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Comdex 2001: The first steps of Web analytics

Sure, Web analytics software packages can provide more information on Web site performance than ever before, but only if they're taken out of the box.

LAS VEGAS -- About a year ago, Brent Hieggelke hit the road.

His company, NetIQ Corp., realized customers of its newly acquired WebTrends Web analytics division were not using all of the application's features.

"There are a lot of great decisions to be made using Web analytics," said Hieggelke. "Typically, people would say when we asked them that they run their reports every week, but when we asked them what they're doing with them, they say, 'We're throwing them in a pile.' "

As director of product marketing, Hieggelke's mission has been to teach customers and end-users the value of Web analytics. His latest road show brought him here to Comdex Fall 2001 Tuesday, where he explained how analytics software can help customers get the most bang for their Web buck.

Hieggelke said there are several ways a customer can take advantage of Web analytics right away. First, determine where visitors -- or unique sets of eyes -- are coming from. He said if analyses determine that a majority of visitors come from a small number of common search engines or referring sites, investing in marketing campaigns tailored to those visitors could result in more sales.

"Nobody cares about how many eyeballs are on their site anymore," Hieggelke said. "They care about revenue and new sales channels."

Identifying problem areas

Analytics also ensure the Web site is performing up to its potential. By tracking how many page load errors take place, when they happen and in which areas of a site they most commonly occur, problems can be identified and fixed more quickly than they otherwise would.

When one of Hieggelke's customers recently had a Web site performance problem, analytics helped solve it by pinpointing a Web server that was receiving far fewer hits than normal. It turned out that server's hard disk was full, and a quick fix was all that was needed to get the site running smoothly again.

Hieggelke said analytics can help make sense of content as well. For instance, if a site's home page receives heavy traffic but only a fraction of that traffic continues deeper into the site, then the home page's content may need to be augmented, scaled back or tweaked to persuade visitors to click deeper.

Above all, Hieggelke said analytics data should not be ignored. Even if it is hard to understand, sharing data across the company and formulating a strategy to leverage it is paramount to success.

"We're voracious users of our own technology, but there are things even we could be doing better," said Hieggelke, noting that data sharing efforts should be ongoing.

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