website doing an effective job for your business?
Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business
November 24- 30 2009 issue #1048
High Tech Office column
If you or your company has a website (and who doesn’t these days?) you
should be wondering about its effectiveness.
Among the overlapping questions you might ask: does the website have a
clearly defined purpose? How effective is it in communicating that
purpose? How easy is it for potential visitors to find your website?
When they find it, does your website’s design encourage them to stick
around? To do something on your site? To come back another time?
In past columns, I’ve written about tools such as the free Google
Analytics, which Google promises “gives you rich insights into your
website traffic and marketing effectiveness,” and the local company
Wider Funnel specializing in “conversion optimization,” which it
describes as “the ‘science and art’ of getting more actions from the
same amount of traffic.”
We’ve also looked at local digital video production company BaseTwo
Media, which attributed 75% of its growth over the past two years to
online advertising, mostly with Google’s affordable AdWords program.
I maintain a number of websites in support of my teaching, technology
writing, musical and other activities.
While I’m not directly selling products online (other than, perhaps,
selling myself), I have many of the same needs as any other business
website: attracting visitors and providing an online experience that
will encourage them to stick around and come back for repeat visits.
First step: find out how many visitors I get and what do they look at.
I’ve posted technology- related tutorials and articles dating back to
1992; a few of these pages turn up No. 1 for some fairly obscure Google
searches, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
I can gather some information about visitors to my sites from
statistics provided by my web host, Vancouver-based NetNation. These
tell me, for example, that in October 2009, zisman.ca had 73,920 page
requests and let me compare this number to other months. I can see what
folders on my site were visited most.
But the statistics aren’t as useful as I might hope. It’s unclear what
the numbers mean.
For instance, I see that My/Articles folder had 910,349 requests. But I
don’t know over what period of time these occurred or even exactly what
a request indicates.
It would be nice if it meant that I had nearly a million visitors
wanting to read my articles. But I doubt it.
While I’ve written about Google Analytics I’ve never used them. Here’s
the process: first, a person with the power to upload content to your
website (in this case, me) needs to set up a Google Analytics account.
If you already have an account for Gmail or some other Google service,
to be inserted into your web pages.
This code doesn’t display anything to the people viewing your page, but
each time one of your pages is viewed, information is sent to Google.
(Some people may be concerned about Google holding all this data;
that’s another discussion.)
One problem: I’ve got well over a thousand separate pages on zisman.ca
and my other web domains, and no automated process (or low wage rate
employees) to add the code to each page. So even though my Windows
98-era tutorial on using the Windows Policy Editor (poledit) is one of
my No. 1 Google hits, I’m not going to bother adding the Google
Analytics code to that or any others of my “legacy” pages.
Instead, I’ve added the code to the zisman.ca home page, the home pages
of the other domains I manage and to the templates I use to create new
As a result, the quality of data I receive will be sparse at the
beginning, improving over time as more pages return data to be analyzed.
Next week, let’s see what sort of information Google Analytics is
telling me about my website and its visitors. •