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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Why Bloggers Need a Good Web Analytics Package

Web analytics is serious stuff for e-commerce sites looking to maximize sales, and for bloggers, it's an essential tool in getting to know and attract readers.

A good web analytics package can't be underestimated for serious bloggers looking to increase their readership. Web analytics is all about understanding the visitors to your website. Why do they click on this link and not that one? Is there something about the design of your blog that drives people away? What types of content do readers respond well to?

But that's not all web analytics is good for:
  • Marketing: Find out where your readers are coming from. If you are running a marketing campaign, you need to know which of your efforts are working and how well.
  • Advertising: Once you have all this data collected, you can put together a media kit for advertisers with information like number of pageviews or unique visitors a month along with geographic data. This can help you determine a fair price for advertising on your blog.
  • Ego: It's always nice to know someone is reading and appreciating your hard work. Writing a blog can be a lonely endeavor.
Best of all, several extremely useful and free web analytics tools are available, and all they require is putting a little piece of Javascript on every page of your blog. You usually install it in your blog template so this happens automatically.

My favorite tools are:

Google Analytics: With the radical redesign of the old Google Analytics interface, this free tool is now both easier to understand and prettier. Pretty is important because it encourages you to dig deeper into the data. What it really means is better user interface design.

In addition to standard information like pageviews and visits, you can use Google Analytics to track goals like how many people have signed up for a newsletter or subscribed to your RSS feed. You can get a tour of the major features here.

pMetrics: Performancing has a free analytics product called pMetrics that I have only just started using. Even so, it's looking very encouraging. The user interface is very nicely done. An interesting tool called Spy lets you see how users interact with your blog in real-time. Another novel feature is integration with FeedBurner so you can track your RSS stats.

Some upcoming features are an API to let third-parties access and use analytics data and the ability to export data. Interestingly, a feature to support Ajax sites is also in the works.

HitTail: This is a long tail web analytics tool that helps you discover unique keywords that you can target with your blog posts. Long tail keywords are infrequently searched, but collectively, they make up the majority of your blog's pageviews. That's the theory at least. You can find out how users frame their search queries and get recommended keywords to write about.

Of course, there are many, many other good tools out there that might be a better fit for you. You might also consider Statcounter, 103bees, and Sitemeter. Most tools track the same type of information so the most important thing to consider is how that data is presented to you. Go with something pretty.


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