Friday, August 29, 2008

Measuring success of your web optimisation efforts

Measuring the success of all your efforts is incredibly important - how do you justify putting time and money into your website if you can't see you are making a difference? Are your changes helping or harming your website performance?

There are two main measures I like to track:
  1. the number of visitors to the site over time - the most direct measure of how successful you have been in driving traffic to you website. The image shows several months of monitoring on the OGCG website after we installed tracking on the website.
  2. the position of keywords in the main search engines - an indirect measure of how effective you are in attracting search traffic to your website. Remember that although search will drive a large number of visitors to your site you can also drive people to your site through directories, through word of mouth, newsletters etc. For example in the case of OGCG we have a rough 70/15/15 split of traffic between search engines, directories and direct entry to the site.

As you progress in sophistication you can monitor other metrics that are more direct measures of success - such as perhaps the number of people visiting your contact details page or making an online booking. This allows you to close the loop on your marketing campaign and measure the real return on investment (ROI) on your website optimisation activities.

There are some very neat tools to help you look at just those issues.

Monitoring visitors to your website

1. Google Analytics - Being a bit of a Google nut I typically use Google Analytics for this purpose. There are some benefits to this including it is relatively easy to use, the tool integrates with Google Adwords and Search and it is free - of course they'd really love your Google advertising business if you could get it. Google Analytics relies on you inserting a piece of code on each of your web pages so that Google is sent a message each time that page is visited. The images on this page are screenshots from Google Analytics.

2. Website log monitoring - Your hosting company might provide you with a facility for inspecting and viewing which pages have been visited on your website. Typically they include some kind of analysis tool such as Analog, Webalizer or AWStats. These may be activated automatically for you by your hosting company or you may have to contact them. Read the documentation on their site about web hosting and their "statistics" packages.

3. Other tools - there are many other tools out there you can use. Some rely on you locating your web hosting log and others rely on the same method as Google Analytics - ie putting a piece of code in the pages you want to track. Examples include Stat Counter, Site Tracker and Omniture.

Position of Keywords in search engines

Even before you start optimisation you should have an idea whether you can be found on the search engines you are targeting and are important to you for the main terms you believe people will use when trying to find content you provide on your website. There are three methods I have found to find this out:

1. Manual method - clearly the cheapest but the most time consuming. This involves you typing in the Keywords yourself and seeing where you rank. You'll need to keep a record if you want to see what improvements have occurred over time. The manual method has the benefit that you can see what other results come up - maybe one of your main competitors or clearly irrelevant stuff which often means your site is very poorly optimised for the Keyword.

2. Google WebMaster Tools - Google Webmaster tools is another Google service that amongst other things helpfully tells you the most common terms people search for to access your website and your listing position for those terms. Once signed up see Statistics "Top Search Terms". This isn't quite the same thing as measuring your position against keywords service but perhaps it is even more useful telling you what people really search for to find you. This of course only covers Google search results but when it represents 88% of what users use perhaps this isn't a big deal. You can use Google Webmaster tools to perform many other useful Google related tasks.

3. Programs and Tools - I still haven't found a great tool to use regularly that keeps a record of my keyword position over time. At the moment the best I have found is Rank Tracker. I have been too cheap to buy it though so I probably haven't scratched the surface of what it can do. A few words of warning - there seem to be a lot of free tools out there that rely on you have a Google API Key - which you can't get and Google seem to have discontinued. They just won't work! The second warning is that many use the US site searches that may not be used by your potential clientele in Australia.

If you have any tips of your own on how to monitor these two fundamental areas I'd be interested in hearing them.

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1 comment:

  1. A friend I know suggested this one - which seems to work pretty well but doesn't store and graph historical data.