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« Bring Your Offline Marketing To The Online World | Main | Striving for Web Site Perfection, When Good is Good Enough »

Reading the User's Mind and Then Doing Nothing About It

Want to find out what users of your web site are thinking?
The simplest place to start is by looking at your web site log files with an analytics program. Right now, I know that a number of people reading this are saying to themselves "Thank You, Dr. Obvious!" Of course if you look at your web stats you'll get better information on what the users are thinking.  Each user movement through your web site tallies up in various trends for interpretation on web reports.  The process takes a good portion of the guess work out of the equation as it pertains to "what are the users thinking?

Doing Nothing With Good Information
I've seen more web reports than I care to recall.  These reports include everything from a short synopsis of user activity to 75 pages of data that a statistician would drool over.  For all the great analytics packages on the market, some solutions being absolutely free, most companies don't take the time to implement web strategy changes in accordance with their web stats.  At web stat review meetings  everyone is "amazed and really interested in all the findings." After a review meeting most findings fall to the way side or nothing gets changed.

Linking Your Statistics with Goals
I discussed the challenge of web stats falling to the wayside with my friend Matt from ITMonkey.  He shared some of the same concerns and suggested some very practical advice. Matt said it starts with "creating realistic and measurable goals that you can reference against your web stats." You need to go beyond the standard metrics such as visitors, page views, average time on site, etc. Some simple goal oriented suggestions include the following:

  • If your goal is to increase the usability of your web site, your web statistics are a great starting point for any usability testing.  The history of your site gives a historical retrospective on who, what, when, where, as it pertains to users. You can also test new strategies against old trends.
  • Web statistics are a great bridge into establishing or refining a Search Engine Optimization campaign.  Again use collected keyword data as a starting point.  Are your new keywords as effective as generating traffic?
  • Are links you've recently traded or purchased to your web site providing you with an appreciable return on investment?
  • If you have an advertising campaign you are running in the traditional media use your analytics software to track the effectiveness of your marketing.  There was one campaign that was run earlier this year that actually showed a better return on investment from Pay Per Click Advertising versus radio advertising.

Companies need to go beyond just reading web statistics for all the obvious reasons.  Look deeper and tie the statistical data to measurable goals over time. Companies are getting a pretty precise map of what their web users are thinking and doing, but what's the use of a map that you never reference?

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