The number one measurement to watch on your site is viewers. Most sites will not report actual viewers; they’ll show “machine connections.” That will have to do as your primary measure of traffic. A machine connection is just that, a machine making a connection to your website.
To report actual viewers, every person coming to your site would have to register upon reaching your home page (or other entry pages). Machine connections to the server hosting your site are logged automatically. Machine connections will give you a close approximation of viewers, with the following exceptions:
Some viewers will log on using different machines, a home machine, office machine, and perhaps a laptop from a remote location. They’ll be counted as a different machine connection each time. Some may log on using the same machine but with different dial-up connections. They’ll be counted more than once.
Even site viewers who go to the site more than once using the same machine and the same dial-up connection may count as a separate machine connection each time they access the site because the viewer comes through a different access port each time they access the site. If so, this will be counted as another machine connection.
The factors above often inflate visitor counts that are actually visited by company personnel. This is particularly the case just before, during and after a site first goes live. Much of the traffic reported will be company personnel and even the web developers dialing into the site as often as several times daily. As much as half the traffic of a site during the first month of deployment can be attributed to company personnel (and their friends and families and distribution channels) and site developers This may especially hold true for small business sites with a few hundred to a thousand or so machine connections per month.
As time goes on, commonly by the second or third month of a site being live, company traffic begins to account for a more modest percentage of overall usage, perhaps two to ten percent. Within a calendar quarter or two, company usage will generally drop to between one and five percent of overall traffic or less. An industry veteran should be able to estimate company usage as a percentage of overall traffic after a brief review of your stats. The ability to infer traffic patterns from logs and stats is a worthy goal for the sales and marketing manager and company webmaster alike.
Please note that the number of visitors, or machine connections, itself is not the most important observation to make regarding your logs and stats. More important is the trend of these numbers over time.
All Sites (Good for Key Account Prospecting)
Your access logs and stats should report the URLs of those visiting you. Moreover, logs and stats programs will generally report the URLs of all sites visiting you in order of their use of your site.
Having the URLs of your busiest visitors is excellent for outbound telemarketing usage and key account selling. For example, if ABCCompany.com is among the top users of your site, you can view their website. An astute marketer in your company should be able to determine readily whether ABC Company is a viable prospect for your company’s products and services. A quick look at their company profile or contact page will give you complete contact information. Even if you don’t know exactly who at ABC was looking at your site, your salesperson should be able to contact ABC, identify themselves and ask, “Who in your company is responsible for purchasing your products?” Once that person is identified and contact is made your salesperson can simply inquire about ABC Company’s needs, as ABC was one of the most active users of your site in the last week (or day or month).
Unfortunately, the All Sites approach does not work for two kinds of companies, the very large and the very small. For example, if Rockwell.com shows up on your logs, you’ll find it nearly impossible to determine who among the scores of thousands of Rockwell employees was viewing your site. Your access logs and stats software may help you narrow that down, showing you in greater detail that the Rockwell.com visits came more specifically from mke.ra.rockwell.com, in other words, the Milwaukee location of Rockwell Automation, part of Rockwell International (known locally in the Milwaukee area as Allen-Bradley).
The other kind of company All Sites often can’t help you with is the very small business or home user that views your site. When a company of one or ten or fifty people uses a dial-up connection (or a DSL line or a cable access line or wireless) through a local or national access provider, rather than through their own server, you’ll get the likes of AOL.com or RoadRunner.com reported on your logs. Obviously, it would be impossible to determine which of AOL’s millions of users accessed your site. The same holds true if the viewer is one of the hundreds of users of a local dial-up service or one of the scores of thousands of users of a regional access provider. (For very small local access providers, it might be worth a quick look to see if they list business customers on their site. If their customer base is small enough and your clientele is fairly unique, you may be able to match up a top user of your site with the access providers’ customer list. If your average sale amount is significant, it could be worth the sleuthing).
Here I want to share a story about a manufacturing client. Back in 1997, this client’s access logs and stats showed a phenomenal amount of interest by an East Coast corporate headquarters and a huge number of visits by that firm’s corporate parent in Scandinavia. I alerted the client to the unusually high traffic from this company and its parent. My contact, the VP of Marketing at the firm, advised all of his applications engineers to forward any and all inquiries from this prospect to him. Indeed, the Veep found when doing so that engineers from the prospect firm had contacted each of the half-dozen or so of his applications engineers at least once or twice. All of the inquiries thus far had been “under-the-radar” type inquiries … nothing special, taken individually. However, the number of inquiries coupled with the amount of website viewership meant this prospect warranted special attention. Indeed, after topping our client’s “All Sites” list for three months running, and with alert and deft handling by the Marketing VP, the prospect became a multi-million dollar, multi-year customer for my client.
Files and Data Transfers (Throughput)
Your logs can tell you the number of files that have been accessed and the kilobytes of data that have been transferred to viewers of your site. These numbers are most important, as a whole, only in relation to the number of viewers – machine connections – discussed above. Just as the absolute number of machine connections is not as important as the overall trend of the numbers, the trend lines of files and data transfers are most important in how they match the trend lines of viewers.
For example, say you regularly increase viewership by, 000 viewers per month, and then your site undergoes a re-design to reduce the file sizes of images and, hence, pages. In this case, you’ll see a departure from the typical correlation between visitors and transfers. If you see a disruption in the normal positive correlation between machine connections and transfers without an explanation, look for a cause.
If you’re following the advice in WebForging, you will have scheduled time at the outset of your website development to generate keywords, title tags and descriptions for Search Engine registrations. You’ll have had these available for use in registering your site within hours or days of your site going live. See the Search Engines chapter for more information.
Now you can view the number of times individual pages of your site were accessed. As time goes on you may be surprised to learn that some pages of your site actually gets accessed more than the home page. This really tips you off that individual pages have ranked high in search engines, or that multi-channel marketing efforts leading users to inside pages worked well, and/or that some inside pages have been bookmarked and are being accessed regularly and directly.
Contact and Inquiry Pages
As discussed in Chapter .., Contact Forms, all of our clients’ “Contact Us” pages include a “Thank You” page that comes up when the viewer hits the “submit” button on the Contact Us page. One glance at your access logs and statistics will tell you: a) how many viewers went to your contact us page and b) of those, how many went to the trouble to submit a contact page inquiry.
Peak Usage Times
For most manufacturers, the usage times shown in access logs and statistics reflect the workweek. Most of my manufacturing clients enjoy nominal usage on evenings and weekends. Heaviest traffic occurs during business hours on weekdays, starting Monday mornings and, building through peak Wednesdays, then leveling to Monday levels again by Friday. Peak times for manufacturers often reflect the workday, including the coasts. Peak times in my area (Central Standard Time) are generally from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., reflecting the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. business day coast-to-coast, and generally speaking from .0 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. (CST). Late night visitors to manufacturing sites are sometimes night owls, though frequently they are international viewers accessing the site during their own business hours.
Peak usage times can be important for very active sites, particularly those serving a cyclical market, or firms running infomercials or other marketing programs that might generate peak results.
Some of my specialty retail clients enjoy peak traffic during the day as well, particularly over coast-to-coast “lunch hours.” Entertainment clients are all over the board, some of them enjoying peak usage that is typical, even reliably, the opposite of traffic patterns for business-to-business sites.
Referrer logs allow you to see where your traffic is coming from. Traffic from search engines (including specifics on keywords and keyword phrases) is identified (see Search Engine Terms below).
Your own site will come up high on your referrer logs. Often the last page most visitors to your site will have seen, the one they are coming from is another page of your site.
Your web presence provider may also come up very high on your logs. My firm’s portfolio pages, case histories and the like actually generate significant traffic for many of our clients.
Referrer logs, like most logs, are shown in order of usage. When you spot a referrer consistently sending significant traffic to you, consider rewarding them (with a simple thank you, if nothing else) and perhaps reciprocating with a link back to them if appropriate.
If you find a company sending you a lot of traffic, consider finding on similar sites that might refer traffic your way. An affiliate program (discussed in Chapter 10, E-commerce) might be advised.
Search Engine Terms
Good logs programs will break out information about search engines used to find your site. Very good logs programs will break that information out by the search engine (including query strings) and by individual keywords and boolean terms (keyword phrases) used to find you, all enumerated in order of usage.
Besides looking at where and how people find you, keep in mind the places and terms with which you are not being found.
Cookies, if you will, allow you to follow users by the crumb trail they leave. If you’re offering white papers, online seminars or other valuable information, you may play “big brother” and request online registration. At the time of that online registration you “set a cookie” that makes it possible to continuously (or for a pre-determined duration) identify that site visitor across visits.
Your web presence provider should provide an online tutorial to make it easy for you to decipher your logs and stats, now or at any time in the future. Ideally, you and your web presence provider (or IT department) should evaluate your logs and statistics capabilities thoroughly within a few weeks or months of your site becoming live (as soon as you have any significant traffic).
Take the time at your first immersion in your logs and stats to figure out which statistics are most salient to you. Assign responsibility, including appropriate intervals (we suggest at least monthly) for review and reporting of web traffic, and for key prospecting activities if appropriate for your business.
In summary, have access logs and stats in place from day one. Use them. Chief uses should be key account prospecting, contact us/ thank you page monitoring, other marketing program metrics (including search engine optimization and registration fine-tuning), and overall trends observations (including basic site viewership trends). Set the time aside now (for you or your delegate) for initial immersion in – and regular review of – your access logs and statistics.