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Tracking Your Online Marketing Program

Tips to help you find out how effective your marketing strategies are

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The success of your online marketing efforts depends on knowing who is visiting your Web site and why they've come. By tracking your Web site's traffic, you can begin to gauge the impact of your online marketing efforts to see the kinds of results you are producing.

The tips below can give you an overview of ways many small businesses track their online marketing programs:

Familiarize yourself with your Web logs

Since most online marketing programs will be focused on driving visitors to your Web site, you should begin your efforts by tracking your site traffic. Most ISPs and Web hosts provide access to site statistics as part of their hosting packages. If you host your site yourself, your site designer can use software to gather this data. While reports may differ, they generally include:

  • Page views, or the number of times a particular page on your site has been opened
  • The number of unique visitors accessing a particular page
  • The routes most visitors take through your site
  • The time of day visitors came to your site
  • The page a visitor was on before coming to your site (also called the referring page)
  • The IP address of the server being used by the visitor
  • The versions of the Web browser software and operating system used by the site visitor

Look for site traffic trends

While Web logs can't tell you the identity of each individual site visitor your site, they can provide you with some valuable information. Start by seeing which pages on your site are getting the most traffic. Are visitors leaving your home page to explore your product or services pages? If your answer is yes, it can indicate that you are getting high-potential customers and prospects to your site, while if the opposite is true, then you may be targeting the wrong online audience. The pages that people look at the most--and the least--can help you gain an understanding of the interests of your audience. Similarly, look at the times when traffic to your site is highest to determine whether people come to your site when they're at work or at home. Finally, compare Web logs over time--spikes can indicate the success of your marketing programs, while dips may mean you need to refocus your efforts or rework your site.

Go beyond clickthroughs

If you advertise online or send out an email newsletter, then you will need to track clickthroughs, or the number of people that click on your ad to get to a page on your site. Clickthroughs are a valid gauge of the effectiveness of your message, but they don't tell the whole story. You need to determine if people clicking through are actually purchasing or taking your intended action (such as completing a site registration form, entering a contest, calling for information, etc.). Use your Web logs to see if site visitors are making purchases--a low volume of highly qualified prospects may be more valuable than a high-volume of non-buyers.

Look at email actions

Many businesses now look to drive traffic to their sites via an email newsletter or product offering. Each individual email should be assessed for its overall effectiveness. Some things to consider include:

  • The percent of users opening the email--this can help you gauge the impact of your email's design
  • The number of readers who click through to a specific link or offer--this tracks how compelling your offers are
  • The percent of readers who opt out of receiving the email--A high opt-out rate (anything above .5 percent) may show that you're reaching the wrong audience

Test your offers

One of the chief benefits of online marketing is its ability to give you near-instant results to your offers. For example, the day you send out an email offer, you can gauge its success by seeing whether or not recipients are clicking through to your site. Compare that to other marketing methods like direct mail, where results can take weeks to compile. As a result, savvy online marketers create different offers for different segments of their audiences, and then track the results to see which is most successful. They then use the results to modify their efforts based on what works and what doesn't. Moreover, they continually hone their campaigns to ensure they get the most profitable traffic to their sites.

The views and opinions contained herein are not necessarily those of American Express and are intended as a reference and for informational purposes only. Please contact your attorney, accountant or other business professional for advice specific to your business.

Copyright © 2002 American Express Company. All Rights Reserved.

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