Visits, Sessions, Clicks and Goals

One of our key interests is making use of the data that’s created every time people use a website (web analytics).  There are a plethora of different products out there each proclaiming loudly to be the best, do something differently, and have a range of different pricing packages.  Whilst there are many of these around we tend to find that there are 2 different user types (and solutions) for this data.

  1. Show me the trends.  These people want to know how many people visit, what drove them to visit, and what they did when they were on the site.  If variations on this are all you want to know about your website, a tool such as Google Analytics is superbly placed to meet your needs.  As a free, simple to implement product the Google offering is very hard to beat.  For some more advanced tasks it is also customisable (collection of specific goals and collectable data).  The further beauty of this is that because it is free, as a business you don’t feel restricted from looking for other solutions that can provide information that Google does not (for instance Click Tale which has very good visualisation of user interaction).
  2. Show me the data.  These people want the trends, but they also want to be able to feed the data into their internal systems, something that Google Analytics can do for you, but only at an aggregated depersonalised view.  If you want to be a bit cleverer and match web activity to your known customer base this is not the tool for you as it is explicitly precluded against in their terms of use (it is technically possible to do, but woe betide those who incur the wrath of Google!).  The most suitable option for this type of user group is a tool that provides access to its underlying database (i.e. SAS CXA, Omniture amongst others).

Google Analytics very nearly does everything you could reasonably ask it to if you have a fairly standard straight forward website, even those with ecommerce sites with multi product offerings.  As long as you accept that it will have shortcomings, you can be pretty comfortable with a simple to implement, but very expandable solution, that is also free (as long as you are fully comfortable that someone else may be using your data for things you have never dreamed of! And be absolutely aware that this system uses sampling, the numbers you see are more a trend than absolute truth).

If however you need the extra data that web analytics can give you to enrich your knowledge of the customer, in house hosted products with full access to an open database are far more suited to you.  If you want to see how your VIP customers interact with a specific area of the website, and this information is held in disparate data sources, then you need to invest in one of these systems.  If you can then connect the web experience to this data then it’s possible to control how visitors see your site based on models and insight that you have obtained from being able to join all of your data together.  Going beyond having web analytics, this is closing the circle to make a solution which continually improves the business to drive benefit to both the customer and your bottom line.

One thing to bear in mind though, right now there seems to be a clear distinction in the visual quality of BI found in the user friendly online based tools (Google, Click Tale etc) and the work horse data intensive systems from the big name providers.  The online systems come with very nice pre built reporting that covers most bases, whereas others tend to require business teams to design and build their reporting in interfaces that don’t tend to hold a candle to the eye candy available (hello Google).  This is something we hope that will be addressed soon, it’s far easier to communicate data with stunning visuals!

This is just a touch on some of our thoughts on the world of web data today, if you’re interested to see what you can do, whatever your website, get in contact with us so we can help you evaluate your requirements and find a solution that fits your needs for now and the future.