I was recently interviewed along with other online marketing bloggers for the Inc. Magazine article 11 Best Analytics Tools. Not all of my picks made the article, so I’d like to share them with Get Elastic readers, as they’re pertinent to ecommerce. Rather than individual tools, this article will cover 11 different types to keep you busy in 2011.
1. Traditional web analytics
Thanks to Google Analytics’ free-ness, no one has an excuse to be without web analytics! (Going without a web analyst is another story). These tools are essential for understanding where visitors come from, what users do on your site, what content is most popular / effective.
I’m vendor agnostic when it comes to analytics tools, but I do recommend everyone have a Google Analytics account for a few reasons. Besides the fact it’s free, GA integrates with Google Adwords and Google Website Optimizer nicely. There’s also several books and blogs entirely dedicated to Google Analytics, so there’s a wealth of resources for using it.
However, Google Analytics may not be enough if you have advanced analytics needs, such as importing cost data, for example.
Even if you’re using a Gucci paid analytics tool, it’s a good idea to collect data with Google Analytics as a backup (if anything ever goes wrong with your enterprise tool, you won’t have periods with missing data.) You also won’t have to worry about losing historical data if you want to switch vendors down the line, as some vendors will not let you keep your data or port it over to your new tool.
2. Optimization testing
Again, no excuses! Google Website Optimizer is a free tool that can get you up and running with A/B or multivariate testing in no time. There are also paid site testing tools worth checking out, like Optimizely, Unbounce and Visual Website Optimizer. Check out WhichMVT.com for a comprehensive comparison of site testing tool options.
3. User testing
User testing has a reputation for being expensive and time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. You can get good, qualitative feedback on user experience for $40 a test with Usertesting.com. Since you can get good data from as little as 5 participants, $200 can get you started.
Tip: use your user test data as a springboard for A/B and multivariate tests.
4. Customer surveys
Like user tests, customer surveys provide great qualitative data. But even better than user tests, they provide feedback on how your actual customers feel about your site.
There are several “voice of the customer” tools you can use to collect data, including OpinionLab, iPerceptions’ 4Q product, Kampyle and even Survey Monkey. Many of these tools will integrate with your web analytics package. Some, like OpinionLab, also have testing capabilities.
5. Webmaster tools
Both Google and Bing offer webmaster tools that will tell you general health of your website from search engine’s perspective – broken links, pages not being crawled properly, errors in sitemaps, etc. Hey, if search engines offer this information for free to help your SEO, you better take it.
6. Brand monitoring / reputation management
Reputation management means monitoring and responding to mentions of your personal name, brand name, product names and other trademarks online.
At minimum, you should have Google Alerts and Twitter alerts set up.
Google Alerts is a free service that lets you track mentions of your brand name, personal name, product names or competitor products and trademarks. You can receive alerts in real-time, daily or weekly.
Tweetbeep is like Google Alerts for Twitter, and it’s awesome (when it’s working). I use the free version, but because it works intermittently, I also subscribe to mentions through “saved searches” feature in Twitter. You can also subscribe by RSS to any Twitter search, so they appear in your feed reader.
Some Twitter clients like Hootsuite allow you to to subscribe to any search term:
For real reputation management analytics, you’ll want a tool that can extract insights from this data, such as trend graphs and measure of influence, like Trackur.
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7. Social analytics
In addition to just listening to what people are saying about you through the Web and social media, monitoring the traction your social media attracts is important. This means tracking engagement in your on-site forums, Facebook Pages, Twitter streams (follows, unfollows, retweets) and so on.
The Radian6 platform can even import web analytics and CRM data so you can track back ROI to campaigns and social activities, or capture conversations and social media profiles and tie them to customer accounts.
8. Eye Tracking
For $49 per test, Gazehawk will show your URL to real users and track their eye movements with webcams (which is why the pricing is so reasonable compared to fancy equipment lab testing).
The big bang you get from eye tracking data is the ability to see what people look at (eye fixations), and compare it across test versions of your site. While you can run A/B tests and measure home page bounce rate and clicks on certain links and features, eye tracking heatmaps show you what parts of the design got the most attention, and how behavior may change according to design.
See how ads on Virgin Megastore changed the way visitors “saw” the entire site. The bold red sale banner actually resulted in more navigation menu attention, while a green banner attracted more fixations on itself.
Photo credit: Etre
Combine eye tracking tests with A/B or multivariate tests and you’ll be able to answer more questions on “why” you got certain results than simply taking quantitative data and trying to explain it. (E.g. cart abandonment high because customers aren’t “seeing” the guest checkout option).
9. Click tracking
Click tracking heat maps are another way to visualize the effectiveness of your design, but rather than eye fixations – you got it – you’re looking at mouse movements and clicks. (According to Click Tale, independent research shows that there is an 84% to 88% correlation between mouse and eye movements).
For example, one of the biggest downsides of Google’s tool is if you have multiple links to a URL on a page (say, top navigation and a merchandising zone), it will combine and display clicks from both links – you’re not sure which link is used more. You can workaround this with URL parameters like “top_nav” or “hp_banner,” but keep in mind that can complicate your web analytics, as each URL will report its own stats.
Another benefit of click heat maps is you can see what a customer clicks on, even when it’s not clickable. You may discover un-linked images get a lot of clicks, which can frustrate users who think your site is not working. For example, a software company that posts screen shots that include call to action buttons. The image, of course, is not clickable – but calls to action in the screen shot may get more traction than the landing page’s!
Similar to click tracking is mouse tracking, which shows you where and how long users hover. This is helpful to determine whether customers use your tooltips, AJAX goodies, and other unclickable content. (A longer hover may indicate the customer is actually reading your content.)
If you’ve invested in a mobile site or app, mobile analytics can’t be ignored. Your traditional desktop analytics tool most likely reports mobile stats, but that data can’t completely be trusted. There are several problems with traditional analytics for mobile:
- Cookies are often deleted after mobile browser closed or when phone turned off
- Unique visitors ID come from the carrier’s gateway, which under-represents unique visitors, and mis-reports locations (all your Nokia visitors coming from overseas, for example)
- Not all devices (especially older ones) are supported by desktop analytics tools
- Some (like Google Analytics) use sampled data, which isn’t 100% accurate
- Mobile apps have unique metrics that desktop analytics won’t report
For businesses whose mobile apps are the product (think of mobile versions of software like Microsoft’s Documents to Go and Documents to Go Premium), mobile analytics that show conversion rates for free trial to paid upgrades, upgrade revenue, time from free trial download to upgrade and uninstalls is extremely important. Traditional analytics can’t handle these emerging metric requirements.
11. Competitive Intelligence
CI is perhaps the toughest to attain, but there are tools out there that can attempt to answer the question of how you stack up to the competition in traffic, sales, conversions, growth, search ranking, search popularity and so on.
A few freebies exist from Google, of course. Google Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik has described the virtues of Google Insights for Search, Google Trends for Websites and Google Analytics Benchmarking on his blog.
Hitwise and Compete provide in-depth data which many can’t afford. Another tool to consider is Beencounter which tracks what percent of your visitors have also visited your competitors’ sites (or any other sites you’d like to track). This information has applications in advertising planning and web personalization.
More important than data…
This list of data types may overwhelm you, especially if you’re struggling just to get good at traditional web analytics as an organization. As many wise have said, tools should make up 10% of your analytics budget – people should make up 90%. Remember that to the degree you expand your analytics horizons is the degree you need more good analysts on your team.