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Web Analytics: What They Know About You & The Websites You Visit

abstract:Web analytics are the gurus of online companies. They collect information about who visits their sites and they know your age, sex, income, education, marital status, what browser you use and system platform you use, and lots more. Why is that useful? If you are a website owner, it pays to know who your site visitors and customers are. If you are the web editor, it pays to know which articles people are reading, how long they stay on your site, where they browse and where they bail. It's not just for the purposes of matching future content to visitor tastes. It's key information in determining advertisement placement and maximizing revenue. All the big websites have a web analytics department. Even if you are a little guy—it is worth your while to pay attention to web analytics. The New York Times and NBC, to use two examples, track site visits minute to minute. They titrate content and advertising that is specifically geared to your viewing tastes, as breaking news develops or gains particular traction. The articles are repositioned on the page and the ads are matched to your past viewing tastes and geographics. The head of the companies meet with their analytics department each and every day and get regular updates throughout the day. For a taste of what you can learn, visit Quantcast Media Planner and key in your own search variables.

article:

August 02, 2008

Getting Started

Just for fun I went to the Quantcast Media Planner website and used their demographic analysis tool. It lists all the big websites and allows you to pick the specific variable make-up you want to look at. I wanted to see what the percentage is of people like myself is for all the listed sites. I ticked:

  • age range between 21-50
  • income 60-100K
  • no college and college graduates

Then when I wanted to see the difference between percentages of my target audience, I un-ticked or newly ticked a different variable. For example, when I un-tick the upper earning bracket and watch the percentage change in the number of visitors to the google website, I see that 27% of their visitors fall into the above income category. But by un-ticking the higher income bracket the visitor rate falls to 17% - so a ful 10% of their visitors earn over 60K. When I only tick the 0-30K income level the number of visitors to google falls to only 7%.

Of course you might expect that higher income visitors use www.bankofamerica.com, www.nyt.com, and www.gawker.com but I found it interesting that www.monster.com has a higher percentage of higher income visitors than www.craigslist.com -- which makes sense; employers with higher incomes are placing advertisements and looking for employees on monster.com, where as entrepreneurs or mid-career earning level visitors shop for jobs or employees at craigslist. You can use the site to compare your competitor's site visitors, or to learn who might be a good site to do a link exchange.

The disadvantage to Quantcast Media Planner is that if you want your site to be ranked by them, you have to add a string of code to your CSS (content and style sheet instruction pages) so that their robots can track your visitors. (I keyed in the www.bookbuffet.com website and they had no data for us, as we haven't placed their proprietary code on our site.) This is essentially the same for other analytic sites like google. Your programer will discuss with you which "bots" he invites to browse your site, and this could be a valuable topic for a future meeting if you want to appear on the radar screen. Some websites have excellent sources of web analystics built into the server host where their website url resides, so in their case they're happy being the only people knowledgeable of stats.

So next time you want to see where your site rates with different demographic groups: age, sex, income, education levels, go to one of the web analytic sites.

More Links

The Web Analytics Association: offers best practices, sets industry standards, offers courses and seminars and promotes global advocacy.
www.piki.org: offers open source (free) software to conduct your own web analytics.
google analytics: offers free analytics when you include their code to your site, and of course they share the information as a source to more browsers of such info than probably any other company or organization.

 

 

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