If you're like most marketers, you're practically swimming in data. But learning how to act on these critical measurements is the only way to improve your site.
In a recent article, I described the information anxiety we marketers experience when dealing with e-metrics or Web analytics. You know what I mean, that 4 inch stack of reports sitting on your desk that relate to the recent activity of your Web trends (no pun intended).
Web analytic software, such as WebTrends, takes raw data and turns it into structured information in the form of reports. Once we understand the interrelationships in the data, we gain knowledge that allows us to take action. A tremendous amount of "stuff" is generated by server logs and log analysis software. How do you screen out what is valuable and what is a waste of time?
To get the answer that question, I asked Jim Novo, former VP of marketing and programming at The Home Shopping Network and author of "Drilling Down: Turning Customer Data into Profits with a Spreadsheet," to help us at Future Now to develop a revised and improved version of our free Web site traffic conversion and content management suite of calculators.
This Excel spreadsheet calculator takes the raw data you input from the standard WebTrends report and turns it into actionable metrics you can track over time. What do I mean by "actionable"? All the metrics created by the calculator tell you specific things about the way your visitors are behaving, and you can literally take action based on the metrics and track the changes in visitor behavior your action caused.
What you want to do is create metrics and reports that clearly say, "Fix this and your visitors will view more pages" if you are a content site or "Fix this and you will sell more product" if you are a commerce site. In many cases, these two ideas work together. A good content strategy results in more sales, and a successful sales experience leads to visitors spending more time at the site. For simplicity, we split our calculator into two types of metrics: content and commerce.
What kinds of issues are addressed with content metrics? We look at optimizing navigation, improving layout and design, and enhancing content to drive the most profitable activity from your visitors. Additionally, there are content metrics associated with each level of the sales funnel. At each microaction level of the sales funnel, you can use log analysis to determine your conversion rate. Improving the conversion at one level increases the customers in the next level -- and all of these improved microconversions build to higher levels of productivity and profitability. If you run a commerce site, they also feed directly into improving your commerce metrics -- the bottom line.
Commerce metrics are about taking all this microactivity on the site and attaching sales figures to it. If you are selling products or services, it's a way of determining how efficient and effective you are at converting visitors into dollars, providing clues for specific improvement in your bottom line.
Why do you need commerce metrics? Because it's possible you could improve the number of pages viewed by each visitor using your content metrics, but this improvement would not result in increased sales (macroconversions). Commerce metrics allow you to make sure any work you are doing on the content side is turning into profits on the commerce side.
There are two critical issues about metrics and tracking that everyone should understand. If we are to have common measures and comparable e-metrics, standard terms are a must. If we are to communicate clearly about the fruits of our success and the lessons of our setbacks, recognizing standard measurements is imperative. Make sure that your business has standard internal definitions and stick with them. Our calculator can help you with this, because it presents clear and unambiguous metrics you can track over time. How you define a page view may be a topic of discussion in your company, but once you define a page view, stick with the definition. If you change the definition over time, you won't have apples-to-apples metrics, and you will have difficulty figuring out how you are doing.
This leads into the second issue: People obsess way too much about finding an absolute answer (exact numbers), wasting a lot of time and resources, when a relative answer (is it getting better or worse?) can be just as insightful, if not more. Trend charts are a great way to look at relative performance stats. The absolute number (we had 432 visitors last week) is not nearly as important as the relative number (visitors dropped by 10 percent last week). It doesn't really matter if a number is ultimately totally accurate. What matters is that you measure it as cleanly as you can and stick to measuring it the same way every time. You are not as interested in any number itself as you are in how the number changes over time.
I'll be spending more time discussing measuring success this year in this column, as well as at Search Engine Strategies 2002 in Boston. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Why not try to get your e-metrics in place this year so that you can take the actions that bring you the results you desire?
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Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.
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