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What is web analytics?

Vlad and Gus, forensic web analysts from the Web Detective Agency, have just arrived in the office and Gus is making them both a cup of coffee.

Gus: I left without saying goodbye last night, but you were in deep conversation on the phone.

Vlad: I know. I got an enquiry from the website, so I thought rather than wait around for them to reply to my email, I would give them a call.

Gus: How did you get on ?

Vlad: Well, it turned out to be an enquiry that we couldn’t help her with.

She was looking for a new search marketing agency to replace the ones they have currently got.

Gus: So why did she think we could help her?

Vlad: It happens a lot. Many people when we they read on the website, or when I tell them that we can help them increase their sales, they assume this means we’ll deliver more traffic to their site through SEO or PPC.

Gus: But don’t they understand what web analytics means ?

Vlad: Sometimes not.

Although it’s interesting sometimes, because once I start talking to these people who have confused us with a search agency, I get to ask them some awkward questions – like what’s your best converting keyword, or which page on your site has the highest bounce rate ?

It’s often at that point they understand that it’s what analytics is about – understanding what visitors are doing on your site.

Gus:I know you’re king of the clickstream, but don’t forget that there are other ways of understanding visitors.

For me, as well as their behaviour – the what – it is also about the understanding the visitor’s experience and to do this you have to watch them or to listen to them.

Vlad: But that not statistically significant data.

Gus: Sometimes that’s important, sometimes not. But when clickstream has identified ‘what’ the problem, what else is going to tellyou ‘why’ there’s a problem?

The best people to tell you more about the problem, and give you ideas of how to fix them, are visitors themselves.

Vlad: You have to remember that’s there a difference between what people say and what people do. Clickstream data gives you that truth, without the visitors having to vocalize their thoughts.

Gus: That’s true to a degree. But I think what we are trying to do is to identify variables that if we change, result in better website performance.

Vlad: What do you mean by performance?

Gus: It’s something you’re always talking about, that most websites don’t exist for fun and entertainment. They exist to perform a function; therefore performance is whether or not the website allows a visitor to fulfil the purpose that came to the website for.

Vlad: We agree on that. And what I would say is that once we have identified what needs fixing – however we do that – we can use techniques like splits test to confirm that what we changed has resulted in a measurable improvement.

Gus: Split what ?

Vlad: I’ve told you about these before. You set up one or more improved pages that are different from the existing page – and then you compare which page resulted in the most conversions, such as transactions, or email newsletter sign-ups.

Gus: OK. I see. And the benefit of that is…?

Vlad: It either proves or disproves your hypothesis as to whether you have improved on the problem page, or whether you need to go back to square one.

No more arguments, just hard numbers.

Gus: The bottom line is that web analytics is about improving the bottom line for a business.

Vlad: 90% of the time, that is exactly what it is about.

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