There are several free web analytics applications available for download. The best known is Google Analytics, but others include Yahoo! Web Analytics, Piwik and Snoop, and most are easy to install.
However, as with other business applications, this is only the beginning of the story. Making best use of web analytics requires the investment of time and resources.
The web analytics application will collect raw data, but the metrics will need to be tailored to meet the business and website objectives, and this requires some specialist knowledge. Expertise is also needed to interpret the information so that it can be used properly.
Managing your own analytics
The most important requirements for successful management of web analytics are:
- co-operation and active support of senior management, including finance, marketing and IT
- a dedicated team to design, implement and own the project, possibly including additional staff or freelance resources
- establishment of key metrics, based on business, marketing and website objectives – these may need to be augmented or adapted over time
- written procedures for the entire process, so that all stakeholders understand and buy into the project – these will cover implementation, management, development, administration and presentation of results
- short- and long-term performance indicators, together with processes for making changes to marketing and website content to improve site performance and return on investment
What about using an agency?
The question of whether a business manages its own analytics or uses a specialist agency depends on the size of the business and its website, the objectives for the site and the available resources.
It’s important to remember that using an outside agency will still require time, energy and resources by senior management in order to maximise the benefits of the investment.
However, a specialist agency can bring expertise in data analysis and setting metrics, which can have a huge effect on how useful the data is to your business.
Remember that there’s no point carrying out a web analytics project at all if it doesn’t deliver solid, usable business knowledge, leading to real results.