Different businesses, different goals – measuring your website success
Depending on the goal of your website, different measurements of success apply. Standard website server logs provide you with a lot of information. Some of it is pretty useless, and some of it is great if you know what to look for.
First, read our article about so you have the background knowledge.
Your hosting company will probably include stats with your hosting, and they probably use a 3rd party application. Find out the name of the 3rd party software and look on the web their site which will probably include explanations
You can also ask your website designer for a quick lesson on interpreting the stats. However, some techie HTML jokey may not know what is important to you and what is not.
If you use a marketing company or SEO/SEM firm, they should definitely be able to explain the metrics, but don’t expect them to regularly interpret the numbers for you for free unless it’s part of the service and reporting for which you you engaged them.
What server logs don’t give you…
Unless you’re utilizing sophisticated website analytics software, you will probably not see visitors paths through your site, e-commerce tracking and conversion metrics, pay-per-click analytics and other such goodies.
What server logs do give you…
Page views, visitor sessions (geographical areas, time spent on various pages. etc), unique and revisiting users, top entry and exit pages, where the visitor clicked on a link to get to your site (Google, Yahoo, etc) and more.
The amount of information can often be daunting and what does it all mean?? Don’t stress too much about understanding all the numbers. But, learn what is important and monitor that.
After working with many customers, we have developed some guidelines that can be split into four, main categories:
The goal of content sites is to increase readership. This could be sites selling membership to knowledge-areas, how-to’s, blogs, etc. For these sites, measure visit lengths; page views and time spent on each page. You want your visitors to stay a long time and visit many pages. If you have a subscriber funtion, you probably have a subscriber database; measure subscriptions and cancellations.
Measure white paper downloads, time spent on site, newsletter subscriptions, reject-rate on contact pages. Again, longs stays and many page views is a good thing! Then, measure your leads-to-close ratio.
Support and Self-Service Sites
For support sites, you want your visitors to spend less time on page views; you want them to find what they are looking for quickly thus increasing customer satisfaction and reducing “offline” support queries. Measure decreases in visit length and number of pages viewed, inbound call center metrics and customer satisfaction.
To do this properly, an e-commerce site needs statistics beyond your regular server logs. You want to measure sales conversions; new and returning visitors, sales per visitor, cost per visitor (search engine and pay-per-clicks, for example), lifetime value of visitors. Usually, your plain-Jane server logs do not provide this information and you need a more extensive tool; you need web analytics. Be prepared to pay for this; nothing is free. However, if you are serious about your e-commerce site, you need to get serious about your analytics so you can increase sales and decrease marketing expenses. You can read more about the growing market for these tools at www.digitalanalyticsassociation.org
If you need help understanding your server logs, or want advice on web analytics, we’re here to help you!