Friday, May 18, 2007

Web Analytics related to Business Goals

It is usually common for Web Analysts to simply report the data and follow the instructions as told. But the core of Web Analytics is the deeper analysis of data based on the business goals. Once you have the business goals then a question comes to my mind. Will the Web Analyst be able to state what metrics to use in order to calculate a business goal? Let us take the example of a content site which displays banner ads and gets paid according to the number of impressions reported. The Pageviews would be the business goal in this scenario. It is apparent that a Web Analyst should look at all metrics converting to Pageviews. More the Pageviews more is the revenue generated. The other metrics which in turn map to the Pageview can be Visits, Keywords, Unique Users, and Referrers. So what do you think should be the most important metrics? Logically looking at these 5 metrics, I would say each and every one is important as these are equally important for generating Pageviews. Once the metrics is known, it is now that the Web Analyst needs to make sense out of the numbers and report them in a presentable manner. He needs to effectively communicate what these numbers mean and in some cases give recommendations on how to increase these numbers.
Let’s think of another scenario where a user comes to a website, chooses a product and enters the cart (funnel). What do you think would be the appropriate business goal? The business goal in this scenario could be to sell a product or complete a registration form. So the metrics to measure in this case could be bounce rate, exit rate, page depth. Another good value to measure would be see where on the page the people are clicking to exit or bounce off the page. This can help us to detect which are the problem areas that are turning the page into a bounce page. We can then act accordingly and remove those links which are making the people abandon the cart. Another advantage of measuring these metrics would be introduce A/B Testing on the pages to test which page has a lower exit/bounce rate.
All in all it is imperative that WebAnalytics is tied with business goals and continuous analysis will help companies stay on top of things.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Probable reasons for Website traffic fluctuations

I was doing some analysis and Anil Batra’s article Who moved my traffic really helped me. I liked the way he explained the probable reasons on why there is a difference in traffic every month. I would like to cite 2 scenarios I came across in the form of graphs. Let’s assume these graphs are for a small scale shopping site called sampleshopping.com. This is a shopping site which has a business model similar to amazon.com. This website has Omniture tagging setup and appears on the first page of google.com when we do a search on ‘online shopping’. The homepage has 40 % of its traffic from Search Engines.
I will try to explain the possible reasons for the traffic fluctuation for the graph below. The reasons are in bold.


January starts with an average visit count of 10000. This is the expected average visits for this site.
In February you’ll notice there is a slight decrease. This might be because of February having 28 days. The next 3 months experience average traffic inflow.
June experienced a drop off along with July. The most likely reasons for this drop are:
New competitor: A new competitor joined the race along with other online shopping portals which meant that some share of the traffic went to that portal. I say this because 40 % of the overall traffic to sampleshopping.com came from search engines and the inclusion of a new website on the search results page distributed the traffic.
Tagging not placed on all the pages: The previous months had 60 % of the traffic on the homepage but this month the homepage had 40 % of traffic which disclosed the problem of untagged pages under the sampleshpping.com. This was one of the main reasons for the discrepancy in traffic when I used to do analysis in my previous job.
Worldwide event/news: This scenario is the cause for the drop of traffic even on some major portals. The traffic might drop if there was some breaking news and people were busy visiting news websites or were mostly watching the news on TV.

The visits again picked up and the traffic came back to normal for the following months.
The traffic again went down in November and December. Below are some more possible causes:
The Website server was down: This is highly unlikely but I have come across such scenarios.
Search Engines did not display this website on the first page: Maybe due to some changes being made on the homepage etc, the Search Engines were not able to index the page and people were not able to find this website on the initial SE pages.
Tagging was accidentally removed: Again rare but a possibility.

The next graph is the opposite of the above graph and should be more appealing to website owners. Below are some the reasons related to increase in traffic:



Link Exchange: As the year passes by, more and more links are being exchanged to and fro with other websites which in turn increases the Page Rank of this website and thus increasing it’s ranking in search engines.
Search Engine Optimization: SEO is one of the key factors responsible for driving traffic from Search Engines. Page Name, Title, keywords and description have to be relevant on the page for search engines to index/cache the web pages.
Search Engine Marketing: Google Adwords, Microsoft AdCenter etc are the necessary tools that enable businesses to advertise by selling specific keywords. This mechanism of buying keywords is important for a website that isn’t on top of the Search Engine’s organic ranking.
Banner Ad Campaigns: Advertisements on the homepages are a good medium to attract more clicks and thus driving more traffic to the content pages.
Multiple tagging: A rare occurrence but again something I’ve noticed in my past analysis.
Weather and Festival/Holiday: You’ll notice that November and December have the most visits. The most appropriate reasons for this are that people tend to stay at home and browse the internet regularily during winters. It is also possible that they might be buying gifts from this website for Christmas.

These were some of the possibilities that might cause the traffic to fluctuate. Hope you like this post and feel free to add your suggestions/comments.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Legitimate ways of optimizing your Web Pages for Search Engines

As a SEO expert, your job and goal is to push your website on the top of Google’s rankings without crossing the line. No one can assure you that your site will end up on the first page when someone searches for a keyword. The first objective of a SEO expert should be to add relevant keywords in the Meta keyword list pertaining to his business. So every time you add new keywords in your Meta Keywords list, you wish that Google will cache/index your page immediately but it’s not an easy process. I have tried this before while optimizing a new Site and it took 2 months before that page was indexed.
Here are the important things I learned from that experience:
1. Content of your website should be relevant and present in abundance on the homepage as well as inner domain pages.
2. Other sites linking to your website is an important point. The more links other websites provide to your pages, the better chances you have to increase your ranking.
3. The page name is an important point. Usually we tend to ignore the page name. Search Engines do index pages based in the page name. For e.g. http://imilap.com/Indian-dating-Sites.asp. The other important tags on the page are the description, title and keywords.
4. Never try to bombard your keywords in the Meta Keyword tag as it only decreases your chances for your page to be index.

Here is a link to a website that will explain my last point in more detail: http://www.widexl.com/remote/search-engines/metatag-analyzer.html. Enter your URL name and this will give you an idea about what you can do to enhance the tags on your page. These are a few tips which might improve your website's performance.
I will continue to write more about Website/Search Engine Optimization in my future posts.

Monday, May 7, 2007

SEO free tools and tips

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is always fun and challenging. For starters it is always good to use free SEO tools before they become competent. I would like to share with you some of these free tools on SEO. I am going to share free tools with you that I came across as these will give you a background on where to start. I started learning SEO using a tool called Overture. This tool is a part of Yahoo and is available on the Internet at http://inventory.overture.com. It will tell you what keywords are being searched most on Yahoo based on a month to month basis. You would have to start off by entering a keyword to find related searches. For e.g. If you enter the word ‘insurance’, it would show you all keywords related to insurance with their number of searches. This is extremely useful in case of optimizing an insurance website. Look at the screenshot below from http://inventory.overture.com for the results when I did a search on the keyword ‘insurance’.


Note: This tool will only show you the top 100 searched keywords.

The next tool I used can be found at http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/search.html. This tool is quite similar to the above tool but it harnesses the technology of Google and Yahoo. This tool reports 100 related keywords in the basic version but you can search up to 10000 keywords if you decide to go for the premium edition. So after you have added the keywords to the Meta tags of your Website using these tools, you can check your keyword ranking here: http://www.mikes-marketing-tools.com/ranking-reports. You can start doing this after 2-3 weeks of adding these keywords to your page. This will help you determine where your keyword ranks among all the major Search Engines. This is really helpful to be at the top of your game. Below is a screenshot.


Courtesy: www.imilap.com.
Finally I would not encourage unethical practices that would improve your rankings on Major Search Engines which might include flooding your meta tags with keywords or adding extra links on your page.
Hope you like this post. I will keep you updated with cool tips and information.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Web Analytics as a career path

Shortly after college, I was wondering which career opportunity I should pursue. It wasn’t clear to me whether to choose a career in Networking, Databases or Quality Assurance. These 3 career options are pursued by many people and I was planning to be part of the usual crowd. But with the guidance of Anil Batra who has been in this field since 10 years, I came to know about Web Analytics.

I started learning about it by using a tool called Google Analytics which was the perfect medium to help me grasp the fundamentals of Web Analytics. Through Google Analytics I came across totally new concepts like Unique Users, Page Views and Visits. These terms and metrics really fascinated me and I wanted to learn more. It prompted me go deeper into analytics and I started reading Eric Peterson’s titles like ‘Web Analytics Demystified’ and ‘Web Site Measurement Hacks’. These books further strengthened my view about Web Analytics as a career option and I decided that this is the career option I want to pursue. Another important resource for me was the Yahoo Web Analytics group which provided me with all the information regarding the latest Web Analytics buzz. It is followed by all Web Analytics experts who often answer questions raised by other members.

I started applying for jobs all over the United States and believed that my lack of experience would not be a hurdle. I gained a lot of confidence by taking phone interviews and also went for a couple of face to face interviews. Starting as an entry level was always a challenge for me and I made up for it by showing commitment and the desire to learn to my interviewers. It was important for me to be confident and eager in spite of my lack of knowledge in this field. It was through dedication and hard work that I nailed both the interviews and had the comfort to choose the best opportunity.

Finally I would like to sum up my article by mentioning that Web Analytics is a really interesting field to be a part of. It will give you the opportunity to learn programming, databases and it will also brush up your knowledge in Networking. The most important contribution of Web Analytics is towards the Internet which is now looked at from a totally different business prospective.