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A beginner's guide to web statistics

Any small business that has invested in a website should know the number of people visiting their site. A website, for many businesses, is also a ‘shop front’. You need to know whether you have enough customers visiting your ‘shop’. If you don’t, you need to make improvements to your website quickly. In this article we take a look at the key information that you need to be gathering about your website to ensure you’re getting the most out of it.

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Any small business that has invested in a website should know the number of people visiting their site. A website, for many businesses, is also a 'shop front'. You need to know whether you have enough customers visiting your 'shop'. If you don't, you need to make improvements to your website quickly. In this article we take a look at the key information that you need to be gathering about your website to ensure you're getting the most out of it. As with any business investment, a website needs to perform. By regularly monitoring activity on your website, you will be able to make changes to your website that will, in turn, generate more money for your business by attracting more customers. Tools to assist you in this monitoring can be inexpensive or free, although top-of-the-range tools can be expensive. What are web statistics? Every time you browse the web you may visit a number of websites. Some of these may be your favourites, others you may come across using a search engine. Each time you visit an individual website a record is kept by that site that it has received a visitor. This data is normally accumulated in a log file which, in turn, can be examined to see how many people have visited that particular website each day. Lies, damn lies and web statistics You may hear of websites boasting of the thousands of visitors they receive each hour. That may be the case, but in understanding how to measure the success of your small business site you need to understand some of the pitfalls and misleading statements that are around. Many sites will quote the number of hits they receive each day or week. Hits are recorded in the computer log file we mentioned earlier. The problem is that a web page will often comprise lots of images and other files all of which count as a hit when a visitor visits a web page. One user can be responsible for tens of hits! Relying on hits alone will mislead you about the success of your site. Whilst a set of hit-based data accrued over time may be useful for trend spotting, in isolation it will give you a false sense of success. In small business we need to be honest with ourselves. You may also hear of other metrics such as the number of sessions, unique visitors, repeat visitors, new visitors and impressions. Most small businesses should not need to bother about the different type of web statistics and instead focus on the page view which is a more realistic measure as it will reflect the pages seen by users. Gathering web statistics There are a number of tools, add-ons and products that can help collect visitor data for your website, and a basic stats package usually comes with your website hosting. You could also choose to invest in a paid for package, but all a business owner really needs is included in free web-based packages like Google Analytics. Social media statistics can be a bit harder to come by for free, but they do exist if you don't mind piecing together the information yourself. The majority of these services will expect you to have access to have access to the individual files that make up your website, or your social media accounts for social analytics. They may require you to paste some programming code into specific pages on your website, which your web developer should be able to do if you don't have access.

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