Listen to your Stats!

February 1, 2007 by HostSearch Staff Writer

It never ceases to amaze me that webmasters, sometimes fairly experienced ones too, never listen to what their site stats are telling them! In this article I aim to show that even the most basic site statistic technologies offer you a unique ability to not only establish how many people are visiting your site, but to drive quality traffic to your pages.

Site statistics are absolutely key to establishing the success of a site. They tell you exactly how many visitors you get and which sites send them to you. I have often seen web site development teams sitting in front of a monitor punching the air with joy when they have seen that their site has gained 50 or 100 new visitors in a day. But after the initial excitement they just go onto something else, completely missing what`s staring them right in the face.

Most hosting packages provide free site statistics and if you use them correctly, they can prove absolutely invaluable. To show you what I mean we are going to introduce you to a new, extremely small travel web site called `www.new_york_and_no_place_else.com` - you can see the first, very draft version of this currently one page site below:

"New York is the probably the greatest city on earth. There`s pretty much everything you could ask for here. New York is a city of culture (orchestras, ballet) and dazzling entertainment (Broadway) … It`s a city for the people by the people … Great restaurants … The place everyone knows and loves … It`s the place YOU need to go to for your next holiday! In New York you don`t walk … Take the subway to get virtually any destination in the city… And where the subway doesn`t go the buses, trains and taxis will get you there! There is only one New York… Experience it now!"

So, this page goes live and over the next few weeks, generates some hits. We are going to look at some important information your hosting package`s Site Stats have generated - Key Words.

Key Words are the words people type into search engines (Goggle, etc.) in order to find the information they need. On the occasions a visitor manages to reach your site through a search engine, your Site Stats will record what Key Words brought the visitor to you. Let`s look at the Key Words `www.new_york_and_no_place_else.com` generated over the last weeks:

10 January 2005
56 York
18 New
18 Ballet
17 Subway
15 Broadway
14 Walk
13 Taxi
12 Destination
2 Everyone
2 Restaurant
1 Experience
1 Place
22 January 2005
72 York
23 New
18 Ballet
16 Subway
15 Broadway
14 City
13 Taxi
12 Destination
2 Everyone
2 Restaurant
1 Experience
1 Place
28 January 2005
86 York
56 New
27 Ballet
22 Subway
16 Trains
14 New York Ballet
12 Culture
12 Earth
2 Pretty
2 Restaurant
1 New York
1 Holiday
5 February 2005
99 York
54 New
34 Ballet
19 New York Ballet
15 Trains
12 Subway
12 Culture
12 Earth
2 Pretty
2 Restaurant
1 New York
1 Holiday

With just this limited information, you can establish clusters that suggest trends. Here, the main consistent elements are `New`, `York`, `Ballet` and `Subway`. There is a good possibility that, for whatever reason, people wanting information about the `New York Ballet` and `New York Subway` are reaching your site. For the former, the fact that the phrase `New York Ballet` ultimately appears in the statistics clinches it; for the latter, it remains speculation. However, with this sort of evidence in front of you, you don`t need to speculate further about `New York Ballet`.

Knowing that people are, for some reason, arriving at your site to find information about the New York Ballet, is great news, but how do you benefit from the fact? Well, you can provide visitors with the information they need. You can develop a page about the New York Ballet, and link the word `ballet` to this page. See below:

"New York is the probably the greatest city on earth. There`s pretty much everything you could ask for here. New York is a city of culture (orchestras, ballet) and dazzling entertainment (Broadway) … It`s a city for the people by the people … Great restaurants … The place everyone knows and loves … It`s the place YOU need to go to for your next holiday! In New York you don`t walk … Take the subway to get virtually any destination in the city… And where the subway doesn`t go the buses, trains and taxis will get you there! There is only one New York… Experience it now!"

Changing this page so that it is all about the New York Ballet will probably rob your site of the visitors who have traditionally arrived at the page for other reasons. Leaving the information as is, but adding a link, not only caters for the visitors who have arrived at this page looking for information on the New York Ballet, it gives you as the webmaster another page to use to attract visitors. This way of developing your site means it grows `organically`, always catering to the needs of your visitors and helping keep them on your site.

Key Words are though only the start. Take a serious look at the information in your stats package and a very firm picture of your visitors` behavior emerges. You can see which pages people use to enter the site, where they leave the site (if it`s always the same page, check the content on that page to find out why they always leave there!), which countries your visitors come from (if they are all from India, you better start adding some news about Bollywood!), etc., etc. Take a look around your stats package and you will be amazed at the data available to you.

For me, stats are what it is all about. They are the pulse of a website, allowing you to act as doctor; speculating on causes and effects and how best to deal with problematic issues, and how best to benefit from opportunities. This is where science and artistry merge to create an entirely new discipline, one that is entirely related to web sites.

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