to be an action, conversion or subscriber.
Translating the data?
If after you have gathered a few months to a years worth of data you are still not seeing a better picture of your websites traffic and growth patterns work collaboratively with other staff members to understand the data or consider an outside source reviewing your progress and explain how to best use the information at your fingertips.
Basically certain benchmarks should overtime show an increase like average visitor time on site, average depth of visitor visits (how many pages) etc., others like visitor bounce rate should show a steady rate and hopefully and eventually a gradual decline.
Use other tools such as Google Webmaster Tools and Page Speed in conjunction with your Google Analytics data. It’s often more easily digestible and as you grow and learn you can then begin to take advantage of the over 1200+ custom report settings available in Google Analytics to really pull out all the stops.
What do you find to be the most useful aspect of analytics tools? As an affiliate publisher do you find existing analytics tools meet your most pressing requirements or needs improvement? How do you integrate analytics tracking with conversion data for the umpteen million different publisher ad platforms that are in the market?
+Nick J. West