Do you work for a boss who doesn’t want to spend too much money on online analytics? Does your boss complain about high costs, lengthy implementations and not enough value for money? Have you ever just wanted to grab your own credit card and purchase some of these fantastic, yet affordable tools on the market to help you feel useful at work? Well, here’s my advice… Just do it!
Gathering online insights doesn’t have to be expensive. In my experience there is no 1:1 relationship between tool quality and tool pricing. If you are looking to get some more attention and gain some more respect for the work that you do, I would recommend injecting some of your hard earned money into some effective tools to wake up your sleeping stakeholders, managers and budget holders.
Fame + Fortune = $65/month
For a mere $65 a month you can become the corporate Complete Web Monitoring Rockstar! Trust me, it can be done. In the following paragraphs I will give you my tool recommendation in order to gather an exceptional amount of insights using a methodology/theory called Complete Web Monitoring.
Before I proceed, a quick disclaimer… there are many tools out there, free tools and paid tools, many tools with similar functionalities. The tools in this article are tools that I would personally use to gather insights if I was on a tight or limited budget. In the past I have quite often paid for tools myself to gather insights. Of course your employer should provide you with the right tools to do your work, but sometimes your boss just needs a nudge, or you just need to give in… just think about your bonus.
If, after reading this article and after having produced new insights and recommendations for the site stakeholders, you are still unable to convince your boss to cough up the insignificant sum of $65 a month for a ton of insights, then let me know. I have yet to come across a boss that isn’t willing to invest such a small amount of money for extremely valuable information about a company’s online activities, but hey… it’s a strange world we live in. But let’s not go down without a fight!
What is Complete Web Monitoring?
Sean Power and Alistair Croll released a book in 2009 called ‘Complete Web Monitoring‘. In this book Sean and Alistair shared their view on how to keep a complete overview of all facets of your online activities… ie. your online investments. Within the ‘Complete Web Monitoring’ theory, you are being put in a position where you need to be able to answer the following 6 questions:
- What did they do?
- Could they do it?
- How did they do it?
- Why did they do it?
- What are they saying?
- What are they plotting?
In other words, you are creating insights in the fields of Web Analytics, Web Performance, Web Interaction Analysis, Voice of the Customer, Community Engagement and Competitive Analysis. But why aren’t A/B or Multivariate testing tools or Social Media management tools like Hootsuite or CoTweet mentioned? Complete Web Monitoring focusses on creating insights, but not the follow up actions needed to improve the measured results. Don’t forget, you’ll always need insights to know what to improve. So let’s lay the foundation…
The tools to make you a Rockstar!
1. Web Analytics – What did they do?
This should be a no-brainer for the most of you. In the market today there is just one fantastic web analytics tool out there which also happens to be free… Google Analytics. Google Analytics offers more than enough tracking capabilities to give you full insights into what visitors do on your website. Is it the creme-de-la-creme? Not in my experience so far, but it is the closest we are going to get on a tight budget.
Google Analytics will start providing you with data shortly after you place the tracking codes on your site. I would really recommend digging deeper into the huge amount of functionalities and community hacks the tool boasts, such as Stephane Hamel’s gaAddons tracking code extension hack. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0 book to help you refine your analytics techniques with tools such as Google Analytics.
Tool: Google Analytics
2. Web Performance – Could they do it?
Like I said earlier, there are many tools in the market today that pretty much do the same thing. This is also the case for Web Performance. Depending on your budget you can spend anything from $0 a month to $2500 a month tracking your relatively ‘big’ site. Free tools in this segment don’t really tell you much other than weekly performance overviews or when it has detected that your site is not responding. For just $9.95 offers you a substantial amount more functionalities, such as tracking up to 5 URLs in intervals of 1, 5, 15, 30 or 60 minutes. In other words, this tool will ‘ping’ your online service (HTTP(S), TCP port, Ping, DNS, UDP, SMTP, POP3 and IMAP) to see if it is responding, ie. if it is available to visitors.
Recommended Reading: How poor performance ruins the user experience
3. Web Interaction Analysis – How did they do it?
- Overlay – similar to other web analytics tools such as Google Analytics
- Heatmap – aggregated view of the popularity of areas clicked
- Confetti – an overview of actual locations visitors clicked (my favorite)
CrazyEgg allows to segment the clicks in Confetti view on items such as ‘Time to Click’, ‘New vs. Returning visitors’, ‘Day of the Week’, ‘Referrer’ and even Google campaign tracking codes. If you were to update the page based on the insights gained, you can quickly launch a follow up test to re-track the clicks on the updated page so that you can compare them with the previous version.
An added benefit of CrazyEgg is
that they will soon be offering insights into a visitors ‘Scroll Depth’.
Recommended Reading: How to perform interaction analysis with CrazyEgg
4. Voice of the Customer – Why did they do it?
One of favorite subjects. Voice of the Customer is a gold mine of data. Data right from the visitor’s mouth keyboard. The theories behind Voice of the Customer are elaborate and do not always result in the same insights, but should never be disregarded. Without getting into topics between the relative mismatches in lining up visitor behavior and attitude, Voice of the Customer gives you direct insights into what and how customers are experiencing your website. Are they running into technical problems? Can they find what they are looking for? What is causing visitors to get frustrated or what is positively effecting their experience?
By analyzing the results you can get an idea of what you might need to do to improve your site’s performance, your site’s navigation, your products and offers. Feedbackify will do this for you, cost effectively. Visitors can at any stage during their visit give you feedback. The feedback is built up by giving the site a score, choosing a main and sub-category of the feedback topic and adding free text in the space provided. This data can then be analyzed in the backend giving you a general idea of the visitor’s experience retraceable to the page the feedback was submitted on. All in all, well worth the $19 a month.
Recommended Reading: Top Customer Feedback Tools for Small Businesses.
5. Community Engagement – What are they saying?
Now that we are tracking what visitors do on your site, how your site performs and what customers tell you about their experience on you site… it is time to listen in to the chatter elsewhere on the web. Visitors will talk and with the various different social media platforms out there today it can be hard to keep track of all that is being said about your brand or products. Trackur will help you get started.
By monitoring Twitter, Facebook and forums, Trackur will alert you when any one of your search terms is discovered in these online areas. The backend will allow you to add sentiment tags to each alerts giving you a quick overview of trends over time. By learning more about how your brand and/or products are thought of will help you to define a strategy on how to improve this. Starting basic monitoring or even by striking up conversations with the people who mention you can do wonders to learning more about what interests, motivates and drives your visitors the most.
6. Competitive Analysis – What are they plotting?
Last but not least, let’s find out what the other teams are doing… Google offers 3 great tools check out the competition.
- Google Insights can be used to visualize the popularity of keywords, but when used nifty, you can replace the keywords with the names of your competitors and get an idea of how well the brand is performing compared to you own.
- Google Alerts lets you set up automatic email alerts on keywords you wish to be alerted on. Just like Google Insights, you can use this to not only track your own brand and products, but also your competitors.
- Google Adplanner will allow you to compare your site traffic to that of competitors. It is quite similar to Compete.com but for us European based professionals it offers a little more data to work with.
Let’s face it. We always want to keep track of what our competitors are doing. I personally like to keep track of companies via LinkedIN, Twitter, Facebook and even a basic Google Search. Alongside all of the above mentioned suggestions we can also use tools mentioned previously to our advantage.
Since Pingdom and Trackur are tools that do not need to be installed on your site, they can easily be used to track the performance of your competitor’s site and monitor what is being said about your competitor, respectively. Check the status of a competitors website with Pingdom, you’ll be surprised how often the site is not available, ie. offline. It’s not illegal in any way. If you go for a more expensive option you can even track a competitors purchasing funnel to see what kind of problems arise. Same goes for Trackur. People will not only talk about your brand/site, but also about the competition. Add some keywords to track within Twitter and Facebook and stay on top of it all. It’s simple, it’s available, it’s inexpensive so what are you waiting for?
Recommended Reading: How to collect Effective Competitor Intelligence.
Tools: Google Insights, Google Alerts, Google Adplanner
Generating insights into your online activities does not have to be expensive. Don’t be scared off by the prices of the more expensive tools or weary managers. You are the analyst, the optimization specialist, nothing should be holding you back from doing what you love the most. This article just goes to show, that even with the smallest budget, you can gain the biggest insights. Now go and become that legendary Rockstar!