In his book Ultimate Guide to Pay-Per-Click Advertising, internet marketing expert Richard Stokes helps you master advanced search engine strategies from top search engine marketers to increase your sales. In this edited excerpt, the author explains just how important web analytics are to your online marketing campaigns.

Pretend for a moment that instead of promoting your business over the web, you were to take a more traditional approach, such as TV advertising. You might be prepared to spend upwards of a quarter-million dollars just for production, to be followed by potentially millions of dollars of national media buys.

With so much at stake, it seems unlikely that you would simply write a check and forget about it. Not by a long shot. You'd be watching the sales figures like a hawk to see if your campaign was bringing customers in. And if it didn't perform, you'd cut your losses quickly (and probably fire your marketing manager).

Most of our businesses will never grow to the scale where we can afford big-ticket TV buys. Fortunately, internet advertising now gives us a way to purchase smaller, more reasonably priced blocks of traffic.

The downside of this is that these less-expensive campaigns tend to fall off the radar of most managers and entrepreneurs. There's a false sense of security that comes from spending "only" $500 a month or so on search. We tell ourselves, "Maybe it will come in, maybe it won't," or "Let's just start it and see what happens."

This is nothing more than a shortcut to failure, and you don't want to fall into that trap. So please, take this firm, but friendly, piece of advice:

If you don't track your campaign ... you will lose. Period.

If you blow off the numbers behind your business, your marketing will be mediocre because it will be built on opinion and guesswork.

Guesses and opinions are the enemy of good marketing. If you let the numbers tell you the truth, you'll make your website better. You'll make your advertising better. And your sales will end up five, 10, even 100 times more than where you started.

Marketing Sherpa reports that 90 percent of search marketers use some form of analytics. While this figure is probably optimistic (the majority of advertisers I talk to have no website tracking in place or never look at their reports), the fact remains that your serious competitors (the top one percent) will certainly be relying on some form of website tracking to improve their returns. You need to do the same if you want to level the playing field.

You must have tracking installed on your website. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.

What Website Analytics Will Tell You

Website analytics is the study of online user behavior for the purpose of improving sales. By adding analytics capabilities to your website, you'll be able to measure:

  • Where visitors are coming from (for instance, search engines, type-in traffic, banner ads, etc.)
  • What pages they're visiting the most
  • How much and how often they convert (for example, buy your products, sign up for your email newsletters, request more information from you, etc.)
  • How long they stay on each page
  • How quickly they leave every page and your website in general
  • How much every page on your site is worth to you

With this information, you can make your site better. You'll have the insights you need to improve your site design, create a better user experience and streamline your conversion pages. Sales, leads, signups, donations--whatever it is you're trying to get your visitors to do on your website--is what we mean when we're discussing "conversions."

The end result? You'll get a higher return on every advertising dollar you spend.

These insights will all be contained in your website analytics reports, your new best friends.