Getting to Know your Visitors

The total amount of users that reach a specific site is commonly referred to as web traffic. To an online store it represents the influx of potential buyers in the same way that the number of visitors to a real store do.

Traffic volume reports discern how popular a site really is. They provide additional information regarding which days of the week receive more audience, to what degree seasons influence in the amount of visitors and how traffic varies through time. In a way, traffic to a site is an indicator of interest; by determining the amount of traffic visiting an official movie site it is possible to measure the interest in a yet-to-be-released motion picture.

The type of visitors that enter a regular shop varies in many ways: depending on origin, visit duration, new or returning visitor, reason for the visit, etc. Keeping track of this in a regular store is extremely difficult. Imagine if a shop could easily understand what every customer has been looking for without having to worry about writing it down every time a new client asks a question or even determine the amount of time every single one of its customers spends inside the shop! Benefits driven from this information would be endless, leading to higher sale resolutions. The Internet allows gathering this information in an easier way.

Users will reach a webpage directly or indirectly. A user that arrives to a site directly, types in the address into the browser’s navigation box. This type of user is generally either a returning visitor or a user who has recently heard about the site and is now checking it out for the first time. User’s that land on a site by clicking on a link to it or by using a search engine are generally new visitors that have found the site thanks to the results of a search query or by another site’s referral. These users are said to be reaching the site indirectly. Knowing how people reach a site is essential to understand how visitors are actually discovering it, and therefore, conducting better marketing campaigns that will improve promotion efforts and domain name awareness.

Direct incoming users to a site increase as the webpage becomes more and more popular over time. Sites with good content, or more specifically content that many people would consider interesting and worth the time seeing, typically experience a rapid growth of direct visitors thanks to the power of word of mouth recommendations.

Remote marketing campaigns that advertise a website also contribute to boost direct web traffic (e.g. TV commercials – especially those that have a call to action to a resource on the Internet, like an online contest, continuation of the commercial, etc). When advertising a site offline it is advisable to show the URL instead of giving keywords. In the mid-90s many ads included search engine keywords (e.g. the famous Yahoo! Keywords) to invite people to find their site by doing a query in a search engine. This practice has proven to be very risky, since often it is difficult to ensure that the advertised site will be in the first position of the results delivered by any search engine. Competitors or other unwanted sites (i.e. those hosting negative product reviews or damaging the brand) could steal potential traffic.

While a site becomes more popular, it also increases the amount of pages linking to it which leads to higher ranking in search engines, causing a boost in indirect traffic. Visitors that land on a site coming from another page or that come from a search engine provide valuable information about which external pages send the most amount of traffic and which words are people generally using to find the site. Therefore, providing insight on what drives traffic to the webpage. This is a key element to measure the efficiency of SEO efforts. Moreover, it is easy to estimate the efficiency of an email campaign by analyzing the number of visits that come from a web email service.

In addition to the source, visitors automatically provide the following information every time they visit a website: location, language, interests, browser profile, loyalty and connection speed.

Location is obtained based on the IP address. For many businesses, relevance varies by geographical region (e.g. a snow blower will always be more popular in Sweden than in Spain). Therefore, analyzing which regions send more traffic to a site not only contributes to conduct better marketing campaigns by orienting them to these areas (e.g. an ad for snow blowers should be conducted to regions that get snow), but also prevents from missing out on potential revenue by discovering markets that were never even considered before. Understanding where customers come from facilitates successful expansion. In fact, many retailers commonly ask their customers for their zip code at the time of checkout in order to determine new regions to expand to.

Knowing which languages are understood by visitors is crucial to determine the need for further content adaptation and adjust marketing efforts.

User’s interests are calculated based on the duration of the visit, pages visited, time spent per page, terms searched in an existing internal search engine and internal/external links followed. By combining this data it is possible to determine which content is more popular, what do users aim at and what exactly do they look for once they land on the site. Furthermore, visits from search engines provide additional insight into visitor’s behavior. The referral page, generated by the search engine, typically contains the keyword or keywords used in the query, which provides valuable information concerning what users seek for prior to entering the site.

Websites, especially online shops, can optimize layout and content accordingly to reduce bounce rate and increase conversions. It is especially important to analyze which page is generally the last one visited, also known as the exit page, to understand what could be causing guests to leave the site. The goal is to push the conversion page into being the exit page to as many visitors as possible. The conversion page is defined as the page that generates revenue by converting visitors into customers (e.g. the receipt page after a check out gateway or a form landing page that shows a thank you message after users have filled out a contact form). Additionally, the first page seen by a visitor is known as the landing page. With this information in mind, web administrators can optimize their sites to translate as many prospects as possible into actual customers.

Other indicators are the name and version of the browser, operating system, screen color, screen resolution, Java support and Flash version. Nowadays this information is not very useful since most computers and devices are capable of displaying most of the content found on the Internet. However, consider visitors from an iPhone or iPad: they are not able to render Flash. Sites receiving large amounts of traffic from these devices might want to consider changing their Flash for compatible content.

Users can be tracked to determine whether they are returning to the site or they are new visitors. Tracking can be done in two ways: by using cookies or per unique IP address. Cookies are small files sent to users to identify their browsers uniquely and represent the tracking method generally used. Loyalty is a very important factor due to the fact that the majority of orders are done by returning visitors. The reason behind this phenomenon is that customers will usually leave the site to compare and return ready to buy or will simply come back after some time because they were so pleased with a previous experience that they are returning to buy again.

Statistics about speed connectivity could be useful to find out ways of improving customer satisfaction by reducing a site’s loading time.

Install a good analytics tool such as Google Analytics to track your visitor's behavior! 

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