In the first of this two-part column on analytics, we looked at the advances made in the web analytics industry in recent years, measuring how visitors reach and interact with your site. This column outlines further tips for how to make the most of analytics.
Free marketing research
If your site has an internal search function, you practically have free marketing research on your visitors. You can arrive at some sophisticated insights by looking at the keywords people used to arrive at your site, married with the search refinements made while on the site.
Does your site actually stock or produce what most people are looking for? If so, then the data should be driving your search marketing strategy by bidding on these keywords in your pay per click (PPC) campaigns, or determining lost opportunities for your paid campaigns.
Equally as important, and often neglected, is that if you do not produce these products, then you should most certainly refrain from using them in any campaigns, because people will exit your site just as quickly as they found it. However, alternatively, looking at consumer's search patterns while on your site may give you some food for thought in terms of the products you could or should be selling. Analytics is essentially free market research of products on demand.
Drive editorial decision-making
Search should also be helping to drive editorial decision-making.
If you are using half of your homepage to advertise shoes, whereas most people are looking for shirts, then maybe you should consider a change. If you have a content management system that supports personalisation, then you could even vary the content based on a visitor's location. All this is based on information you obtain from internal search term reporting. And if you do not have an internal search function, you should install one.
Another cool feature is the geo-location report, which most reporting tools offer, showing which countries and cities visitors are coming from. This could be very effective in marketing products and services to international visitors coming to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Segment these with purchase data to help regionalise offline marketing campaigns.
The list of data aspects you can measure and analyse is endless. What's important is acting on such findings - something that research has shown to be the most difficult aspect of analytics for a company. This is the testing phase and it is crucial since most design decisions are often made based upon what the design team or a key executive believe to be right. However, it should be the consumer driving these decisions and this can only be achieved using testing.
What we often see are online retailers and designers making the critical error of building a site based on what they think works best, without using analytics data to determine what the user thinks is best. Analytics can assist you in crucial website optimisation - and how to turn your site into a user-friendly, easy-navigational space for your potential customers.
What we have often seen is that smaller organisations with less complicated development cycles tend to react better to such insight. However, often with larger sites, consumer trends and market developments will probably advance before a change makes it into the site development cycle. What needs to happen is for larger online organisations to make measurement, analysis and test part of the standard review processes, not just a peripheral activity. By doing so, they will become more of a data-driven organisation, acting on insight rather than speculation.
Formerly the Google head of analytics and commerce for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Stephen Newton has also been country manager for Google South Africa. Stephen is an accomplished business leader who has spent nearly a decade working in the online space, where he has been responsible for growing and leading top on-line companies. Before joining Google, Newton was VP of Double Click's Ad Exchange and GM of Hitwise UK. For more, email .
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