Measure it! Five ways to use your Web site analytics

1. To measure your clearly defined marketing goals. Before you start building your site, you need to define what exactly you're expecting it to do for you. Make sure you identify clear and realistic brand and business goals so that you have numbers to optimize against after you go live. These goals can be simple (overall visitors, time spent on a part of your site) or more complex (increase brand recognition, client education about a specific topic). They are easily tied to behavioral actions on the Web site and can be measured as such.

2. To assess your search engine positioning. This is the easy one and probably the most familiar use of analytics. You can easily see the search terms for which visitors are finding your Web site. If you dig a little deeper, you can follow which keywords lead to behavioral events like filling out your contact form or requesting an online demo of your product. You can also see if certain phrases lead to people spending more or less time on your site (indicative of whether those terms relate directly to what you're offering).

3. To make your site more user-friendly and navigable. Looking how how your visitors find you is important, but you can also use analytics to find out what they do once they get there. If they're going straight to the FAQ, you know you need to step up your content to start answering questions right off the bat. If they are going directly from your homepage to your products page but then are detouring through your blog, you might want to figure out why they aren't getting to the shopping cart.

4. To track bandwidth usage and bad links. Your analytics can help you find out what functions and pages on your site are bandwidth hogs and where visitors are encountering bad links so that you can make internal improvements. Now that Google officially uses site performance as a ranking factor, making your site faster is more important than ever. Bad links on your site are an instant "see ya later" to your visitors as they rarely click back to find what they were looking for, so use your analytics to get those fixed.

5. To plan your marketing campaigns. If you knew that all of your potential customers are at their computers at 1:30 pm every Tuesday, you'd likely want to send them your eblast at that time, right? Or if people from Buffalo, New York tend to buy 3 more widgets from your site than any other purchasers, you'd want to spend a little more on PPC campaigns targeted to that region. Your website analytics can help you see where your visitors are from and when they're online so that you can target your campaigns demographically, geographically and by time of day.

If you're lost when you log in to Google analytics or don't even know if you've got them set up on your site, call your web team (or give us a shout) and they'll get you up and running. Decisions are best made based on actual data, and analytics are a free and easy way to make informed decisions about your website.

Let's face it. A well-designed, thoughtful Web site isn't cheap. It's an investment in your brand, your business and your self. It's a leap of faith.

It's also your best salesperson and the first impression a lot - if not most - of your clients have with your company. Web site analytics are a way for you to hold your site accountable the way you would any other member of your sales team.

The beauty of the Web as a marketing tool is that almost everything is trackable. Measurable. Countable. You can use Google analytics, for free, or pay services such as Omniture or WebTrends.

Here are five easy ways to use those Web site analytics (after the jump):

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