The Conversion Chronicles, resources for improving your online conversion rates

Do you find choosing a web site analytics tool for your business a bit like digging a hole with a hammer?

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Have you ever tried using a hammer to dig a hole? Or a shovel to pull out a nail? If you have, you´ll know why it´s so important to use exactly the right tool for the job. And what´s true for carpenters or gardeners is equally true for web-based businesses.

People often ask me to recommend web site analytics systems. But here´s the catch: There´s more than one ´right´ answer. It depends on who you are your specifics and the size of the job you need to do.

At the moment, we recommend two tools, IRIS metrics and HBX. Which should you choose? Let me explain´..

Why these two tools?

tools are what are known as ASPs meaning that they are hosted by a 3rd party. The good thing about using a 3rd party is that you don´t have to install software or be very clever to get the thing to work. It´s all done for you. You just need to add a bit of code to your web pages, upload a script to your web server and you´re ready to start tracking.

Another good thing about this way of tracking is that it measures people using a web browser. This means you have no problems with proxy servers and all that stuff. Yes, you still have to worry about people deleting cookies. But, remember: 100% accuracy is never possible and trends are more important than exact numbers.

Regardless of whether you´re in the big company or the smaller one, lots of you tell me that you´re overwhelmed by information when you start tracking your site.

Let´s take tracking an online e-zine as an example

Let's assume you allow other websites to re-print your e-zine articles as a way to generate traffic to your own website. A tool like IRIS will allow you to see which partner websites to concentrate on, and which give you the best conversion. This is because you will be able to see the referring URL's that drives the visitor and see how many conversions come from each.

You'll also be able to see how many people come from your email campaign every month and what they do on your website by setting up and tracking a campaign. This can allow you to plan the campaigns with a specific target in mind and allow you to begin working out measurable goals and objectives.

You could use IRIS to find out how many individuals have looked at your pages. While you´re at it you could find out how your paid search engine campaigns (PPC) are doing. Or work out how search engine optimization (SEO) is driving traffic in comparison to the partners re-printing your articles. More importantly you can find out how well the traffic across all the campaigns convert. This is all useful information you can act upon.

Define your own requirements and figure out what you need to track.

Tracking campaigns is not always enough though

Of course those of you who work in large companies will know that there are different business needs. You want more security, more support people and better integration than something like IRIS can offer.

IRIS is a great tool but HBX comes with the big business mentality. It is backed-up by a public company, (who w on´t be bought out by one of your competitors), has support throughout all the time zones, great references (Nokia, Sony, Disney) and answers the needs of the enterprise company.

Ok so is it HBX for the big guys only?

I have recommended HBX to companies in the small-to-medium-business sector who have bigger audiences. For instance, one e-commerce company in the UK selling golfing equipment drives about 400,000 unique visitors a month to their site right now.

While IRIS might also have shown them a lot of the same things on a campaign level it would not have been as scalable. This company can make an awful lot of revenue by a 1% overall increase in conversion and later on they might want to do all sorts of things that couldn´t be done with IRIS. I also believe that HBX system produces more relevant reports for the higher traffic sites.

Relevant reports and relevant user interfaces

HBX is focused on making the system easy for large enterprises to use. For instance you can use different dashboards showing reports to different departments like marketing, sales and support.

It means when you login you only see what is important to you rather than a general report summary.

As an example, imagine that you work in marketing and want to see the results of a campaign. You might need the conversion comparison reports or the visitor entry pages to see how effective your campaigns were.

Now imagine you worked as a programmer and needed to know the screen resolutions or top operating systems. Both workers would login to the same interface and see the reports they wanted to see as they logged in, not just a standard summary. This means that the interface caters for the individual working in a big enterprise.

How the enterprise could track the e-zine with HBX

If you were running an E-zine with HBX as your tool you could for instance integrate subscriber ID's from your customer relationship management (CRM) system. By tracking those people you could build a picture of what they want and do some serious 1-1 marketing.

If for example the e-zine you published had a link to information about a product and you found that 4000 of your visitors clicked through but didn't buy, by referring back to your integrated CRM system you could email those 4000 visitors and offer them a discount or free bonus. This then drives those people back to the site with an added incentive to buy from you.

In Summary

The system you need depends on your goals and your budget.

Both systems are comparable in basic level reporting, though I´d say each has its own advantages even at that level. What both systems do is cater for a different business need and we recommend them as the need defines. Generally however both systems do have similarities;

- The do campaign level reporting (down to the keyword level)
- They measure general trends and statistics
- They have an easy-to-use interface

I´d recommend HBX if this describes your company:

- You use a CRM system that can be integrated with the website traffic
- You have different analytical requirements across your organization
- You have large numbers of visitors
- You require good back-up and support
- You have access to a big budget

On the other hand, I´d recommend IRIS, if this describes you:

- You need to figure out what individual users are doing when they arrive at your site
- You have a tight budget and require a comparatively low cost

You don´t have to use HBX or IRIS. You do need a web site analytics system though if you´re serious about improving conversion rates. You can pick others and there are lots of good ones. When consulting we ask businesses all about their needs and their organization rather than try to simply sell the tools. The tool is just that, the means to an end.

What you need to do is use the hammer for hammering and the spade for digging.
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Steve JacksonAuthor: Steve Jackson, Editor - Conversion Chronicles

Steve Jackson is the Editor of the Conversion Chronicles, a website conversion rate marketing newsletter dedicated to improving website conversion rates. In 2003 he co-founded Aboavista the first web analytics consultancy in Finland and now a wholly owned subsidiary of Satama Interactive. Satama Analytics unit is a web conversion and web analytics consultancy based in Finland with offices across northern europe. You can get a free copy of his e-book sent to you upon subscription to the Conversion Chronicles web site.