Budget, especially for smaller organizations, is often a major factor when researching which Analytics package to implement on a given website. There are business owners who continually push off the purchase of analytics until their company is financially ready to make the leap and online commitment; or until over inflated marketing projections prove to be just that, and mistakes need to be quantified. Something that the majority of business doesn't seem to realize is the immense insight and knowledge they are missing out on by waiting.

It's the same old argument: spend a dollar today or two dollars tomorrow. Put that simply, the answer seems obvious; yet everyday, another person throws his hat into the e-commerce ring, purely on the speculation of Google-like fortunes, some great M&A buy-out, or that mythical IPO of triple digit shares, without considering the concept of "checks and balances".Having analytics on your site is something that doesn't take long to pay itself off. In fact, I'm pretty confident in saying that by delaying implementation, you're probably losing more money through your site in lost revenue opportunities than you're "saving" by putting it off. So smarten up, and start paying attention.

All site owners should be aware that there are options available to them, free ones! Google Analytics, StatCounter, and now ClickTracks all provide an analytics solution that users can employ without any outside cost and minimal internal IT resources, especially if the analytics are implemented right from the design stage of the site and built right into the site templates. After a reasonably simple setup, users can view real data and start using numbers to make educated marketing decisions instead of flying blindly into the wind.

In the rest of this article I will be talking about analytics solutions that are available for free, their features/limitations, and how you can begin collecting the right data.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics became available late last year and quickly became the hottest thing on the internet. Because of its immense popularity, users have to sign-up and wait in a queue until they receive an invitation to download. On average it takes anywhere from several weeks to months to get an invitation. Everybody wants to be popular, and Google's inability to meet demand is the biggest con for its analytics software.

I was granted access about a month ago and was very impressed by the depth of the reporting available. Some standard reports are Campaign/Conversion Tracking, Visitor/Geo Segmentation and executive dashboards. Google loves to integrate all their products, and as a result users have the ability to see metrics for their Adwords accounts inside their analytics suite. Other cool features include an administration area, which is built on top of a very intuitive user interface that allows for the management of users, websites, IP filters, and accounts. The report data is not up-to-the-minute and can sometimes take up to a couple of hours to update, which for most users, is accurate enough.

Google Analytics can be set-up and running within a couple of minutes. Google generates a block of JavaScript that you have to copy and paste onto all the pages of your website. Conversion tracking requires users to specify each step in their conversion process by entering in a corresponding URL. E-commerce tracking gets more advanced, but there is sufficient documentation to walk you through it.

StatCounter

StatCounter was one of the original online analytics packages, maybe that's why the home page has a PageRank of 10. Although it has fewer bells and whistles than Google Analytics, it still provides a simple interface with useful reports. The biggest drawback of StatCounter's free version is that it has a log size of 100; this means that detailed statistics such as path analysis and referrals (as well as other metrics) are limited to a small number of a user's latest pageloads. This means that if you website is already getting a large volume of visitors, StatCounter's free download may not be the right product for you, but if you are already getting those kind of numbers, you should be able to pony up for the full StatCounter package.

StatCounter's report suite includes the usual page views report, repeat and first-time visitor tracking, but really kicks it up a notch with its detailed analysis of Visitor's Path and Visitor Activity. The reports lack a visual punch, but for a user who is looking strictly for the data, it does the trick.

Similar to Google, StatCounter generates a block of JavaScript for users to paste onto the pages of their entire website. However, in the free version, there is no way to set up additional tracking for conversions, campaigns, or e-commerce. In other words, StatCounter's free version is an ample beginner analytics package, but as your online activity escalates and you start to make some real money, you are probably going to want to upgrade in order to keep your competitive advantage.

ClickTracks

ClickTracks' free version was recently released, but has definitely created some buzz in the industry. The analytics software is targeted towards helping users understand their visitors in order to increase ROI.

This Version, known as ClickTracks Appetizer, comes with a standard interface, but also includes behavioral segmentation, campaign tracking (including PPC), and conversion tracking in order to help users make the best decisions for their search marketing campaigns. A cool perk they've started is the announcement of "Web Analytics Day" where they turn on advanced features such as funnel reporting and advanced visitor segmentation. I think this is a great way to entice users to upgrade to advanced versions of ClickTracks, and its showing in their increasing market share.

So there you have it, three good options to help you make educated decisions for your website. So don't let your website sit untracked as time passes by, do yourself and your business a favor and sign-up for an Analytics package right away, even if you're blindly holding out for a more "robust" package and freer budgets in the future.

Analyzing something as simple as "Top Exit Pages" can help you pinpoint why users are dropping off your website. By tweaking these pages and keeping visitors on your site, you can help increase things like revenue and conversion rate (I think this is the primary goal for every businessperson). Keeping track of the right metrics through Analytics software will make all the difference in your future online success, because, as any marketer will tell you, understanding your customer is tantamount to making any money in business.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.


August 23, 2006





Manoj has been in the Digital marketing industry for over 10 years with experience at some of Canada's largest companies: WestJet and Shaw Communications. Manoj first started in the search marketing industry with Enquiro Search Solutions, where he spearheaded web analytics, SEO Training and the development of cutting edge search marketing solutions for clients. Manoj is also an entrepreneur in the Mobile and Local Deals space.

Manoj is a Professional Speaker having participated at events such as Web Analytics Congress (Amsterdam), Emetrics, Web Analytics Xchange, WebTrends Engage, Internet Marketing Conference, Social Media Innovation Summit and Search Engine Strategies. He has also contributed to several leading online publications such as: Search Engine Land, Marketing Pilgrim, WebProNews, Search Engine Guide and the Web Analytics Assocation.

He founded and successfully sold Web Analytics World (a top 100 Digital Marketing Blog – http://adage.com/power150) and was voted #39th Most Influential Digital Marketer in North America – 2009 (see: www.Invesp.net)








Search Engine Guide > Manoj Jasra > Analytics: You Can't Afford NOT to Track