May 16, 2011
Life at Custwin, Website Analytics
Contrary to popular belief, our apprentice Tommy doesn’t spend all day crunching data and making cups of tea. Sometimes he takes the rubbish out too. This month he tells us about some of the more exciting work he’s been involved in …
Since the beginning of my time at Custwin, I have been doing administrative type jobs, mostly involving the analysis of data and websites. However, as of late I have been very much involved in the development of a new software system Custwin is building.
The system, which is speedily developing, is an online access system that lets companies view details of visitors that have been to company websites. It’s also designed to allow organisations (for example, web developers, business consultants, accountants) to analyse their client’s website visitors, and provide input on refinements that would be beneficial (and so encourage client loyalty).
The features of the system are very strongly customer focused (as you’d expect them to be), built from what we at Custwin feel would be useful and practical for companies. At its most simple level it shows a company which other companies/organisations have been visiting their website, what they typed, and how they moved through their website. Many similar systems exist, but not in the way that we’re creating.
Every week I use another programme which allows me to analyse visitors that have visited our client’s websites, and I am forever cursing the system because it doesn’t allow me to view something, or is unable to create something I need; and so, the programme we are creating will have features incorporated that will not only do the same as other systems, but will do more, and do it better.
Working through the developmental stages of the system has been a lot of fun, and through my experience of using existing systems, I am able to incorporate my ideas into the development and help to create new features that I feel will be highly beneficial and productive.
Our vision for the software is beginning to become real and all features are close to being finalised, with the usability of the software almost complete. As always, when creating a product that you want to sell, you need it to be at its best (I don’t know this through experience, but I do watch Dragon’s Den) and so there are on-going alterations that we need to address before we’re happy to launch it onto the market. However, we’re not too far off and it’s really exciting being part of something that could be bought by many thousands of companies throughout the UK and beyond.
March 22, 2011
Website Analytics, Website Development, Website Strategy
30 years ago I learnt about GIGO. It meant ‘Garbage In Garbage Out’ and it was a phrase used in my computer studies lessons at school. What it basically meant was that if you put garbage data into the computer then you’d get garbage out.
I consider myself lucky that I was one of the first batch of pupils to get hands on computers within the brave new world of computer studies within schools. I soon learnt that if you put enough effort into what you were doing on the computer then you’d get rewards. As an example, when I’d done something bad at school I was given a punishment of writing lines so I put extra effort into writing the computer programme that would generate my lines for me. It was a first in our school – punishment lines created by a computer programme, and I got away with it (whereas the next kid who copied my idea got double punishment for not being innovative). For me, the effort put into writing that programme correctly produced the right result out of the computer.
Fast forward 30 years and GIGO is more applicable than ever. The difference is that the situation is worse because ‘computers’ (read: websites in particular) make it extremely easy to put anything you want in and things may look fine to you. So, you create a page on your website – the computer thinks:
But in reality, what you’ve created is garbage from a human perspective. Let’s say that you’ve created a website page that gives details about your products or services, but you’ve not included any reference to costs. The computer (website) doesn’t tell you that you’ve put ‘garbage’ in (promoting products and services without giving an idea of costs is insanity) and the end result is garbage on display for all to see.
I laugh when I hear people say words to the effect of “my website is rubbish, it gains me no business”. I silently nod in agreement when I see the websites because the GIGO principle has been applied – people putting content into websites that they think is right but in reality it’s garbage from the perspective of the potential buyer who is looking at the website.
Is the word ‘Garbage’ too harsh? After all, most websites that underperform have had some effort put into them so it may seem a bit much to brand them as being ‘garbage’. I think that’s a fair word to use though because it’s quite strong and is basically saying “if your website isn’t getting you results then parts of it are probably being viewed as ‘garbage’ by your potential customers, which means that something is wrong”.
March 19, 2011
Tommy Dellar, who never wastes time on the computer of course, gives us some insights into one of the reasons why workplace productivity is not as it should be …
With the current climate of unemployment being so high in the UK, could it be that jobs are being wasted on people that are more focused on their own needs than those of the employers who pay them?
Custwin uses website statistics analysis software which enables us to identify organisations that have been visiting our clients’ websites; and whilst going through my weekly analysis of website visitors for clients, I often find that searches are being made by people within companies/organisations, that are clearly related to their personal needs. While every organisation will have an acceptable use policy (for personal use of the Internet), often limited to lunch breaks, there’s plenty of evidence that people bend those rules. For example, as can be seen below, someone working for Lloyds TSB has somehow managed to find the time to do some research into planning a holiday, whilst at work …
It may be that the person was on their lunch break, and just having a quick look at what offers are around, but who wastes their lunch break stuck in the office, when you can be out getting a fast food takeaway or some fresh air and having a quick smoke?
Holidays are just one example of what people are looking for at work. Our wide range of client industries show us several different types of website searches. To add a further example, every week I find visits from people within organisations searching for various types of insurance. Sometimes that’s genuinely linked to the employer needing insurance but often not. The screenshot below shows someone working at Buckinghamshire County Council has been doing their research on “family fleet car insurance companies”. …
I’m aware that the council supply many services, and help the public with a lot of issues within their area, but finding insurance for people was a service I didn’t know they supplied.
I don’t know if it’s just me being excessively passionate about what I do for work (I have to say that, my boss sees the blogs!), or if I’m just being a spoilsport, but when you’re at work, surely you’re meant to work? Taking that second example above, with the unemployment level getting higher, and the amount of pot holes, graffiti and general county issues the council have to deal with, surely the employees must have something to be getting on with that’s more beneficial to the county than searching for family fleet car insurance?
Those are just two small examples out of so much more we see every day in our work. While it’s beneficial for our clients to get those visits to their websites, from people searching online for their personal requirements, we wonder how much of an impact the totals of ‘lost productivity’ are having on the effectiveness of UK businesses and organisations.
March 12, 2011
Email Communications, Website Analytics
You produce an email newsletter and you send it out to your list of subscribers. Then what?
Hopefully you’ll have things set up so that you can identify the dates and times that subscribers have opened the email newsletter and when they’ve clicked through to more details on your website (if not, ask us how this can be done easily and cheaply).
But do you go any further than that? Take, for example, the screenshot below, which shows the interaction of just one subscriber to the last Custwin email newsletter sent out …
What the screenshot doesn’t show you is the name of the subscriber who clicked through to the website, via a particular link, at 14:52 on 28th February. This in itself isn’t that exciting because the person just looked at the one article. However, if you’re also running a strong system that allows you to dig deeper into website visitors, you get a bigger picture.
Each month, a week after the email newsletter has been sent out, we look at the website statistics to see whether any clicks in from the email newsletters have resulted in people looking at more than just the landing page. Doing this helped us to identify the person who came directly into the article page, and who then went on to look at other pages within the website …
While we expect the majority of people to do no more than click through on links from the email newsletters, it’s interesting when people go on to look at more within the Custwin website. Taking that screenshot above we can see that the person was mostly interested in what clients have to say about us. By taking that revealing website entry time of 14:52 we can cross reference to the statistics from the email newsletter sendout. This shows us that the person who clicked through on a link from our newsletter actually went on to look at other pages of the website. And best of all, we know who that person is.
So, we know the name of a newsletter subscriber who clicked through from a link in the newsletter and went on to look at certain pages of the website. If we’d looked at the newsletter sendout stats alone, that wouldn’t have told us enough. If we’d looked at the main website statistics data it also wouldn’t have told us enough. By combining the two together we get the full picture.
In this particular example, the implication is that the newsletter subscriber may possibly be in a position whereby they’re lacking in business (hence the initial interest in the newsletter article that discussed the challenges of getting a good Google ranking, followed by looking at the Custwin testimonials page as part of their website visit). We won’t actually directly do anything with that knowledge but when/if we’re next in contact with that subscriber we may have the opportunity to open up a discussion about how things are going in their business.
You’re probably thinking: “blimey, that’s a hell of a lot of effort isn’t it?” and yes, that’s a fair point. My argument would be that an email newsletter should aim to build trust in the company, with a view to gaining some business from that trust built over a period of time. Without fail we gain at least one new client every month, purely from building trust through our email newsletters – that makes it very profitable. Therefore, by better understanding how people interact with our email newsletters and website we put ourselves in a position where we understand our subscribers pretty well, out of which sometimes come opportunities.
So if you’re sending out email newsletters and aren’t already analysing not just those who click through from the newsletters, but how they then navigate further into your website, then you may be missing out on what could be useful knowledge and maybe even future clients.
January 27, 2011
Custwin do a lot of work with clients who want to know which companies are visiting their websites, what they typed, and what pages they looked at, and for how long. We’ve been doing this for several years, think it’s going to become more in demand from companies (who come to realise there’s more to life than just what Google Analytics can tell them), and in our view, it should be of fundamental importance to any company that sells business to business.
But the concept scares some people, while practically offending others. A common comment we hear is “blimey, that’s a big ‘big brother’ spying on website visitors like that isn’t it?”, usually followed by words to the effect of “I don’t think I’d like it if my company could be identified as having visited various websites”.
Well guess what people …. it’s an essential tool that any business should have in their armoury. There are two types of visitors to any company website:
- Those who make contact.
- Those who don’t make contact.
If website A has 1,000 visitors to it in a given month and 50 of those visitors interact in some way, then that’s a 5% success rate. The rest will be made up of visitors including the following:
1. Visitors who found the website for some reason but would never become business anyway.
2. Search engine robots.
4. People trying to sell you something.
5. People who would have considered what you offer but the website didn’t quite ‘do it’ for them, or they’re not yet ready to make contact.
Taking point 5 above, suppose website A had the ability to identify the names of companies that have visited the website, and end up with a list of, say, 100 companies that have visited, but haven’t made contact. That’s double the number of people who had made contact during the month. The owners of website A now have a choice:
1. Do nothing with that information.
2. Analyse the visitor paths of those identified as being visitors from particular companies, and take action accordingly.
‘Taking action’ can be either of the following:
1. Realising that companies are exiting from the website (because some factors aren’t strong enough) gives the opportunity to strengthen the website and therefore increase the potential for future visiting companies to make contact.
2. Make contact with people in those visiting companies (not always easy, depending on size of companies and the subject of the website), seeing if something can be salvaged from their visit.
If choosing to contact companies who have been identified as having visited your website then it may be a challenge to get through to the right person, and even then, the conversion rate won’t be huge, but some people will respond to that proactivity and even if they originally thought your website was lacking in some way, a dialogue could convert to business. You will, of course, get some people who are freaked out that you know they visited your website but you may have lost them as a potential client in the first place so what is there to lose by making contact?
Above all else, just to know which companies have been visiting your website should really be of interest because it could mean potential business has been lost for some reason. By knowing who those visiting companies were, and how they interacted with your website, can tell you a lot, which provides fuel for further action (usually involving making refinements to the website).
So, in answer to the question about whether identifying companies visiting websites is ‘Big Brother’, the answer is that yes, it may appear to be ‘Big Brother’ but it’s becoming more common practice, has huge benefits, and those who don’t pick up on such information will, over time, become at a disadvantage compared to those who fully understand how potential clients interact with their websites and are making ongoing refinements to increase the chances of conversion from visitors to enquirers.
December 18, 2010
Email Communications, Website Analytics
Hands up who’s never been emailed by a company from India, offering web development or SEO services? If you haven’t then you’re in one of the following categories:
- Your web visibility is so poor that you haven’t fallen within their radar.
- You’re dead.
According to the emails it’s much cheaper and more efficient to get web and SEO services from India. Yeah, right! I’ve spoken to a few people who tried it and had a nightmare (although I’m sure there are positives too).
This week things took an interesting turn – those pesky Indians are getting cleverer. I was looking through the webstats of a client and there was an email from a Jaime Jack who was from North Carolina, and they wanted to help my client with their SEO. They left a Gmail email address (that always raises suspicion of course) and no other contact details (website etc.).
I compared the enquiry form gained to the website statistics data for that time of that day and found that contrary to being from North Carolina, the visitor was from India. The typical visitor path of looking at a website for a few seconds, going to the contact page, and submitting an enquiry form. Usually the sender will have said that they’ve looked at the website in detail, which of course, is a lie.
The point of highlighting this is not pick on the Indians because boy, do they go out to try and get business! It’s to highlight that when you get enquiries and website visitors, not all is what it seems. Some people, weary of receiving Indian sales pitches, may be more responsive to something that appears to be more English/American, which I guess is what the intention was of that email enquiry (and the thousands more that would have been emailed out).
At Custwin we are big fans of using webstats analysis in a range of beneficial ways. In this case it’s helped to identify someone trying to masquerade as something they’re not.
December 8, 2010
Tommy Dellar joined Custwin as a Business Administration apprentice on 1st December. He will be contributing blogs from time to time, sharing his views on the work involved in a website consultancy from a fresh and new perspective, and evolving over time. Over to Tommy …
As many people may suspect, tea making duty is of course part of the job as an apprentice; although it isn’t the only duty I have been assigned within the first week of working with Custwin.
As an apprentice I am constantly learning how to use new programmes efficiently, gaining new skills and gaining a better understanding of what is actually involved in working within a website consultancy business.
For the first week of the apprenticeship I have been learning how to use an online programme called Webstat. The basis of the programme is to show details of visitors to a client’s website. Using Webstat we are able to determine the time and date of the visit and we also aim to identify how and why they visited the client’s website. We can also often see the name of the company who has visited the client website.
With the information we are able to gain from the Webstat programme, we can then identify important and useful information which will be of interest to each specific client. We do this by simply extracting the data from the Webstat system and then displaying it in a Word or Excel document, which then makes it easier to both analyse and understand. When analysing the data, we highlight all important information, and remove any data that is neither important or of any potential interest to the client, which therefore leaves just the important information.
Once the data has been carefully analysed, we are then able to add some comments, which helps the client understand the information further so that they can use the information. For example, we may identify that a certain company has visited their website and looked at certain pages, which may be information that they can capitalise on.
Although interrogating data for hours each day can be fairly gutsy, seeing the end result and the potential benefits for clients can be extremely rewarding, as well as the skills I’m gaining and improving. And the tea duty is a nice break away from the computer screen!
November 23, 2010
Over the years, talking with hundreds of companies, I’ve found that one particular comment is fairly common:
“We get hundreds/thousands of visitors to our website each month but a tiny percentage become business”
It’s strange to me that companies still consider that there’s value in comparing enquiry levels to overall website visitor numbers. Typically, it’s the people in higher management that get obsessed about overall visitors vs enquiry levels.
While there’s some credibility to the argument that higher numbers of visitors will naturally result in higher numbers of enquiries (after all, if a website has 1,000 visitors one month and gets 5 enquiries then by boosting their website traffic so that they get 2,000 visitors a month is likely to double their enquiries), it’s still a weak way to analyse how well a website is performing.
In a given time period, a website is likely to attract traffic that falls into the following categories:
- Genuine potential customers
- People wanting to sell something to the company
- Search engine bots
- People within the company
- People who have accidentally found the site via a search engine result but it wasn’t really what they were looking for
- People who have found the website via content (e.g. blogs) but wouldn’t be interested beyond looking at the free information.
Taking that list above, it’s not unfeasible that the majority of most website traffic comes from those who fit within categories 2-6.
So how do you find out what the real success rate is of your website?
It’s fair to say that it takes time. It involves using a good website statistics software package (ask us for advice on this if needed) that will enable you to filter down all website visitors to those who were potential customers. It’s not expensive to have the software (roughly £50 per year) but the cost is in the time to analyse what the software tells you.
So let’s say that you have 1,000 visitors to your website in a month and you’ve identified that 10 of those went on to become enquiries/business. That may look like a grim 1% success rate. If you then took those 1,000 visitors and analysed them (there are ways to do this easier than looking at every single visitor path) you discover that it was actually only 300 of the website visitors that were really potential customers, and all the others were ‘noise’. You then find that your 10 enquiries out of 300 was a healthier 3.3%
The end result of taking the focus away from overall website visitors and onto ‘real potential’ visitors is that you’re then armed with the true facts. It may still be the case that your website isn’t converting visitors to enquiries at the rate you would like but you at least have the true figures from which to base the website enhancements you can then make.
November 17, 2010
SEO, Website Analytics, Website Development, Website Strategy
Returning to my Hadrian’s Wall walk earlier this year, it’s possible to draw an analogy between the week of the walk and gaining success from websites.
During the 6 days of walking we stayed at several different guest houses/hotels and by the end of the week we had judged each of them in different ways. We judged them on the following criteria:
- Quality of the bedroom
- Quality of the breakfast
- Quality of service
- Quality of the shower (all-important after a hard day’s trekking!)
We came up with the following answers:
- Best bedroom – Denton Hall
- Best service – Saughy Rigg Farm
- Best breakfast – Bistro en Glaze
- Best shower – Cambro House
You’ll see that no place got top marks for more than one quality criteria. So, without naming names, negative points that came out of the four places above included having no idea about meals/food, having a horrible bedroom toilet idea, having poor quality of service, and being generally un-customer-focused.
So what’s all this got to do with gaining success from websites?
While it’s technically possible to go to one source to get a website that is:
- Beautifully designed
- Expertly created and fully flexible
- Full of customer focus
- Well search engine optimised
… the reality is that it’s hardly ever possible. Yes, if you went to a reasonable-sized agency you could get all those services under one roof, and probably at quite a price as well. Generally though, it’s just not possible to get all the desired factors right in one place. In the same way that we couldn’t find a guest house/hotel that had a great room, great breakfast, lovely shower, and fantastic service – all under one roof, you won’t find the skills of web design, web build, customer strategy, analytics, and SEO/PPC, all under one roof either (unless going with a larger agency).
Is this a bad thing? Actually, no, because most of us don’t expect one guest house to be brilliant at everything and we wouldn’t expect a web company of 1,2,3 people to have all the requisite skills in-house. However, what we do expect is honesty when dealing with providers of web-related services.
For too long companies have suffered (in terms of not gaining enough from their websites) through being told that the expertise they need is available all under one roof (when the required skills aren’t actually all there). Hopefully this analogy about the guest houses/hotels will help you when you’re next considering web-related work to be done, or know people who are considering the same.
For the record, Custwin don’t physically create websites or develop pretty graphics. We advise companies on how websites need to change strategically, ensure web developers implement those recommendations effectively, and then help to raise the search engine visibility of websites while analysing data that shows how each visitor is interacting with the website (so that further refinements can be made).
November 12, 2010
Many people will have seen the Ocean Finance advert that has people with lightbulbs that come on above their heads. It’s an advert that makes me cringe at its cheesiness but I was reminded of it this week during a meeting.
I’d been asked to talk about website statistics analysis at a client meeting. There was me, the main client contact and 10 consultants who work as part of the client business. Their focus was on gaining more business. My focus was on showing them how, through analysing website statistics, they can improve website strength, while also identifying names of companies who have visited the website, and which website pages they looked at.
As the presentation went on it was as if they room lit up with multiple lightbulbs metaphorically switching on above people’s heads. They were alert, interested, and most importantly, saw the concept of analysing website traffic as being a great idea that would benefit them.
The email I got back from the client was:
“Thanks for coming – most useful and very well received. You’ll be asked back!”
I know for sure that the client will now move forwards with the support of all people working for the organisation because they all understand the importance of analysing website traffic and making changes to enhance what’s gained from the website. That’s a good feeling to have because there’s no better client than a client who is fully onboard with the concept of doing everything possible to facilitate the best results from a website.
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