April 6, 2015 | Category: Phoenix TS IT Security Blog | Tags: , , , Views: 4372

CIMP Study Series: Web Analytics

For time’s sake, I will not address every single chapter and component of the Certifed Internet Marketing Practitioner (CIMP) course. However, I will draw attention to the most important aspects of the subject matter pertaining to core practices of online marketing.

In the introduction blog post of “Study and Blog: EC-Council’s CIMP Course“, I focused on the relevance of the CIMP certification, an overview of modern marketing and social media for businesses today.

This next blog post covers the importance of web analytics, why marketers need these data rich platforms, and which platforms are proven successful in determining what does and doesn’t work for a website.

Without Data, You’re Shooting Blanks

According the the CIMP textbook, web analytics “refers to the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing web pages.”

Prior to the development of analytics platforms and tools, marketing and advertising professionals faced limitations in reviewing the effectiveness of campaigns. Now with data tools, you can see what works and what doesn’t work. Successful content in blog posts, social media posts, emails, and on website pages, gives marketers examples to follow moving forward.

Before jumping into web analytics, you should ask these important questions regarding a website.

1. What is the main purpose of the website?

Without unified focus and goals for your website, it’s easy to misinterpret the data available in web analytics tools. Are you using the website for brand awareness, generating sales conversions, a customer service platform, or for Ecommerce?

Depending on the goals, the valuable data to track varies. Not only does relevant data depend on the website’s focus, but the level of analysis, tracking, and reporting determines the power of the tools.

For example, if you intend on using the website as a brand awareness platform for ranking on search engines, keeping customers updated, and to bring in leads, then the type of data you need varies compared to more robust websites. The type of website described would work well with a main blog focus that drives traffic to the site, educates readers, and ideally implements call-to-action items to bring in possible sales leads.

In this situation, seeing the number of page views each blog post or page generates, the bounce rates, the time spent on page, and the number of clicks and conversions with your call-to-action items proves extremely valuable.  This data enables a blog administator to see what topics or searches generated the most traffic and which call-to-action items produced the best results.

2. What is the most valuable data to track?

Data to track, analyze and use includes:

  • Page views
  • Bounce and exit rates
  • Time spent on page
  • Click through rates
  • Conversion rates for call-to-action items and forms
  • Sales conversions derived from website
  • Page views from desktops, mobile devices, and tablets
  • Events

All of these factors tell you about the most useful content website visitors may find valuable. This information can reveal what is and isn’t effective on the website, how visitors navigate from one page to another, and allow you to measure A/B testing for specific pages and action items.

Effective Web Analytics Tools and Platforms

Despite the effectiveness of tracking tools and platforms, you will face limitations. There is never enough info generated about the users, their history and habits on your website, and the customer thought process leading to a sale. Also, geographic location data can deceive. It is difficult seeing wholly accurate data from where website visitors come.

Data Collection Tools and Methods

Tracking URLs

If you do not have a built-in platform with tracking URL creation tools, then the Google URL Builder tool works well. When building a custom URL, you can tag it with source info, mediums used to distribute it, and label it with a campaign name to read later on your analytics platform. This tool enables marketers to organize and tag content shared on social media sites, emails, and also lets them see what text and image links on website pages received the most engagement. Tracking URLs prove essential.

Log Files

This method entails setting up a web server with activity logs to record info such as number of visitors, date/duration of visits, IP address locations of visitors. There are tools capable of analyzing and organizing the info in the activity logs. However, the information can prove inaccurate among other disadvantages and the maintenance cumbersome.

Packet Sniffing

Network and Security Administrators use software tools such as Wireshark, tcpdump, and Cain and Abel to monitor and manage network traffic. For data collection these types of tools could prove valuable, but the required skills and amount of work for utilizing them can detract from other marketing efforts.

Cookies

There are transient and persistent cookies. Transient cookies refer to when a visitor comes to your site, it stores a cookie on the visitor’s computer and deletes when they leave the site. Persistent cookies are when a person visits a website, it stores cookies in their browser until they clear their cookies manually.Also, there are first party cookies and third party cookies. Advertising networks use cookies on computers to track visitor behavior and interaction with ads. Info gathered from cookies are used to target users. Web analytics uses first party instead of third party cookies due to privacy concerns and specific laws.Advertising platforms such as Google AdWords will move away from the use of third patry cookies since consumers block and delete cookies altogether. The third party cookie system may fall out of widespread use due to the lack of consumer trust evident in light of privacy concerns over the last couple years. Privacy matters for end users and they do not want their browsing habits and additional info used for advertising purposes without their explicit consent.Page TaggingThis technique involves using JavaScript to record user activity and info from a website and sending it to a server dedicated for storing tracking info. Page tagging can provide accurate information and avoid tracking unwanted info such as images and files. Although the method is costly, you can’t track search engine spiders, and it requires web administrators with higher skill levels, specifically in IT and server administration.

Analytics Platforms

Google Analytics

The Google Analytics platform is one of the most widely used web analytics platforms available. The platform contains a wealth of information. The data tracked in the platform allows marketers to see the amount of traffic driven to the website from various sources and mediums. You have the ability to view how social, display and text ads, email, and other sources perform. All of the key metrics mentioned above are visible with Google Analytics.

Other Platforms and the Rise of Inbound Marketing

The textbook discusses numerous analytics tools and platforms with similar and contrasting capabilities, including:

  • Clicky
  • Site Meter
  • Datanautics
  • RedEye
  • Statcounter
  • ThinkMetrics
  • WebAbacus
  • Webtrends
  • Webtraffiq
  • Nedstat

I stressed the importance of defining your site’s focus and goals. The goals impact what platform works the best in your favor when measuring data. Today’s SEO and marketing professionals believe in content marketing through blogging. Blogging is a form of inbound marketing. Instead of utilizing email campaigns and PPC ads, which target people outside of your site, blogging attempts to attract users to your site. Successful blogging efforts help websites rank well on search engines and increase organic traffic to websites.

If you take this marketing approach, then analytics platforms such as Hubspot, are designed to facilitate blogging efforts and the revenue generated from visitors attracted to the blog content.

An analytics platform must integrate well with your website’s backend and align with your team’s goals to assist in creating successful marketing campaigns.

What web analytics tools and platforms do you find valuable?

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