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Web analytics

Once you have a site up and running, the next phase is continual evaluation and improvement. That usually starts with web analytics.

Web analytics is the term often used for the study of your site stats and patterns of traffic through your pages.

Capturing stats is the first step. There are 2 basic methods

  1. using software that crawls your server log files (such as AWStats) or
  2. using software that tags your pages, so each time one is loaded the details are recorded (such as Google Analytics).

Google Analytics is free and an incredibly powerful tool. It allows you to easily track visits, visitors, pathways through your site, geographic targetting, funnels towards goals, time on site, bounce rates – the list goes on.

Getting Started

As YouTube’s owner, Google has a fantastic suite of resources and ‘how-to’ videos. One of the best places to come to grips with using the software is the Google Analytics YouTube Channel.

Here’s a taste of what you’ll find:

Some of the topics worth mastering include:

Advanced Web Metrics

For more advanced strategies I can highly recommend Brian Clifton’s book Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics. It covers everything from how to align your site or business goals with measurable statistics, to best-practice account configuration and the details, if you want them, of how to customise the tracking code with hacks available. 

Tracking downloads, mailto & external links

Here’s one of the best hacks I’ve found:

A limitation of page tagging is that when documents are downloaded (so a HTML page with a tag is not loaded) these events are not recorded. Similarly where a user clicks on an email link or a link to an external site, these don’t trigger a page to load from your site that can interact with Google.

This can be overcome by ‘event tracking’ – tagging the links that lead to the downloads using javascript.

Manual tagging is a time consuming practice but thankfully this is the sort of thing Brian’s website – www.advanced-web-metrics.com – provides a downloadable solution for (changes to the tracking code that automatically tracks downloads and other ‘events’).

Once you’ve established your goals and started to track your site’s visits, you’ll be in a position to see what’s working for you and what’s not.

Analytics takes the guesswork away.

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About dalway

Damian Alway has over a decade of experience in print & online publishing. He’s managed several large websites across government, not-for-profit & commercial sectors, worked as a production editor in a print environment & as a freelance publishing services consultant.

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