From the October 2009 issue of Entrepreneur

In the world of website promotion, only three things matter: proper positioning, traffic volume and conversions. The number of people visiting your website--and how many of those people are ultimately doing what you want them to do, such as placing an order or contacting you for more information--is absolutely critical.
 

What the Pros Use

As you shop from the vast array of available web analytics software and services, consider the following options:

Omniture SiteCatalyst: Pricey but very powerful, well supported and great for enterprise-level businesses.

ClickTale: Hosted service offering affordable tiered plans, visually stunning interface, records and plays back individual user sessions.

Google Analytics: Free, easy to install, powerful and well documented.

Sentiment Metrics: Great online tool for monitoring social media dialogue.

To maximize your return on investment on launching and managing a website, blog, or online campaign, you need to know what's working and what's not, where visitors are coming from, what they view, how long they stay and why some wander off. You need to know which campaigns are driving the most traffic to your site and how effective your site is in converting that traffic into targeted behaviors.

Enter web analytics tools--applications that collect site traffic data and display it in graphical simplicity. With web analytics, you can monitor the success of web pages, pay-per-click advertising campaigns and other promotional efforts online and off. You gain valuable insight into visitors' behaviors on your site. Perhaps best of all, you can identify and correct any obstacles to conversion, such as a poorly designed page or registration form, inferior product descriptions, or excessive steps for signing up for an e-newsletter.

Assessing and improving conversions with the help of web analytics requires patience and persistence, but following these simple guidelines can simplify the process:

 

  • Set trackable site goals. Do you want visitors to register for e-mail updates, place an order, contact you for an estimate, or something else?
  • Use analytics to identify and monitor traffic sources and obstacles to conversion.
  • Evaluate your ROI for traffic sources, such as pay-per-click advertising, blogging, offline advertising and social media marketing. Make adjustments as needed.
  • Tweak your site to correct any obstacles to conversion.
  • Continue to track traffic and conversion rates and fine-tune your promotions and approach.

The good news for startups is that incorporating web analytics into site development and online marketing is affordable, in terms of both time and money. With a free service like Google Analytics, you can start monitoring traffic in less than 24 hours.

Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. When he's not working or ghosting blog entries for clients, Mikal can be found musing about the world on Belicove.com and can be reached at mikal@belicove.com.