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Web Analytics, Demystified

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Measurement is a crucial part of a successful search marketing campaign, but understanding and using web analytics tools can be daunting. A new book demystifies the process, showing you how to implement your own effective measurement strategies.

There's no question that understanding user behavior can help you improve the performance of your search marketing campaign. What kinds of ads are people clicking? What pages are people choosing from organic search results? And what are people doing once they land on your site?

Virtually all web hosting services provide rudimentary analytics that can help you begin to understand what users are doing on your site. And Yahoo, Google and other providers of search ads also offer tools that let you test and refine your search advertising campaigns.

But the real power comes when you begin to use multiple sources of web analytics, blending and extracting information that answers more precise questions and helps you formulate more sophisticated search marketing strategies.

And that's the rub: While web analytic and measurement tools are very powerful, they all do different things, and all require a certain investment in time and money to get the most out of them.

Web Site Measurement Hacks, a new book by Jupiter Research analyst Eric T. Peterson, is a terrific introduction and overview of web measurement and analytics. It's also a comprehensive guide to all kinds of web measurement activities, making it a useful book for both novice and sophisticated search marketers.

Like all of O'Reilly's Hacks books, Web Site Measurement Hacks is organized into 100 "hacks," each offering both an overview of a specific topic as well as some kind of action step, such as a piece of code you can use to measure what's happening on your own web site.

This structure makes it easy to jump directly to a particular topic and immediately begin using a tool or technique. But the book also flows extremely well from beginning to end. If you're new to web measurement, you'll want to start at the beginning and absorb everything the book has to offer.

The book isn't just about tools and techniques. By its nature, web measurement can be controversial, since it's measuring the behavior of your visitors, who obviously have privacy concerns. Peterson doesn't shy away from these issues: He not only shows how to use various kinds of cookies, web bugs and other tracking techniques, but also offers thoughtful discussion over the pros and cons when it comes to the balance between measuring behavior and respecting user concerns.

The book starts off with web measurement basics and techniques for implementing and setting up your own initial web measurement system. One nice touch is coverage of many different kinds of tools in the examples. There are dozens of tools available, and in this respect the book serves as a virtual sampler for many of the applications that are available.

Next, the book dives deeply into online marketing measurement and web site usability issues. These are often opposite sides of the same coin, and yet many web marketers often treat them separately—a mistake, in many cases. What do you want to measure? Why? Is a usability problem on your site confounding the measurements you're trying to make? All of these questions are addressed, with tools provided to help precisely focus your efforts.

One chapter focuses exclusively on online retail activities. If you operate an online storefront, this chapter alone is worth the price of the book. Even if you're involved in some other area of search marketing, understanding what's going on in the online retail space can help you improve and refine your own efforts.

The final chapter is dedicated to reporting strategies and key performance indicators. Most web measurement vendors offer fancy user interfaces, reports and charts, but sometimes these miss the mark. This chapter shows you how to tweak data to fit your own needs.

Web Site Measurement Hacks is an excellent book, written in an accessible, yet authoritative style. If you're doing search marketing but aren't doing much with measurement, buy this book immediately. And if you already are gaining insights from web analytics and measurement tools, the book will likely offer a number of new insights, techniques or tools that will help you get even more out of your search marketing campaign.

Web Site Measurement Hacks
by Eric T. Peterson
O'Reilly - $24.95
ISBN 0-596-00988-7

Eric's Web Analytics Demystified site is also worth a look.

Ringing in Holiday Sales Through Savvy Paid Search Campaigns

On Thursday Nov. 3, I'll be doing a webcast with Lisa Wehr, CEO of Oneupweb, talking about strategies and tactics for getting the most from your search advertising efforts during the upcoming holiday season. Online shopping revenues are expected to grow by 25% this holiday season, and now's the time to start implementing your own search marketing campaigns to take advantage of this growth.

Some of the things I'll be touching on during the webcast include he most popular online shopping search services, what types of searchers buy the most, and how to persuade reluctant searchers to buy. Lisa will be discussing paid search strategies and best practices for holiday campaigns.

The webcast is at 2pm eastern Thursday, and is free with registration. For more information, visit the webcast description page.

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The Original Search Marketing Event is Back!
SES AtlantaSES Denver (Oct 16) offers an intense day of learning all the critical aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC). The mission of SES remains the same as it did from the start - to help you master being found on search engines. Early Bird rates available through Sept 12. Register today!

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