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Picture the scene: you’ve opened up a new fashion retail outlet in the trendiest shopping center in town. You’ve spent a small fortune on advertising and branding. You’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that you’re stocking all the prestige brands. Come opening day, your store is inundated with visitors and potential customers. And yet, you are hardly making any sales. Could it be because you have one cashier for every hundred customers? Or maybe it’s the fact that the smell of your freshly painted walls is chasing customers away before they complete a purchase. While it can be difficult to isolate and track the factors affecting your revenue in this fictional store, move it online and you have a wealth of resources available to assist you with tracking, analyzing, and optimizing your performance.
To a marketer, the Internet offers more than new avenues of creativity. By its very nature, the Internet allows you to track each click to your site and through your site. It takes the guesswork out of pinpointing the successful elements of a campaign and can show you very quickly what’s not working. It all comes down to knowing where to look, knowing what to look for, and knowing what to do with the information you find.
Testing, analyzing, and optimizing are not new to marketing. Being able to gauge the success of any campaign is crucial to growth.
Early Web analytics packages came to the fore in the mid-1990s, a couple of years after the first Mosaic browser was launched. Early analysis reflected the nature of the early Web, focusing only on hits with some very basic click-stream analysis. With one-page Web sites being the norm, it was enough to know how many clicks came to the Web site. Traffic meant you were doing well. You can still see hit counters on some Web sites today. These Web sites usually look as sophisticated as this tool.
However, as Web sites became more complex, and as more people had access to the Internet, better analysis became more important. Measuring hits was, and is, not enough. In fact, measuring hits is a fairly meaningless task. Web analytics split into two types of tools: page tags and log files. Both continue to become more sophisticated, capturing information about visitors to a Web site, and recording detailed information related to their time on the site. There are several log-file analysis tools that cost nothing to use. Sophisticated page-tag Web analytics became available for free when Google bought Urchin in March 2005 and launched Google Analytics as a free service. Are you wondering what the difference is between page tagging and log-file analysis? Don’t worry, it’s coming!