Introduction:Web Analytics is the science and the art of improving websites to increase their profitability by improving the customer’s website experience. It is a science because it uses statistics, data mining techniques, and a methodological process. It is an art because, like a brilliant painter, the analyst or marketer has to draw from a diverse pallet of colors (data sources) to find the perfect mix that will yield actionable insights. It is also an art because improving websites requires a deep level of creativity, balancing user-centric design, promotions, content, images, and more.
Besides, the analyst is always walking the fine line among website designers, IT personnel, marketers, senior management and customers. By now, website managers are aware that visitor acquisition is a multi-faceted endeavor, which makes use of the following techniques: email, mail, affiliate marketing and of course search. With each option they have become better at finding the right visitor to bring to their websites. For example, every website now has a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy that will help them rank highly on search engine organic results.
Likewise, they are also aware that Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns can be effective at driving relevant visitors. The web analyst’s responsibility is to help identify insights that will evolve website visitor behavior from top-left to bottom-right. The first scenario (top-left) represents a website that receives a high number of visitors but is unsuccessful in persuading them to convert (any action that the website owner considers his/her objective). In the best scenario (bottom-right) a small percentage of visitors leave the website without converting. Therefore, Web Analytics can be defined as the act of increasing a website’s persuasion and relevancy to achieve higher conversion rates. Measuring Web site successBasic Web metrics are generally accepted as the start of the Web analytics concept. Although there are no industry standard definitions for these measures, Cutler and Sterne (2000) present a clear explanation of the basic measures, detailed in Table II. Over time, businesses have begun to find the use of basic metrics such as hits and pages views to be woefully inadequate for assessing the success of Web sites, due to the fact that their simplistic and ambiguous nature can induce misleading conclusions (for example, the spidering of a Web site can indicate lots of hits, the use of frames can greatly increase the number of page views, etc.
). Further examples have frequently been documented (Kilpatrick, 2002; Buresh, 2003; Schmitt et al., 1999; Whitecross, 2002). Therefore, it is true to say that basic metrics, such as visitors or page views, can be not only meaningless in terms of measuring a Web site’s success, but can also lead to inaccurate conclusions.
Any improvements on the basic metrics would aim to clearly define and provide specific details, which offer little or no room for misinterpretation. In addition, a clear industry-standard definition would go a long way to rectifying the currently ambiguous nature of Web metrics. Inan (2002) identifies that the Web now represents a business channel in itself, rather than just an advertising tool, and as such, a more holistic approach to Web measurement is necessary. Perhaps the main reason why basic metrics are now considered inadequate is the increased involvement of the customer in a Web experience. It is difficult and expensive to attract customers, but easy to lose them. The Internet has facilitated this – there has been a customer revolution. Customers are no longer confined to their locality in the search for goods and services: they can easily browse nationally, and even internationally. Customers have been empowered – They can choose and browse via the Internet.
In addition, any business conducted over the Internet now involves the customer to a much greater degree than ever before. It is for these reasons that companies are now adopting a more customer-centric approach. A study conducted by Meta Group illustrates this. It found that 56 per cent of companies interviewed ranked customer intimacy as a top-three priority within their company (Inan, 2002). The empowerment of customers is further illustrated by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
com, who observes that online customers are now in a much better position to influence the attitudes of others: If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might tell six friends. If you make a customer unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends with one message to a newsgroup. If you make them really happy they can tell 6,000 people about you (cited in Cutler and Sterne, 2000). If customers are key to a site’s success, one needs to understand how a customer engages with one’s Web site, and subsequently develop measurements based on customers rather than the organization.