Web Analytics

Web analytics is the science of collecting and analyzing your web site usage data so that you can optimize your site for best results. For example, if you analyze the click behavior of your web site users, you can learn how to best place links on your site to encourage most sales. Similarly if you learn about the demographics of your users, you can target marketing campaigns to those demographics that yield most results.

There are several tools that can be used for web analytics. Some of these are paid, while others are free. Below I will discuss some of the most useful tools available.

1. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the most widely used free web analytics platform. Integration with any web site is as easy as copying and pasting a few lines of JavaScript code into your web pages, and Google takes care of the rest.

There are tons of available features including, automatic integration with Google AdWords for analyzing advertising ROI, benchmarking with industry standards, advanced segmentation, goal-driven reporting, custom reporting, and motion charts.

2. Piwik

Piwik is an open-source web analytics platform created using PHP and MySQL. It closely mimics Google Analytics with pretty much all the major functionality provided by Google.

The big difference is that Piwik is hosted on your own servers, which is great if you do not want to share your data with Google for any reason. Also this allows you to have real-time access to your data, which is a feature that Google still lacks.

Moreover, Piwik is a plug-in based platform, which means that you can easily extend the out-of-the-box functionality by creating new plug-ins. Piwik also provides complete API access, which means that you can consume data collected by Piwik in a non-PHP based application. For example, if I want to create a SharePoint web part that displays the top 3 keywords used to land on my web site, I can easily do that.

3. ClickTale

ClickTale is a unique web analytics tool that records the actual browsing sessions of your visitors in real-time, which you can then view as a video at a later time. Every single mouse movement, click, and keystroke is recorded to recreate the user experience for you to analyze.

ClickTale pricing plans range from free to about $800/month depending upon the amount of activity recorded on your web site.

4. Clicky

Clicky is also similar to Google Analytics in that it provides simple integration with any web site and hosts data on it’s own servers. It provides a clean and modern web interface to access and analyze your data.

Clicky is tailored for small- to medium- size web sites, and provides plans that range from free to $49/month. It has some nice features, such as Google Maps integration, real time statistics, and plug-ins for easy integration with WordPress and other popular applications.

5. Snoop

Snoop is an interesting application that sits in your Windows system tray (system status bar for Mac) and alerts you of events on your web site in real-time. For example, it can notify you when someone makes a comment on your blog or creates a sales order.

At the time of this writing Snoop is still in beta and registration is via invites only. You can register your e-mail address at the Reinvigorate web site to be notified when an invite is available.

There are several other free and paid web analytics solutions out there that help you analyze your visitor behavior and usage patterns so that you can tweak your site or advertising strategy for better conversion rates.  There are also companies that provide more comprehensive solutions, such as Omniture and Unica, that are tailored for large web sites and high-dollar marketing budgets.  For most small to medium sites, however, a combination of free and cheap solutions does pretty well.

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