Web Analytics – What, Why and How

What is the basis for the business decisions that affect your web property?

Is it what they loosely define as gut feeling, a sort of entrepreneurial instinct which is a combination of available information, intuition, critical thinking and courage, or solid numerical data? A traditional approach, especially before the advent of information technology, was strongly intuitive, largely due to objective barriers to data collection. Modern measurement instruments, in practically any industry, are revolutionizing decision-making by providing a detailed statistical picture of ongoing processes and trends.

Web analytics does exactly that for website owners so that they can act on these valuable data sets to optimize their operations. Developers say that dedicated analytics software can objectively track, collect, measure, report and analyze Internet data that is critical for the success of their web property.

Why should anyone bother to put their hands on such a fine-grained picture of their online business?

First of all, it is becoming increasingly obvious that websites, just like other business models, need reliable metrics against which their performance can be understood and streamlined. No matter what type of Internet enterprise you represent – e-commerce, content, lead generation or self-service – there are things that you can do better and web analytics tools are there to help identify and improve them.

Second, Internet activity easily lends itself to data collection, so measurements are very precise, comprehensive and actionable. If you are a content provider and you want your users to stay on site as long as possible, analytics packages will track visit length or page views, assisting in what topics to cover or which authors to trust with more jobs. If you are a shopping destination and suffer from high rates of what they call basket abandonment, analytical information can help you redesign your site or modify the ordering process.

Last but not least, web analytics is gaining in acceptance among Internet businesses, which means that without statistical support from dedicated software you might be losing the race against a much more agile, information-driven and adaptive competition. Companies that continuously fail to establish goals, select the right methods and evaluate the final results on the basis of objective web analytics data are bound to lag behind others, especially that this process (goals – methods – results evaluation) repeats itself endlessly in today’s highly competitive business landscape.

How can online businesses succeed in this increasingly analytical market?

If your web property is still unplugged, it is high time you started using one of many available applications. The most popular choice is Google Analytics which is a completely free, hosted service (no need for installation or server space), but its competitors, like Piwik, Woopra, Mint or Clicky, are seen as high-quality, easy-to-use alternatives.

At a time when Google might produce uneasy feelings about privacy or data security in many companies, these dynamic and innovative applications are growing in popularity very fast. Whatever your choice, you are bound to be presented with a steady stream of great information, neatly arranged and with clear visual representation like pie charts or graphs, about what is going on on your websites. With so much at hand, improvements to your business are just around the corner.