Maintaining a costly site without knowing if people are actually using it is not a smart business decision. This is why site usage statistics are needed. In the early 2000, this usually meant keeping track on how many views the page had with Web counter. But soon it was not enough – advertisers wanted to know more details about the site users in order to better target their ads, and so did the site owners (to better fit their content). This is where site Analytics requirement began.
Statistics & Analytics:
Statistics & Analytics are the next evolutionary step of the basic page views counter. It is divided into two parts:
Statistics: keeping detailed statistics about each visitor – date, time, location, language, device, browser, OS, screen size, search keywords, campaigns, viewed pages and more. Modern methods includes Click tracking, Heat maps, session replay.
Analytics: is analyzing all of that data by different methods like using segmentation (personas), path analyzing, goal tracking, and measuring campaign effectiveness.
And of course both the tracking and the analyzing need to happen in real time as much as possible.
Web analytics helps content creators know who their users are and help them adjust the content for them. It also helps advertiser to know site popularity and visitors personas.
Implementation: Today most of the sites use 3rd party analytics solution like Google Analytics, WebTrends, Piwik, and more, but there is a rise of more advanced CMS which comes with advanced analytics built-in like SiteCore (although they usually cost more).
For larger sites more advanced techniques are required in order to understand their usage and produce reports. This field is called Business Intelligence.
Business Intelligence (BI) comprises of the strategies and technologies used by enterprises for the data analysis of business information. BI technologies provide historical, current and predictive views of business operations. Common functions of business intelligence technologies include reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, data mining, complex event processing, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining, predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics.
Implementation: BI is an entire field which require full-time job, especially when facing OLAP and Big Data. Some (costly) options include IBM Cognos, Crystal Reports, SAP BusinessObjects, Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), Power BI, Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, Qlik, and Tableau Software.
But whatever product is used or how much data is gathered, just having a BI product doesn’t guarantee it’s usefulness. Usually smart and dedicated team is required in order to make sense of all the data. Watch the following lecture to get insight into this field:
Having a great site will not help if people can’t find it. In the old days that usually meant that your site had to appear in a Web directory like Yahoo! Directory. But as those index sites became larger, finding the right site was becoming very difficult. This led to the creation of search engine sites like Google, Google and also Google.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of tuning your site so it will appear in the first search results page of the relevant terms. The process of getting there, though, is not an exact science and there is an entire industry around it. Usually it involves making small changes to the site HTML in order to make it W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) compliant and some additional tweaks which are different among SEO companies. But since Google always modifies it’s search algorithm, reaching the first page in Google requires a never ending effort.
Implementation: Besides making sure HTML is valid and follow google SEO recommendation, SEO requires a couple more things like: meta title, meta description, keywords, canonical, validating site ownership, sitemap.xml, sitemap.html, robots.txt, security.txt, redirect, rewrite and many others. Adding them to the site can take considerable time and effort.
Social Media Optimization
While SEO is the art of making our site more friendly for search engines to discover, Social media optimization (SMO) helps your site to be more friendly for Social sites like Facebook and Google. Besides content and design guidelines, SMO requires some technical integration requirements.
Advertisement can come in two directions: Advertising your site, and advertising other sites.
- Display advertising: Display advertising is advertising on websites. It includes many different formats and contains items such as text, images, flash, video, and audio. Usually it is done with 3rd party Advertising_network like DoubleClick or Google AdWords.
- Search engine marketing: increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising.
- Native advertising: In-Feed Ad Units, Recommendation Widgets, Promoted Listings
- Referral marketing & Affiliate marketing
Implementation: Both directions require site support. Advertising other sites requires Web Banners or Related Content integration, and advertising your site in other places requires a way to capture and track all incoming traffic from all the above marketing campaigns efforts with something like Webtrends.
If SEO helped users find your site, offering them the ability to Search inside your site will help them find what they were looking for easier. And this is especially true in big sites with many pages or products. But this is where most sites are lacking. Implementing a full-text morphology search with synonyms requires a particulate set of skills and advanced engines (which usually costs a lot) like Microsoft SharePoint or ElasticSearch. This is why most sites only offer basic search (or no search at all), or use Google Site Search (although it is shutting down in April 2018). There are on-premise and cloud solutions, but implementing a proper search is one of the hardest thing to get right in a site.
Implementation: Search engines requires to support the following features (you can skip reading the list if you get the point): full text search, synonyms, multi-lingual dictionaries, wildcard search, fuzzy search, exact phrase search, proximity search, range search, term Boosting, boolean search, graph search, auto-complete, spell-checking, federated search, advanced search page, relevance ranking, find similar, hit highlighting, thumbnails and preview, document comparison, clustering, sort, multiple filters, refiners (values, aggs, hierarchical and range), search result tagging, personalization/audience targeting, saved search, saved alerts, saved rss feeds, mobile search, search statistics, search reports, search management portal, click scoring, standard based open interface, index capacity, indexing rate, query-processing speed, internal system integration, federated search. You can see the full list here.
As you can see from the list of required features, developing search engine is not something most companies can do and their only practical option is to use another product, which requires heavy CMS integration.
Today having a modern site is a part of any business marketing strategy, and acts as the company marketing focal point and one of the major sales revenues. During the last couple of years the important of the marketing aspect of the site has increased drastically and a new requirement risen: Real Time Site Personalization.
Site Personalization is a big game changer. Up until now we were used that sites serve the same content for all users (except personal data if we were logged in). But in order to increase site engagement, it turns out that delivering content based on the user “persona” or segmentation can help increasing the conversion rate. Real Time Site Personalization is similar to analytics, except it happens in real time, focused on a single visitor, and dynamically change the content the user see. Site Personalization techniques can include:
Implementing all those feature can take a lot of effort unless the CMS has support for them.
Multi-channel marketing helps keeping users engaged after they leave your site in the hope to get them to return.
Feeds and Newsletters are two ways the visitors can know about a site being updated without having to visit it every day.
Feeds (also called RSS) are a way site visitors can get notified when content in the site is updated, but without user needing to provide their email address (which many visitors avoid for privacy reason). Instead of them subscribing with their email, they just tell their browser (or any other feed app) to “listen” to that site feed URL. The feed client then periodically (or manually) checks if new content is available.
Implementation: Feed mechanism need to be tightly integrated into the CMS, since every new piece of content that is added to the site needs to be automatically show up in the feeds. Another common requirement is the ability to subscribe to specific feed topic, and for site owners to know how many are subscribed into a feed – which can be tracked by special services like FeedBurner. Sometimes a newer feed format, Atom, is used.
Newsletters, also called mailing lists, are weekly/monthly emails the site send to their users. Usually they contain updates on new content or products (or change notification) and are meant to connect site visitors to the brand.
Implementation: Since newsletters are sent via email they require the user subscribing with his email address to the site. Therefor the site need to offer newsletter registration functionality (sometime by topics) and a way for them to unsubscribe themselves (by law).
After user subscribed to the newsletter, the site need to create and send them the emails (once a week or month usually or special announcements). Systems that allow content editors to create and send email campaigns and manage subscription lists are usually too complex to fit in a site and are done by external CRM systems or specialized online SaaS services like CampaignMonitor, MailChimp, Salesforce Pardot, HubSpot and others (although some CRMs offer built in newsletter system like SiteCore). Those systems know how to manage subscribing list, create and send email campaigns, send emails without being flagged or blacklisted, deal with soft/hard bounce, keep track on opened emails and handle their links, provide users the ability to unsubscribe, and correlate and aggregate email & SMS campaigns statistics. Connecting the site to such systems usually falls into the developer hands.
Push Messages are a way to quickly send a simple message for a user or user groups without the investment of newsletters software. Besides SMS (and for a short time MMS) messages, newer techniques are now used like Push Notification (Apple Push Notification Service, Google Cloud Messaging, Twilio, Pushcrew) or with messaging apps like WhatsApp.
Sites are primary a marketing tool, and finding better ways to understand the site visitors while offering them better Customer Experience is one of the more important requirements sites can have. Analytics and Site Engagement tools have greatly evolved and increased in complexity in the 20 years, but their end goal is still the same – to measure and to increase Site Effectiveness.
In the next chapter we will learn about Legal & Ethical Consideration when designing a site.
Next part: Part 8 – Legal & Ethical Consideration