Getting the Most Out of Web Analytics With a CMS By Rob Rose
For most modern organizations, the Web site is now much more than just the company's online face. It can be brand builder, revenue generator, customer service point, and so much more. Getting the site up is only the beginning; the business has to then understand if the target audience is getting the information it needs, examine the benefits delivered to customers on literally every page, and use all the gathered information to continuously improve the experience for endusers. This is why Web analytics is so important. Today's enterprises compete in a dynamic market: every investment in the online presence has to be justified. Studying and understanding user behavior will allow organizations to continuously streamline their online space, take quick business decisions and, in the long term, justify the costs incurred. As Web analytics are being increasingly integrated with Content Management Systems (CMS), cutting-edge businesses now have the opportunity to simplify and rationalize the process end-to-end - all the way from content creation and publishing to tracking and analytics. Web Analytics: Quick Definitions There is so much data that can be gathered from a Web site. With every visit, visitors or customers allow you to study their browsing patterns; you can also monitor traffic, transactions, usability and even aspects like server performance. Web analytics help collect, compile and review all this data, thus providing Web managers with a crucial tool to ensure the effectiveness of the enterprise Web site and monitor conversions almost continuously. Web-based analytics typically consist of standardized analytic tool boxes through which users' can generate and view reports through a desktop or web browser. The data generated can be analyzed, graphically displayed and delivered to product development, manufacturing and senior executives who can make adjustments in real time as appropriate. So, Is It Really Simple? According to Eric T. Peterson from Web Analytics Demystified "Web analytics is complex enough that companies hoping to better understand their Web sites using this technology must be committed to working for success. Web analytics is not magic, the applications are often difficult to use and desire will never replace a demonstrated effort to learn and use Web analytics tools."
According to Peterson, there is also the need for committed and dedicated staff for Web analytics to deliver on the ROI promise. Finding resources with the right experience is also harder than it looks; most Web analytics professionals did not come by their knowledge from a university course - they have probably acquired it from a wide variety of online and offline publications, and simply from time spent doing the work. Usage According to a usage survey conducted by Web Analytics Demystified in 2007, a whopping 57% of small companies (500 employees or less) were using Web analytics tools; the midsize accounted for about 20%, and very large companies (5000 or more employees) made up the remaining 23%. The study also found that 36% of companies had begun to use analytics for tactical and strategic decisions, 26% used it for general guidance, and only 8% were unsure about how to integrate Web analytics into their decision-making processes. Where the CMS Comes In To make analytics really work, it seems clear that a dedicated team is a necessity. But for most growing businesses, already stretched in terms of resources, this is very rarely possible. Many of them grapple with an even more basic challenge - managing the corporate Web site. How can a resource-starved organization ensure, for example • That Web updates happen on time, every time? • That customers find the right information quickly and easily? • Those marketers can quickly repurpose or reuse content without worrying about design and formatting? • That subject matter experts can maintain different site sections with ease, even if they are based at different locations? This is where the Web CMS comes in. With the right content management solution, non-technical personnel - like your marketing staff - can actively participate in managing, updating and reusing content without having to rely on your html experts. With central management, templates and intelligent workflow automation, the CMS can also boost content quality by ensuring that it passes through several approval mechanisms before publishing. Web CMS has also come of age over the past few years. Apart from allowing content creators to create and publish content as well as easily manage aspects like navigation, page layout and links, CMSs also help maintain brand values across the site, ensuring that visitors have a consistent, professional experience. Now we come to the crux: centralized control also means you can effectively measure the success of your online initiatives. Think about it - you can create a
marketing campaign with a CMS, launch it using email marketing software and use a Web analytics tool to measure results - and if the Web analytics is integrated with the CMS, you have a veritable closed-loop marketing system that can continuously improve itself: all without the need of dedicated technical personnel. CMS and Analytics: A Winning Combination When the CMS is integrated with Web analytics, a 360-degree view of user behavior is fairly simple to generate. You can have visibility into where visitors clicked, what they searched for, understand drop-off points (and the reasons thereof), what calls to action worked and what didn't, where navigation seemed to be an issue, and so on. All of this data is meaningless if not immediately actionable - and that's where an easy-to-use CMS can make a real difference. Based on this data, it can help your online marketers quickly reconfigure, repurpose, or even redesign sections of the site to raise effectiveness levels. What's more, there is constant feedback from the tools, allowing your teams to quickly understand what changes are beneficial. If the CMS offers flexible workflows, you can even have the CMS update your Web site based on pre-determined metrics - for example, you could automatically retire a page after it receives a certain number of views, or automatically promote a popular article to the home page. To use another example - your existing CRM system can deliver customized newsletters or offers to subscribers who have indicated their preferences; the Web analytics tool provides the intelligence here, and the CMS helps repurpose content and launch it via a medium that is well suited to the subscriber. It is easy to see how marketing campaigns can be improved on-the-go with such a solution in place. Web CMS offered Software-as-a-Service (SaaS; also called a 'Hosted' solution) offers further advantages with the fact that there is no hardware to buy and no software to install - all you need to do is rent the software from a service provider for a fixed monthly or quarterly subscription fee. The vendor then assumes responsibility for managing, maintaining and upgrading the software. Such a CMS is usually deployed very rapidly, ensuring that your Web site is aligned with business objectives in the shortest time possible. What's even more attractive is that SaaS vendors like CrownPeak take the onus of integrating the CMS with your proprietary tools and third-party software - such as a Web analytics solution you may have already invested in. Success Guaranteed? With the growing emphasis on analytics, reports churned out of the analytic logs are used to determine the success of the Web site. However it is important to be
note that Web site hits and page views are not essentially conversions; it is essential for companies to track trends regarding conversions before determining the success of their site. Eventually, there is also nothing to replace quality content; the CMS and Web analytics, working together, can only help make life easier for your content creators and marketers to focus on their core competencies. Conclusion
To ensure that a company gets the most out of the integrated Web analyticsCMS approach, it is important that the right CMS be adopted; and this can be a tough choice considering the number of options available. Traditional CMS typically calls for a larger investment in infrastructure, software and labor. In an effort to reduce costs and get quality service, more and more companies are opting for hosted or SaaS CMS. Leading hosted CMS vendors have also tied up with analytics providers to offer best-of-breed pre-integrated CMS solutions. With e-commerce and online marketing growing, companies are increasingly witnessing a need to use their analytics tools as part of content management. It is here that the challenge lies in choosing a good integrated solution - one that is easy to use, provides the maximum number of features and delivers on the promise of good ROI.