Internet marketers are stuck on the traffic theory: Get more Web site visitors; generate more sales. This is generally true. However, there is a way to achieve a significantly higher number of sales without spending additional dollars to attract new visitors: Use Web analytics to turn current visitors into customers.
Web analytics solutions track the behavior of your site's visitors. What pages do they visit most? What are the popular paths through your Web site? On which pages do they leave? Site-surfing patterns show marketers what pages to modify to better serve the interests of their potential clients.
Timothy Holmes, founder of Holmes & Associates, in Saranac Lake, New York, uses WebTrends' Reporting Service to optimize the performance of several Web sites for his company. For example, on AdirondackCraft.com, his regional e-commerce site selling products from the Adirondack region of upstate New York, Holmes, 50, changed his shopping-cart process due to his reports. He added estimated shipping costs to the first page of the checkout process, giving customers critical information sooner. That modification helped contribute to a 400 percent increase in the number of sales in a four-month period.
Web analytics solutions can also usually track search engine positioning, e-mail campaigns, banner ads and other promotional programs. Some solutions provide sales data in addition to visitor data. This enables marketers to enhance ad campaigns and the corresponding Web site pages for maximum sales, not just traffic.
Don't assume Web analytics is exclusively for online marketing. It can help marketers with offline efforts as well. For example, Holmes studies which product pages generate the highest interest and sales, then includes those items in direct mailings to consumer magazines. He believes he has a stronger chance of getting a free product review for specialty merchandise that's also in high demand.
Thankfully, growing businesses don't have to pay a fortune to learn how to improve their sites. Versions of ClickTracks, HitBox, Urchin and WebTrends cost a few hundred dollars to buy the software, or less than $50 per month to lease the reporting service.
"For $35 per month, I can monitor five Web sites," says Holmes, who uses a WebTrends solution. "This is very affordable for small-business owners, who often market multiple Web sites."
You may even be able to get Web analytics reports for free. Ask the ISP that hosts your Web site if it offers this service as part of your hosting package. Because these reports hog server space, ISPs often run and store these reports only when asked. You might be one phone call away from receiving reports that will reveal what your prospects are doing-and not doing-on your Web site.