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Know Your Traffic

By Kelly Kubrick

As the year draws to a close, many companies to take stock of how well their marketing efforts performed against expectations. In doing so, be sure to include your Web site in the evaluation can be a key source of feedback for your company. Here, we’ll explore what direct and referral Internet marketing metrics can tell you about your Web site’s performance to date and how they can help you develop an effective plan for 2009.
In previous columns, I’ve mentioned how critical it is to review your Web site traffic reports and it’s as true now as it was then. Ask your webmaster to show you how to access those reports so that you can keep an eye on the site’s progress from month to month. They are generally on-line and password protected.
In examining the results, we must first distinguish between visitors (the approximate number of computers arriving at your Web site) and visits (how often each visitor accesses the site in a given time period). These two metrics help you understand the traffic on your Web site. Assuming a certain conversion rate, this should help you forecast the number of leads your Web site is generating. By benchmarking those statistics over a period of several months, you’ll be able to determine whether your Web site lead pool is growing, flat or falling.

Parsing the Information
Once the lead pool is established, it’s time to ask some important questions: Where is the growth or decline originating from? Are you attracting enough volume to convert the number of leads you need? Are they the kind of leads you want to be generating?
In answering these questions you should first analyze the sources of your traffic. On the Internet, a visitor can reach a Web site in one of two ways: either directly or by referral. Direct traffic includes visitors who arrived at your Web site by typing your Web site address correctly into the address bar of their web browser; visitors who bookmarked a page on your Web site; and visitors who followed a link from an e-mail to your Web site.
The percentage of your traffic that is direct is a key performance indicator that helps quantify brand awareness in the market, as it represents people who already have some kind exposure to your materials. Typically, the more you promote your Web site address in the offline world, the more direct traffic you should have on your Web site.
Next, look at the opposite indicator: your referral percentage. Referral traffic includes visitors who arrived at your site via third-party Web sites, such as partner, supplier, association and media Web sites, or commercial search engines like Google and Yahoo!
From there, break your referral traffic down into segments. In particular, take a closer look at the search engine segment. Consider the case of a visitor who searches for the phrase “custom home builders in Alberta” on Google and is presented with a list of results relevant to that phrase. When the visitor clicks on one of those results, his arrival at that Web site is credited to that phrase. Thus, your referral reports can tell you how visible your Web site is in relation to certain phrases. This can be a key piece of marketing information because it gives you a clue as to what types of queries draw visitors to your Web site.

Try It Yourself
A valuable experiment is to simulate the experience from the perspective of an average prospective client. Use a search engine to try and find your brand and then your category — e.g. “home builder”, “kitchens”, “bathrooms”, etc. Are the keywords you want associated with your company bringing up your Web site in the search? How visible is your site for each separate search? Are you on the first page of results? If not, you have low visibility for that phrase. In that case, you might consider putting some time and effort into improving the situation by targeting certain phrases, a practice called search engine marketing.
As the economy contracts, you may find that there are fewer and fewer advertising dollars available and, of those that remain, most of us would prefer to spend them on tactics that offer good value and measurable results.
As this year draws to a close, be sure to take advantage of the hidden depths of the information and marketing insights offered to you through your Web site.

Kelly Kubrick, former director of e-commerce at Time Warner in New York, is president of www.OnlineAuthority.com, an Internet marketing consulting firm

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