Metrics and Traffic Building: What’s Your Web Site Telling You to Do?
by David Marshall
By measuring the success of your online marketing features, you can make incremental adjustments to your Web site that address your readers’ needs, leading to higher traffic and more sales. Beef up content pages and then watch to see if your visitors stay longer on the pages you improved. Create more favorable-outcome exit pages to e-commerce sites and see what happens to sales of your books there. Reward sites that send you traffic with ads or promotions and assess the consequences.
To measure the performance of your site, use programs such as Google Analytics, Alexa, and Quantcast that help you understand your customers better by providing several kinds of data (see below, “Try These Three”).
You’ll want to know:
Who comes to your site?
Where do they come from?
How long do they linger?
Do they visit multiple pages or leave after the first page?
Where do they go when they leave—to a site you have recommended like Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com, or elsewhere?
Case in Point
Here’s a real-life example. At Berrett-Koehler, I look at key performance data from BKConnection.com regularly so I can make incremental improvements to our site. During one recent week, I noticed that 24 percent of the incoming traffic was coming from referrals like BK author Web sites that link to our home page or to the authors’ book pages. Another 20 percent was direct traffic, which means these visitors already knew us and entered bkconnection.com in their Web browsers. And 56 percent of our traffic was being sent by search engines such as Google, Yahoo, AOL, and MSN.
As you can imagine, the highest-quality traffic come from the first two categories, so we shared these figures with our authors and asked them please to link to their book pages on BKConnection.com to help our 24 percent referral figure rise to 30 percent by the end of this year. In turn, this will lead to higher conversion rates from total visitors to purchasers. (The BK author who sends us the most consistent traffic month after month is Nadine Thompson, co-author of the SVN series book Values Sell, from NadineThompson.com. Last month, she sent us 55 visitors.)
I also looked at the most popular pages of the week and noticed that our new PDF Download page placed fourth (out of 2,805 total pages), behind the home page, the New Releases page, and the About the Authors page, which means the top banner I’m using is really paying off.
And I noticed that Paul Polak’s Out of Poverty (which had just been profiled on NPR’s Fresh Air) had more hits than our time-honored bestseller Confessions of an Economic Hit Man that week, which is pretty impressive. That made me want to add more content to the Out of Poverty page to make it stand out compared to similar pages on Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com.
Try These Three
To measure what’s working on your site, you can choose among spectacular user-friendly programs with a wide range of features—and they don’t cost a dime, so you don’t need to limit yourself to one. Premium functions of some applications are available for a fee, but most of the necessary functions are included in the basic, free software.
When you’re checking services, be sure to look at Help and FAQ information, and take the time to determine your own yardsticks for success. You may decide to use a combination of tools to track overall performance. Some programs, such as Quantcast and Alexa, require little more than a URL to quantify your site’s performance. Others, such as Google Analytics, require registration and a Gmail email account, but they are worth it.
I recommend using Google Analytics to measure the performance of book- and consulting-oriented Web sites, and using Alexa and Quantcast to measure additional information about your visitors.
Google Analytics. Start with Google Analytics (google.com/analytics) to provide a foundation for analyzing traffic sources, popular content, and visitor behavior. For information on getting started, visit the Features page and the Registration page. For a complete list of items measured and what they mean, visit ithalas.com/bk/images/analyticsdef.pdf.
Google provides easy-to-read analytical software, including a visual digital dashboard, and you can even link click-through ad campaigns directly to your Google Analytics account so it can track how well your advertising initiatives performed.
Google Analytics Dashboard
INCLUDEPICTURE “http://www.ithalas.com/bk/bk_author_tip_080410_clip_image004.jpg” * MERGEFORMATINET
Also, you can choose an aspect to focus on, such as “average time on site,” and devise your plan to maximize the time your searchers spend on your site, on the theory that the more time they spend, the more they will become convinced of your messages. And if you discover that users spend more time on some pages than on others, you can provide more content for the ones they like best.
Google Analytics, Content by Title
INCLUDEPICTURE “http://www.ithalas.com/bk/bk_author_tip_080410_clip_image006.jpg” * MERGEFORMATINET
After you set up your Google Analytics account, you will be instructed to insert a small script, or chunk of programming code, on each of your Web site pages. You can do this yourself if you are technically inclined, or ask your Webmaster or Web specialist to do this for you. Within days, your digital dashboard will be providing you a wealth of information about the shopping behavior of your customers and potential customers.
Alexa. Go toHYPERLINK “http://www.alexa.com” t “_blank” Alexa (alexa.com) to see how many incoming links you have (for details on what Alexa measures and how it can help you attract and retain more customers, see theHYPERLINK “http://www.alexa.com/site/help/” t “_blank” Alexa FAQ).
Entering your Web site URL into the search engine on Alexa’s home page lets you see both your links and your rating. The rating for most low-volume sites is in the millions, so don’t worry if your numbers are way up there. By comparison, the rating for CNN.com is 50 with 66,000 incoming links, and NYTimes.com has a rating of 98 with 64,000 incoming links. The more links the better, especially if they are high-quality links from organizations or luminaries in your field.
One reason you want more links is that the search engines will rate your site more favorably, and it is more likely that your subject areas will show up higher in their search results, leading more people to visit.
Quantcast. To measure traffic another way, go toHYPERLINK “http://www.quantcast.com/” t “_blank” Quantcast (quantcast.com). You must join Quantcast and allow it to monitor information about your site to get the full benefits of its service, but it provides valuable information such as visitor demographics, including ethnicity, age range, household income, and education levels (for more information on how Quantcast can help you know your customers better, see theHYPERLINK “http://www.quantcast.com/faq.jsp” t “_blank” FAQ page).
Quantcast, Site Visitor Demographics
INCLUDEPICTURE “http://www.ithalas.com/bk/bk_author_tip_080410_clip_image008.jpg” * MERGEFORMATINET
In addition to its visitor analysis, which is similar to the analysis Google Analytics provides, Quantcast also sorts visitors into three categories—passers by, regulars, and addicts—based on frequency and depth of visit.
My Message in a Nutshell
Uncovering the secrets of your Web site will help you know your customers and potential customers better and will provide a foundation for building traffic. You’ll be glad you took the trouble.
David Marshall is senior manager for digital communities at Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit bkconnection.com.