Web Analytics Evolution

Visitor interactions with websites have changed substantially in recent years due to the development of advanced browsers and extensive implementation of websites rich in Ajax, JavaScript, Flash and other interactive content. At the same time, commercialization of the Internet has made it a never-ending source of spam, so we’ve adapted and embraced applications offering advanced surfing techniques that identify spam so we can avoid it. We’ve also stopped clicking on banners since our brains have learned to filter them out, as if they are no longer there.

Your web analytics should be the compass that provides insight into the relevancy of your website’s content to visitors. For example, does your analytics identify changes in browsing patterns or it continues to analyze traffic exactly like it did three years ago?

It is true that Web analytics software has progressed significantly since the days in which we simply measured server calls, now providing us with a wider range of passive metrics, such as unique visitors, average page views per visit, return visits and more; but just as browsing patterns change, so should the way in which we analyze a website. Web Analytics should provide active metrics as well, paying attention to each visitor’s interaction within the site and emphasizing events that are more relevant to current browsing patterns. If we can identify “actual time that a page was in focus” then the passive metrics on URL addresses and bounce rates become much less significant.

Changes in Customer Behavior

In the past, we’d search for information on the Web, enter a website and wait patiently for it to load; then we would thoroughly review its content before deciding whether to continue or not. Today, with fast Internet access being commonplace, a WWW flooded with spam and browsers that allow us to open several tabs simultaneously, we find experienced surfers opening several websites and jumping from tab to tab. The average visitor to a travel or e-commerce websites will typically have several tabs or windows open in order to compare prices.

Time in Focus

Web Analytics Evolution

In the standard analytics reports, users that open multiple tabs still appear to have spent several minutes browsing a site, even though their time was spent looking at multiple tabs, possibly each one open to a different website. Web analytics tools focused on active events are now able to identify which pages were in focus and give you net and gross times separately using the “Time in Focus” metric. Using it to analyze the amount of time that a visitor actually viewed the page, while excluding the time that another tab was active or that the browser was hidden by another window, is much more helpful in measuring the relevancy and value of your content to visitors.

The rate of users that have been less than a minute “in focus” is a strong indication of irrelevance. This metric should be included in all reports, in addition to or instead of the bounce rate, as it is more powerful and accurate. While the bounce rate tells us the percentage of visitors that only visited one page, the ”rate of less than a minute in focus” tells us the percentage of visitors that didn’t spend time or find interest in the website, even if they quickly jumped through a few pages for a few seconds trying to find relevant content.

Users who enter the site and immediately jump to another page, possibly because the landing page did not hook them or they noticed an attractive link that they quickly clicked on, may simply switch to another tab after a few seconds and leave your website’s tab open. These visitors will not show up in your standard Web analytics reports as being a bounce, they will appear to have spent a long time in your website, but the fact is that they only viewed it for a few seconds and didn’t find any interest in it. If you are not aware of this harsh reality and think that everything is fine, you are likely losing a much larger portion of your website’s traffic than you think.

Active Analytics Examples

Active analytics can basically be any activity your visitor is involved with inside your website. Your current analytics package should be able to do the following:

  • Track and analyze social interaction, such as a Tweets, Shares or Likes.
  • Track videos viewed and whether Ajax content was loaded.
  • Analyze content viewed by article’s name, writer’s name, product name or category, rather than by URL address, which will not always be accurate.
  • Identify pages in which visitors scroll down too soon, suggesting lack of interest in the content.

Active Web Analytics Examples

Evolve Your Reports & Metrics

So, how should your reports and metrics change to accommodate all this new information?

  • Reports by “social profile” will include visitors’ data from social networks and will segment the traffic by gender, age, etc.
  • You should be able to generate reports based on any data you are gathering: Reports by “keywords from search engines” should include the “Time in Focus” metric to better understand which keywords are relevant to your website.
  • Reports by “site content” will include the net viewing time, the percentage of social activity (such as Shares and Likes) and the percentage of users that scrolled down in the page.
  • E-commerce websites should be able to request reports by product name, category and manufacturer, rather than by URL.
  • News sites will see “articles” reports by title and writer’s name, rather than by URL.

Do you agree? Have a fresh take of your own? Write your comment below, we’d love to read it!

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