One of the biggest stumbling blocks to the small business market when it comes to doing search engine marketing right is the problem with web site analytics. While most small business owners understand that they need to do some tracking of their search marketing campaigns so that they can fine tune them, most either have no idea where to start, or are intimidated by the complexity of most analytics programs.

This is where ClickTracks comes to the rescue. A three-time winner of the ClickZ award for best web analytics program, ClickTracks has worked to put high end analytics and campaign analysis into an easy to use package that actually has a reasonable price tag. Small business owners rarely have access to this level of information in a format that they can actually understand...and afford!

I had a chance to preview ClickTracks latest offering to the analytics world last Friday during a conference call with ClickTracks CEO John Marshall. As usual, ClickTracks impresses. The new features and updated functionality are quickly moving ClickTracks into a "must-have" tool realm for even the major players that shied away in the past in favor of more robust tools like WebTrends. The goal of ClickTracks has always been to present data in a format that the average site owner can understand. Rather than complex spreadsheets of stats and ambiguous bar charts, ClickTracks presents its information in a graphical interface that has literally changed the way that web analytics firms do business.

The updated version include everything from minor usability changes to the introduction of completely new functionality.

Major Changes:

Funnel Reporting - Probably the biggest change that's been made to ClickTracks from a tracking standpoint is the introduction of funnel reporting. Available only in the Pro version, this feature makes the upgrade well worth the price to anyone that is serious about tracking users through their site and making usability adjustments based on that data.

Many other analytics firms, including power player WebTrends have funnel analysis, but Marshall pointed out that the set-up is so complex that many companies by-pass the feature. Even for those that don't, the data simply doesn't put things into perspective that makes sense to site owners. Marshall went on to point out that other programs all treat "the funnel" as a user making linear progress through a site, but that the reality is, users don't move linearly.

The image on the left shows the traditional funnel part of the analysis. The colored bars indicate how many users have made it to a particular stage of the site. ClickTracks' segmentation feature can be used to track the funnel by specific user types, like those entering via PPC campaigns, or those who made a purchase.

The image on the right shows where ClickTracks starts to mix things up a bit from the standard funnel reporting. The thumbnails shown in the image are thumbnails of actual pages within the web site. Users can define which pages are included in a certain stage and add them to this section. Thumbnails of those pages will then show up along side each stage and will feature data about how many users viewed those pages and how many users that visited those pages managed to progress through the funnel. It's a compelling way to find out which of your products do the most to encourage sales.

Finally, the image on the left shows the actions of users that exit the funnel at any point in the process. This makes it easy for site owners to find out if a user has abandoned a shopping cart for another page of the site (perhaps the privacy policy, or special offer page) or for an entirely different site (a competitor?).

Site Archiver - Available only to Pro users, the new Site Archiver feature is what provides the functionality for the A/B and Time Splits mentioned below. Basically, Site Archiver can be setup to download the latest updates to your web site and store them for future analysis. The beauty of this feature is that the functionality goes beyond analytics and serves as an actual backup of your site. This is an especially handy feature for companies that do a lot of update to their site as it was almost impossible to get accurate visual reporting in the past with ClickTracks because the overlay feature ran off a of live version of your site.

A/B Splits - While it's not uncommon to find A/B split reports in other analytics packages, ClickTracks offers a new take on the feature by meshing it with the popular ClickTracks overlay technology. Basically, users are able to view both versions of their actual web page side by side along with the data of how users interacted with each. To break it down even further, imagine that you want to know if more visitors will click on a link that says "click here" or one that says "widget information." This is your chance to find out. Unfortunately for bargain hunters, this feature is available only on the Pro version of ClickTracks.

Time Splits - The only one of the major updates available on both the Pro and Optimizer versions of ClickTracks 6, this one still has the potential to make a huge difference in a company's marketing plans. Basically, users are able to view side by side comparisons of their site at different points in time. This doesn't sound all that original when you think about it, many analytics programs allow you to isolate data by time period.

What makes the ClickTracks version of this so interesting is that you can view this time period data in the overlay format. Made a major change to your front page design? View an actual screen shot of the current site along side the old version of the site and find out if visitors are clicking where you want them to more frequently. This tool has the potential to be a huge boom for usability types that need actual proof that their changes have made major differences.

Other Changes:

Browser-based Reporting - Marketing firms that use ClickTracks, or in-house marketers that need to generate reports for the bosses will appreciate the new browser-based reporting that has been integrated into ClickTracks 6. Rather than deal with the clunky .PDF's that users had to generate in the past to share reporting data, users can now give access to others via a web browser while controlling access to which reports they'd like to share. Reports can also be emailed on a pre-set schedule.

Page Level Keywords - Search engine marketers will love the new keywords by page feature. ClickTracks has always had fairly comprehensive keyword reporting and tracking that allowed marketers to find out which keywords were sending traffic and customers but ClickTracks 6 breaks this down on a page by page basis. The image to the left shows a sample listing of keywords that show up along side screenshots of each web page.

Thumbnails and Page Titles - One of my personal favorite features is such a minor change, but has such an impact on the usability of the software. Visual learners often have a hard time looking at URLs and really understanding which pages an analytics program is talking about. ClickTracks solves this problem in version 6 by using page titles instead of URLs and by providing an actual screen shot of the page in question whenever a user mouses over a page title.

Yes, that seems like a lot, but there are actually more new features than what I've covered. Other features like internal search analysis, improvements to the labeling system, instant reports and more make this one of the biggest updates that ClickTracks has ever put together.

ClickTracks latest offering will be available October 12th and includes updates to each of ClickTracks three product levels: ClickTracks Professional (under $3500), ClickTracks Optimizer (under $1200) and ClickTracks Analyzer (under $500). Hosted solutions start at less than $50 a month. An important point to note for companies that are considering an upgrade to a higher level of ClickTracks is the company's trade-in policy. ClickTracks gives full credit trade in for upgradees who are covered under maintenance agreements and 50% credit for companies not covered by maintenance agreements.

For more information on the ClickTracks 6 product line, visit the ClickTracks web site.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
October 11, 2005

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > ClickTracks Wows Site Owners with Version 6.0