Analyzing your web traffic

What’s Happening?

We believe a corporate web site can be the most effective marketing tool a company can use, but a surprising number of companies we talk to do not understand how their web site is performing. How many visitors is the web site attracting? How many pages do visitors view? Where did they come from (a search engine, a referring site like a blog or directory, etc.)? What country are they in? What are the keywords they are using in their searches that brought them to the site?

Why Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Without an understanding of how people find a website, it is impossible to know where to make improvements. For example, if a high percentage of visitors come from search engines, then a number of questions arise about the search terms being used, the quality or value of those visitors, and what else can be done to enhance the site’s search engine performance (through search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising).

Some pages on the web site will of course get more traffic than others, and knowing the popularity of different pages provides valuable insight into what visitors are trying to accomplish on the site. Ideally, a corporate web site needs to find the intersection where what a customer wants meets what the company sells.

How to Add Analytics

The key to understanding a web site’s effectiveness is summed up as ‘Analytics’. There are lots of solutions available, but a very popular one is Google Analytics, because it’s free and it measures and reports on a lot of valuable metrics.

Implementing Google Analytics is very straightforward. If you understand some basic HTML, you should be fine doing it yourself. If your company has an IT department, they should have an easy time of it, too. Basically, Google provides a small snippet of javascript code to be placed on each page of the web site. The code can be modified, but Google’s “traditional” code will basically look something like this:

Google code

You can get more details from Google, but before you start dropping the Google Analytics tracking code all over your web site, note this very important advice:
With their older traditional tracking code snippets, place the code at the bottom of the page, directly before the close body tag. DO NOT place the code near the top of the page, or in the middle somewhere.

If you are using Google’s newer asynchronous code, that code works best when it is placed just before the close head tag.

When the traditional code is placed at the bottom of the page, this allows the valuable content on your page to load first, and that has two big advantages:
1. Web pages will generally load faster if you keep the script at the bottom and let your text content load first. Bonus: Google likes pages that load faster, so it could help you out with their ranking algorithms.
2. Placing the code at the end avoids analytical tracking errors that may occur if someone clicks off that page before it has fully loaded, or the page experiences some sort of loading error.

The newer asynchronous code doesn’t share these problems, and should be placed near the top of the page, just before the close head tag.

To sum up, if your web site is not using any analytical tracking code now, make it happen. The information it will provide is sure to be very useful and can be used to make informed decisions to improve the site’s performance. Google Analytics is free, and it’s powerful enough to provide a wealth of vital information.

Secondly, remember to place the “traditional” analytical tracking code at the close of the page, just before the close body tag, or the asynchronous tag just before the close head tag. Happy analyzing!