Is anyone visiting my web site?

As a teaching consultant of On-line Marketing courses, I frequently formulate similar questions to audiences that generally include sales directors and marketing executives from medium and large size companies. My listeners are always amazed when they realize that even though their companies are investing large sums of money to conduct market studies or purchase marketing results (e.g. Nielsen) to learn about their client’s preferences, they are not taking advantage of analyzing and interpreting the data from their own web traffic statistics.

The differences between the two primary sets of web traffic statistics –server activity analysis and real-time statistics via script controls and cookies- have already been covered in a former write-up (see “What is behind all those web traffic reports”, 9/2/03). This article will now focus on those pieces of information, contained in a web traffic report, that are of most interest from a Marketing perspective. After learning where to look and how to interpret the data, one will feel more encouraged to embark in the apparently arduous task of interpreting web traffic statistics. Our prize at the end will be a significant increase in web site performance, greater traffic, better search engine positioning and a deeper understanding of the expectations and interests of our web visitors. All this combined can translate into additional sales, more registered users and a larger amount of frequent users. Let’s explore what we need to consider first.

Web Traffic
Hits, visited pages, number of sessions… Rather than being overly concerned with the absolute values of these statistics that, incidentally, may vary dramatically based on the type of software being used to measure the web traffic, we should pay attention to the evolution of these values over time while maintaining the measuring software the same. One can click on a weekly or, better yet, monthly view report and the graph will quickly show whether our traffic is increasing or decreasing, and a simple mathematical computation (perhaps the tool automatically provides it) of dividing the number of visited pages by the total number of visitors will tell us how many pages a visitor views on average. Whether our traffic increases, decreases, or remains stable, it will be interesting and valuable to see when a particular trend changes and analyze if the change is caused by a previously planned action, such as the launch of an on-line publicity campaign, the agreement to exchange web links with other sites, or the start of search engine positioning services.