From the September 1999 issue of Startups

So you've got a Web site and you've got some traffic. What's the next step? Gathering statistics about your site and visitors, then tailoring your site to visitors' activities.

GlobalSCAPE, a software developer in San Antonio, relies on proprietary software to gather the Web site stats it uses to develop new products. GlobalSCAPE recently developed a new program to meet user demand for downloading MP3 audio files.

"Two pieces of data have been critical to our company's growth," says Sandra Poole-Christal, the company's 32-year-old CEO. "First, 40 percent of our traffic comes from MP3 download sites. Second, the most common word typed into search engines to get to our site is `MP3.' "

To use your site stats to their fullest potential, have a program installed on your server that tracks the whos, whats, whens and wheres of your traffic. You can monitor everything from the most frequently visited pages on your site to the top referral sites sending traffic your way. Try these tips for putting your Web site statistics to good use:

  • Find out the most popular pages in your site. Expand on that content and add a big link to it on your home page.
  • Find out which products or services generate the most interest by looking at which ones land the longest visits.
  • Analyze referral sites. William Gaultier, partner at Web marketing firm e-Storm International Consulting in San Francisco, says this can point out weaknesses in your Web marketing strategy. "If your site gets traffic from search engines only, diversify by participating in newsgroups or chat rooms [to promote your site]," he says.
  • Find out which sites send you the most users. Contact them and build a relationship.
  • Design for the lowest common denominator of your target audience. If 90 percent of your audience is Java-enabled, use Java.
  • Look at the words users enter in search engines to find your site. Pepper these words throughout your site and in your meta tags.

Shannon Kinnard (shannon@ideastation.com), president of Idea Station, an e-mail marketing agency in Atlanta, is the author of Marketing With E-Mail (Maximum Press, $24.95, 800-989-6733).

Cha-Ching!

You don't need a storehouse full of products to become an online retailer if you build a Web site full of other retailers' products and take a piece of their profits. A hot trend on the Internet, affiliate programs pay you a commission for referring business to them.

Signing up with affiliate programs that sell products similar to yours is a great way to supplement your current Web store's offerings or add revenue to a content-only Web site. After you're approved, the company usually generates code you can put on your site to send customers their way.

Probably the best-known affiliate program is Amazon.com's, which lets you build your own bookstore on your site. Users who click on the store are taken to Amazon.com to make the purchase.

Affiliate programs come in all shapes and sizes, with just about any product you can think of and a variety of commission structures. Want to sell online greeting cards? Visit http://www.americangreetings.com Into sports? Try http://www.fogdog.com Videos? Log on to http://www.reel.com Love cars? Go to http://www.autoweb.com

A slight twist on the commission idea, Nexchange (http://www.nexchange.com) lets you add a fully-stocked store to your site, sell all types of consumer products and receive a commission on sales. Nexchange describes its program as "commerce in content," meaning the store has your site's look and feel, and after visitors buy, they're automatically returned to your site at the same place they were when they stopped to make the purchase. (With most affiliate programs, it's up to the visitors to manually return to your site or not.)

Membership in these affiliate programs is free, and most will actually pay you for the business. In return, you'll get the benefits of online retailing without the administrative and technical hassles.

Smart Move

Count On It

Check out some of the latest site measurement tools:

  • Extreme Tracker (http://www.extreme-dm.com/tracking): Free. To see it in action, go to my Web site (http://www.ideastation.com), scroll down to the bottom of the page, click on the globe graphic and read the detailed statistics.
  • HitBOX Tracker (http://www.hitbox.com/tracker): Free. Provides real-time stats about visits to your site.
  • WebTrends (http://www.webtrends.com): Pricing varies. Ask your ISP or hosting company to install WebTrends for you on its servers. Most should have this or a comparable program for you.

Contact Sources

e-Storm International Consulting,http://www.e-storm.com

GlobalSCAPE, (800) 290-5054, http://www.globalscape.com