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Kelly: Analytics helps understand audience, drive views

February 14, 2011

By Rosie Githinji

Knowing how to use analytics to understand an audience is a helpful tool to in driving up hits and views on a website.

Tim Kelly, from the Wisconsin State Journal, said knowing who is viewing your website and knowing what those numbers mean will help make a website better and more involved for the user.

Anything can be measured, from page views to how long people are staying on a site, but it is important to know what should be measured.

Knowledge of how well a website meets the needs and expectations of the readers helps make the level of engagement with any website a better experience for the user.

Kelly said there are a number of things to look at, including: search key words, the number of hits a website receives, referrals from other sites and interactions with specific features on a site.

There are a number of ways to collect this data. Google, Omniture and Hitwise are a few tools that can help measure numbers for a website.

Data collectors should not to rely only on these sites because they are not completely accurate. For example, if a user deletes a cookie from their computer the numbers are not a complete measurement of use and many site analytics rely on cookies to collect data.

It is hard to measure the value of page views because it does not give data about how people interact with the site, Kelly said.

“Publishers love page views. It’s just like looking at circulation,” Kelly said. “But page views are not necessarily an accurate measure.”

When looking at page views, Kelly said to take in to consideration the number of times people visit on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Another way to measure how well a website is connecting to users is how readers find the website. They can go directly to the site, be routed there by a search engine or be referred from another site.

Kelly said there are some features that should be tracked: if people are finding what they are looking for, how many visits and how often a website is visited.

Interaction on a page may help keep users there longer. Comments, polls or forums can keep people engaged in a site, Kelly said.

Branding a site will bring traffic to a site, as well as being involved with social networks such as Facebook or Twitter.

Kelly said you cannot measure something that is not there. If a website does not offer certain features, such as video, it is hard to know if that would help bring in site traffic.

Metrics is only part of data collection, according to Kelly. He said use of polls or surveys will help with data collection on site usage.

He said to always ask why something is; knowing what priorities are for production and what is next can make a website better.

Decisions should be based on meaningful data. Finding a pattern, avoiding assumptions in rising or falling numbers and figuring out “why” will make data collection useful.


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