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Analyzing the Analytics

How to make sense of your website's performance data

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This story appears in the October 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In the world of 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 dialogue.

To maximize your return on investment on launching and managing a website, , 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:

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