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Don't Leave Them Standing in Their Tracks
by Michel Fortin
While it is immensely important to create an abundance of web site traffic in order to be successful, tracking and analyzing your web site circulation is of equal importance. All astute marketers understand this concept and love tracking to a fault.
This goes beyond simply knowing how many hits your site gets or how many sales it generated. If you want to be successful -- continuously -- you need to know how well your site is doing. This is not some marketing secret. It's simply commonsensical.
More and more people are surfing the web, not in search of a product or information but in search of an experience. They seek a holistic approach from the sites they hit -- sites that inform them, communicate with them, serve them and interact with them.
Therefore, tracking helps the webmaster and aspiring Internet marketer to customize, personalize as well as energize their visitor's online experience. Imported statistical data, such as user preferences, popular pages, time spent, online activities, historical information, entry and exit pages and so on, all provide a wealth of good information.
Today, I finished reading a great book by Bruce Judson -- a prolific writer whose articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times among others. Entitled "Hyper Wars" (see http://www.growyourprofits.com/), Bruce gave some great examples of how tracking traffic behavior is important in a growing, hypercompetitive online world.
Bruce explains that, with Amazon.com, people are given a selection of titles based on a specific search conducted by a visitor. The selection is not at all some wish list put together by the folks at Amazon but an actual list of titles that others, who have sought the same title, have bought along with the book in question -- a totally user-driven approach.
While Amazon may have jumped on the cross selling opportunity bandwagon, this process can be certainly adapted to primary sales as well. Judson explains that eToys personalizes the consumer's search by offering a list of suggested toys according to children ages -- a list based on a compiled history of popular toys (i.e., pages) divided into categories.
Obviously, you may not have the intention nor the means of creating such an experience. You will certainly need connectivity with your sales transactions database in order to provide a similar process (and most of the software that helps you to do this is quite pricey, ranging anywhere from $300 to $15,000). But tracking at least some of the basics are crucial before you decide to venture in this area -- the rest depends on a little ingenuity and testing.
For starters, you should track at least search engine hits to your site. Some tracking software (like the one I use at http://SuccessDoctor.com, which is Statistics Server from MediaHouse at http://mediahouse.com/) also provide the keywords under which your site was found.
For example, I've discovered that most of my traffic comes from only three major engines -- Yahoo, AltaVista and Lycos. Since my site is content-rich (and therefore indexed according to many keywords), some of the most popular words were surprising.
You can also track the performance of different affiliates and sites with which you've reciprocated links. More important, you can test certain words in, and different positions of, links on your site. For instance, let's say your site's index page in a given week received 10,000 pageviews. Out of that number, 10% clicked a specific link. By changing certain words, your statistics can reveal if that percentage has changed in the following week.
If your host supports Perl, use a free CGI script such as Web Logs to track your entire site (http://awsd.com/scripts/weblog/). In fact, some servers already have tracking systems installed as part of their hosting packages. Other software programs include:
Counted! -- http://www.counted.com/
Extreme Tracking -- http://extreme-dm.com/
Web-Stat -- http://www.web-stat.com/
Counterstats -- http://counterstats.com/
SuperStats -- http://www.superstats.com/
Hitometer -- http://websitegarage.netscape.com/
WebPosition Gold -- http://www.submit-it-machine.com/
WebTrends -- http://www.webtrends.com/
(You might also want to read a comparative analysis of various tracking software, which is found at http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/features/webanalysis2/.)
Beyond web site statistics, there are also other tracking devices that can help you customize the user's experience (such as email, for example). Here's a short list of some such devices:
Since you are a busy marketer, you could hire someone to analyze your site traffic and/or use software to help you in the personalization process. GuestTrack offers content management and personalization web development products that can update your web site visitor's profile when they view certain pages. Both pages and content are molded to fit the user.
Radical Mail is first and foremost an opt-in mailing list broker. But this service offers opt-in direct mail with an extraordinary email client to point-of-sale tracking capability. Unlike other list brokers on the web, you can rent their opt-in lists (or use their service with your own lists) and you'll receive detailed statistics on what your entire list did with your message.
For example, you can find out exactly when the recipients actually opened your mail, if they made a purchase because of your advertisement, if your mail was forwarded to others (and what they did with it), if your audience invited others to join your opt-in mailing list, and so on.
Similar to Radical Mail although not as sophisticated, Certified Mail does what its name implies: It certifies your email in pretty much the same way one would certify postal mail. They track your message and notify you of the date and time that it was opened.
NetMind lets you mind (or track) any web page on the Internet. Once a page changes, it notifies the user by email. (I use it on http://SuccessDoctor.com/archive.htm, my article index page, so that users can be notified when my new articles are posted). And with their Minder for Partners, you can learn about the interests and preferences of your visitors -- it offers profiling capabilities to help you understand user behaviors and patterns.
Nevertheless, visitor interactivity is certainly becoming an important aspect of online success. While it doesn't have to be as sophisticated as some of the examples above, keep in mind that your web site should never be a mere silent billboard in cyberspace. Consequently, tracking your traffic can provide you with information that can be more useful than you think.
About the Author
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to helping businesses turn into powerful magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com to receive a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 90,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/.
Tags: E-commerce and Internet