Opinion Piece by Jim Sterne, CEO Emetrics Summit

Why analyse web traffic?

The answer to is simple, organisations MUST optimize their Internet investment. There is no such thing as the perfect website , but there is a process of continuous improvement on which web analytics can shine a bright light.

Do you actually get anything of value?

Let's take a look at a typical web site that's not performing well. The first question is: "What are the goals for this site?"

Merely looking at their website statistics will show unique visitors, number of visits, pages and the rest. The information does nothing to reveal whether this site is meeting the goals of its creator. "What did we hope to achieve by building this website?" is rarely, if ever, questioned. So when organizations ask me, "What should we measure?" I respond, " It depends. What are your goals? "

In general , people are interested in how many people show up - in order to determine if their efforts to get more visitors are working or not. Then they look at which pages are the most viewed - in what are visitors most interested?

So what should you do?

All websites produce server logs , so analyzing those is the first step. Web hosting companies usually make log file analysis tools available for free or there are plenty that one can download for oneself. There are so many tools out
there to help. Everything from "Can I make my site easier to navigate with a different menu?" to. "Which items sell better when they are listed next to each other on the same page?"

There is a variety of ever more sophisticated tools and techniques for those who really want to dig into measuring the success of their websites. Almost all of the more sophisticated (and a lot of the low-end) tools are offered as a service as well as an installed software solution.

What do you do with the information?

Best practices are still being hammered out and only have the online discussions started sharing. Only now are we seeing the emergence of a Web Analytics Association (WAA ) to be a focal point for the collection and dissemination of best practices.

This is why the tools vendors have professional services organizations, why there are consultants, and why there is a Web Analytics Association.

There are many examples I could quote where an organisation has used such information to re-design its web site and they all boil down to this.

1. Measure the site traffic and visitor behaviour to get a baseline
2. Make a change to the site.
3. Measure the site traffic and visitor behaviour to see if the change has had a positive or negative impact on the site achieving its goals
4. Repeat.

About Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne is the founder and CEO of the Emetrics Summit which comes to London 8-10 June www.emetrics.org. Jim Sterne produced the world's first "Marketing on the Internet" seminar series in 1994. In 2000, he wrote a revolutionary white paper with Matt Cutler from SPSS on web analytics and produced the first U.S. conference on the subject in 2002. A consultant to Fortune 500 companies, Sterne focuses on measuring the value of a Web site as a medium for creating and strengthening customer relationships. Sterne has written five books on using the web for business, including "Web Metrics: Proven Methods for Measuring Web Site Success".

Published on: 12:00AM on 17th February 2005