increasing website trafficBefore I get to the importance of web analytics today and in the future, first let me tell you a little story about an 800 lb gorilla.

Google recently announced that it was going to provide a browser plugin that allowed anyone to opt out of being tracked by their metrics reporting product, Google Analytics.  From a normal user’s perspective, it sounds great that they are providing this type of flexibility.  However, Google has been pushing this (free) web reporting product for years as an enterprise-level solution for tracking web visitor activity.  And now, after gaining significant market share, they tell their customers people will have the option of easily opting out.  While adoption rates are projected to be low, this is not a friendly gesture to users of Google Analytics.

Google analytics opt-out browser pluginThis move by Google has generated several discussions on the importance of web analytics in the world of web KPI reporting.  I have heard people say lately that “eyeballs” and “pageviews” are becoming less relevant and the impact of Google’s move is lessened by this change in the way we look at web analytics.  My answer to this discussion is that “eyeballs” and “pageviews” have never really been the metrics to watch on their own.  However, both can represent achieved objectives in the eyes of many businesses, and this can’t be ignored.

For example, due to the powerful downturn in the global economy, in late 2008 and 2009 many businesses were expanding into new areas of opportunity or contracting to focus on specific areas of business.  In either case, their messaging needed to be modified in order to properly communicate with existing and new customers.  Without properly communicating the change in messaging, these businesses would have a hard time generating leads, sales or other types of conversions.  People read content in many ways online, but many still do it the old fashioned way…they visit the company’s website.  So, in order to tell if people are effectively browsing your new content/messaging, a proper view of your website activity (analytics) is necessary.  It may not be eyeballs or pageviews, but your analytics application should give you the ability to view the equivalent.

Businesses that seek B2B lead conversions as their primary object also need to watch web activity.  Many businesses with long lead, or long sales cycles need to understand web user behavior better than fast converting products or services. Various important questions should be answered by your web analytics operation, including the following: What content are visitors looking at prior to conversion?  What content are they viewing and not converting?  Where are the breaks in my conversion funnel?

Once these and other questions are answered, the right reporting structure will give you the tools to optimize your web assets that will ultimately increase conversions.  So, don’t dismiss the importance of analyzing web activity.  It is likely more critical than you may think.

Kevin