For the last few weeks I have talked about the importance of having
access to a good stats program. This week I shall conclude this topic
with a brief discussion of using your stats to determine the source of
your visitors, assess your advertising efforts and help promote your
Most good 'Stat' Analysis programs will identify the visitor Referral.
That is to say, where did they come from to get to your site and how
did they get there. Referrals are one of your best ways to access your
marketing and promotion campaigns. You can use them to identify
other web sites that are sending you visitors. Do they have a link or
banner ad for your site? Why does one site send you more visitors
than another? Maybe it is a more popular site but maybe the link is
better placed or the description is more effective.
The point is, unless you know where your visitors are coming from
you have no way to determine how your promotion efforts are doing.
One of the best uses for the visitor referral stats is to identify links
originating from search engines. Over several past issues I
described how to set up your Meta tags for the Search Engines.
Unless you check your referrals you will not know if your site has
been listed and how well it is doing. Checking your Ranking under a
search word or phrase on a search engine will only tell you how your
site ranks compared to other sites. You may be number #1 under
"numnut" but if it is not getting you any visitors it is hardly a useful
ranking to have. You need to know what people are searching for
that you can offer them and then emphasis it.
In addition to listing the referrals, a good Stats Analysis program
will actually identify and compare the various Search Engines. It
will tell you which ones are sending the most visitors and the search
phrases and keywords that those visitors entered to make their
search. This can be especially helpful to you in setting up your Meta
Tags and descriptions. If you use different keywords and phrases for
different pages on your site, you will know which ones are being
linked to and which ones are not.
The majority of visitor Referrals may be "Unknown". A user that
types your URL or selects it from their 'Favorites List' will generate
an "Unknown" referral. Unless you are Disney, it is unlikely that a
significant number of your visitors will be typing your URL (except
for your grandmother assuming she just loves your site). Another
possible reason for generating an "Unknown" referral is because the
user selected a link in an email. Which e-mails contain your URL?
This e-mail contains many links. How would you know that a link
was generated by this email? If you use newsletters to promote your
site, which ones are successfully generating referrals and which ones
There are ways to help resolve where many "Unknown" referrals are
coming from. One option may be to create a separate web page for
the ads you place in different newsletter or publication. You could
then compare the number of visitors going to "mysiteAd1.htm" from
one ad to the visitors going to "mysiteAd2.htm" from another.
Creating separate web pages for each promotion campaign or effort
can be cumbersome, time consuming and error prone. There is
however, a much simpler solution.
Knowing that a "?" question mark and the following text will be
ignored by a Browser but listed separately in you log files, gives you
a phenomenal tool for tracking and assessing your promotional
efforts. Every time you place an ad in a newsletter, purchase a
banner or exchange a link, add a "?" with a code to identify the
source of the link. When you check your stats, these links will be
listed separately with the more successful ones listed with greater
numbers. If these are paid promotions, the higher ranking ones
could be rerun while the lower ranking links should be reassessed or
Last week I listed several Site Analysis programs that you may wish
to look at. Here is the list again for those of you that may not already
have access to one. Look at the URL's and see that each of them has
a "?VirtualMechanics.com" appended to the end. No! We do not
have any special relationship with these companies so why add our
URL to the link? The links do not go to our site so they will not be
listed in our stats. The reason is marketing! When these companies
check their stats they may see a lot of links with the Virtual
Mechanics URL included. They may ignore it or they may return the
favor some day. In any case, our URL is a small ad that will help
promote our site.
So click away and help promote our business. And the next time you
add someone's link to your e-mail, promote your own.