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The OCR Glossary

Web Analytics

Karen Freberg & Kristin Saling

Web analytics is the process of analyzing the behavior of visitors to a website (on-site Web analytics) or the impact of a website on its users in proportion to that of websites on the rest of the Web (off-site Web analytics). This entry discusses the key characteristics of Web analytics, the current status of the Web analytics landscape, and the differences between online and off-line analytics for reputation management strategies and measurement protocols.

E-commerce companies and other website publishers often use Web analytics to analyze the behavior of visitors to a website in order to determine what parts of the website are receiving successful visits and what parts are not drawing attention successfully. In addition, corporations can look at utilizing Web analytics for a variety of different circumstances when it comes to evaluating where people are going to find out more information about their company, which pages are most frequently visited, and how much time is spent each day by a single user. In addition, exploring the key terms associated with the searches by users and how they come to a website is an important reputation component to look at for Web analytics. Associations with brand names can provide a window of opportunity for corporations to evaluate the reputation of their brand based on the information being shared, discussed, and searched for online.

Web-analytic software can also be used to monitor whether a site’s pages are working properly. With this information, Web administrators can determine which areas of the site are popular and which areas of the site do not get traffic. Web analytics provides these site administrators and publishers with data that can be used to streamline a website and create a better user experience. These systems have to be regularly updated not only to keep the information current but also to prevent cyber attacks and hacking of the website. Hackers occasionally try to hack into specific pages of a website, so analytics functions and tools can help determine where these hackers are getting into the system and prevent them from doing further damage.

If a website for a brand is compromised by cyber attacks and hacks, this can raise some additional points of concern and can negatively affect the corporate reputation. For example, Anthem announced in February 2015 that its website had been hacked and more than 80 million users of this U.S.-based health care system were compromised, with their information being leaked out to the hackers for use. Some news reports have linked the increase in tax refund fraud to the Anthem data breach, with individuals affected by the breach saying that their data were used by those who filed false returns to receive a refund. With the rising incidence of cyber attacks and hacking, many corporations and government agencies are partnering together to formulate new protocols and software programs utilizing Web analytics to prevent these crises by protecting the information found on corporate websites and, in turn, the reputation of the corporations.

Web analytics is often used as part of customer relationship management analytics. The analysis can include determining the likelihood that a given customer will repurchase a product after having purchased it in the past, personalizing the site to customers who visit it repeatedly, monitoring the dollar volume of the purchases made by individual customers or by specific groups of customers, observing the geographic regions from which the highest and the lowest number of customers visit the site to purchase specific products, and predicting which products customers are most and least likely to buy in the future. The objective is to promote specific products to those customers most likely to buy them and to determine which products a specific customer is most likely to purchase. This can help improve the ratio of revenue to marketing costs.

In addition to these features, Web analytics may include tracking customers’ “click-through” behavior, or how they arrive at a website, and “drill-down” behavior, or what they click on and which pages they visit once they are on a website. This allows organizations to determine the sites from which customers most often arrive and to communicate with browsers to track and analyze online behavior. The results of Web analytics are provided by software programs in the form of tables, charts, and graphs.

On-Site and Off-Site Web Analytics

On-site Web analytics is the most common form of analytics. It measures the behavior of visitors once they have reached a particular website. Metrics in this category may include how many unique visitors the site had, how they came to the site, what keywords they searched either on the site’s search engine or to reach the site, how long they stayed on a given page or on the entire site, what links they clicked on, and when they left the site. Data from on-site Web analytics are typically compared against key performance indicator goals and are used to improve a website or a marketing campaign’s audience response.

Google Analytics is the most widely used on-site Web analytics service, although new tools are emerging that provide additional layers of information, including heat maps, which allow an organization to see where on a website a user is spending the most time, and session replay, to capture the user’s activity on the website. Google Analytics also features a flow chart model showcasing the particular steps with which a user comes to a website, where he or she goes next, and how long he or she stays on the page. Location is another important feature, along with associated psychographic interests such as industry-specific topics to provide more insight on not only who is visiting the site but also the main audiences viewing the particular website and associated pages. These features can provide brands and corporations great insight into what content audiences are looking for and help guide organizations in creating relevant content to post and share on various Web pages. Google Analytics also provides reports and insights for users to determine benchmark goals for their online communication activities and evaluation metrics to determine if their initiatives and objectives were met in a particular campaign or new venture of the corporation. Metrics are provided by Google Analytics to use as part of an evaluation plan, but a corporation would want to determine how these Web-analytic metrics are associated and aligned with current reputation management metrics.

Many different vendors provide on-site Web analytics software and services. There are two main technical ways these software packages collect the data. The first, an older method, is server log file analysis. Server log file analysis reads the log files in which the Web server records requests by browsers. The second method, page tagging, uses JavaScript embedded in the site page code to make image requests to a third-party analytics-dedicated server whenever a page is rendered by a Web browser or, if desired, when a mouse click occurs. Both collect data that can be processed to produce Web traffic reports. In addition, other data sources, such as e-mail open and click-through rates, direct mail campaign data, and sales and lead history, may be added to augment the website behavior data described earlier.

Off-site Web analytics refers to measuring and analyzing a website’s metrics in relation to the total content of the Web. It includes the measurement of a website’s potential audience (measurement of opportunity), share of voice (visibility), and buzz (comments) as a proportion of the Internet as a whole.

Goncalves, B., & Ramasco, J. J. (2008). Human dynamics revealed through Web analytics. Physical Review E, 78(2), 026123.

Kaushik, A. (2007). Web analytics: An hour a day. Indianapolis, IN: John Wiley & Sons.

Nakatani, K., & Chuang, T. (2011). A Web analytics tool selection method: An analytical hierarchy process approach. Internet Research, 21(2), 171–186.

See Also

Content Analysis; Feedback; Organizational Listening; Research Methods in Corporate Reputation

See Also

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