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"Thanks Sitemeter! - We enjoyed a recent surge in visitors and your statistics helped me identify when and why."
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Audience Tracking Tools 101 - The Who, What, When and Where of SiteMeter's tracking technology - cont'd

In reality many people begin exploring tracking tools like SiteMeter's to satisfy one of human natures most basic needs - curiosity. As is our nature, curiosity and gauging success is a basic need and so in the beginning most site owners start their quest simply wanting to know if people are visiting their site. Unfortunately for many site owners, counting the number of visits is as far as they go, failing to consider the power that lies within the additional information SiteMeter provides. Here we present a brief overview of some of SiteMeter's most basic stats and how they can be used along with some fictional examples of practical applications*. For simplicity sake we'll group the SiteMeter's statistics reports into four primary categories of discussion Who, What, When, and Where.

Knowing the Who - While we can't tell you specifically "John Smith from New York City" is visiting your site we are able to record a list of visitors to your site by using the internet standard IP address. This allows us to provide you with general geographic location information for each visitor. While this may not sound like earth shattering data, consider the following example when knowing "Who" is combined with other data points.

EXAMPLE - You've created a blog or website focusing on the world of astronomy. After installing your SiteMeter code and reviewing your statistics reports you notice that a large number of your visitors are coming from South America. Surprised by this you use SiteMeter's "Detailed Visitor" report and are able to establish that this segment of your visitor traffic appears to be coming from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Upon further investigation, using our "Referring URL" report you notice all these visitors have an ".edu" extension which indicates these visitors are from an educational institution.

With this information you decide to steer your content to more of an educational orientation and you create a Portuguese version of your site. You begin receiving emails from universities in Sao Paulo asking permission to use your information in classroom discussions and eventually your site becomes the defacto research site for Brazilian universities.

Knowing the What - Knowing the "What" means knowing what on your site is of interest to your visitors. In a few short months SiteMeter will be able to provide you with a list of your sites most visited pages. Imagine having the power to know which pages your visitors are spending their time viewing. In the meantime SiteMeter is able to provide information about which pages are your most popular entry pages and exit pages.

EXAMPLE - You have a site dedicated to Pets which includes everything from articles about foods to pet care. One particular page of your site provides a list of kennels. When you look at your SiteMeter statistics you notice that nearly 70% of your visitors go to this page and then exit. The fact that this page is not only the most visited of your pages, but is also the most popular exit page implies that your visitors are looking for this type of information and then leaving via your links to these kennels.

Armed with this knowledge you expand the kennel portion of your site, create an ad campaign using kennel related keywords and start earning a 5 figure monthly income through kennel advertisers wanting to be on your site. You then open up your own animal rescue center and end up taking in a stray who eventually becomes the next Hollywood dog star.

Knowing the When - Knowing the "When" is as important as any other piece of information and for a variety of reason. With SiteMeter's tracking tool you can clearly see things like -
  • What times of the day are you busiest
  • What a typical week looks like for your site - is it busiest during the work week or on weekend, etc.
  • Seasonal Trends - is your site more popular during the winter or summer, or maybe during spring break or the holidays.

With this kind of information you can make informed decisions, not the least of which is when you should and shouldn't do maintenance on your website. There is nothing worse than bringing down your site, or making updates during your peak visiting hours. But more importantly, knowing the when can also help you strategically plan marketing and ad campaigns, release relevant articles, or just plan a vacation for yourself.

EXAMPLE - You have a site that talks about National Parks. After installing your SiteMeter code you discover that you have large surges in visits to your site from 3 - 5pm, Wednesday through Friday, and during the summer months. You realize from this data that most of your visitors are coming to your site to research locations for summer family vacations and weekend getaways.

Using this new found knowledge you create an ad campaign during the summer using vacation, camping, hiking, and outdoor keywords and you quadruple your traffic. Shortly thereafter the National Parks Service, RV's of America, and KOA Campgrounds contact you about advertising on your site. Not long after that you find yourself shopping for your own, brand new 60' custom RV.

Where - In the context of our discussion here, the "Where" is knowing where your visitors are coming from, and where they are finding you. With this kind of information you can do things like assess the value of partner links, create and track the success of keyword search campaigns, know which search engines are feeding your site the most traffic, and discover other unknown sources of visitors to your site.

EXAMPLE - You start a blog which focuses on the fine art of fly fishing. As this is your first such site you recognize that the initial challenge is generating traffic, or in other words, finding people interested in fly fishing to come and read your blog. You begin by creating some quality content and
then placing the SiteMeter code on your pages. For the first month you observe how readers find you without any active solicitations.

It's not long before SiteMeter reports that 70% of your traffic comes from MSN Live Search, 20% from Google, and 9% from Yahoo.

Next you contact other industry related sites and blogs and ask for link exchanges. Another month passes and you notice that now you have 10% of your visitors arriving from AlaskaOutdoors.com and only 1% from sushiworld.com.

Now you examine your SiteMeter keywords report and you see that the most frequently used keyword is "fly fishing vacations". As it happens you have a single page on your site with links and a discussion of fly fishing vacation and guides.

With all this information you are now able to execute a "marketing" campaign and remain within a budget. Because of SiteMeter's reports you decide to spend your money on those areas that will potentially reap the greatest return. You start a keyword campaign through Microsoft adCenter, and then you use keywords from your report including "fly fishing vacations". You also search out and focus on link exchanges with more regional outdoor sites. Finally you extend the information and detail of your vacations and guides section.

A year later you hire a small staff to run the site and you begin touring fly fishing locations, providing first hand tips and tricks and advice on reeling in the big one.

And More - A great deal more time could be spent here explaining all the reports and how they can potentially be used to improve your site, your reach, and grow your customer base. We have really only scratched the surface of what SiteMeter has to offer.

The fact of the matter is - SiteMeter offers knowledge. And as you know, the more you know the easier it is to make good decisions. Sure, you can experiment, throw money at unknowns and try things on your own but why would you when SiteMeter can offer you incredible insights at little or no cost.

So sign up today and give us a try.

Thanks, The SiteMeter Team

*Note - These examples are purely fictional. They do not represent real situations or websites. They are based solely on traditional and logical website marketing strategies. Any similarities to actual sites or events are purely coincidental.
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