Do you know what users are doing on your website?

Have you ever had a question from your boss wondering what are the users really finding important on our website?

It becomes even more important if your website sells products. What do you spend your limited marketing dollars on? Do you focus on one product or a suite of products? Do you know if your campaign is successful or not?

There are some products out there that will help you answer that question called “Client Side Analytics”. Their job is to help you answer the vexing question:

“What are users doing on my website?”

Here at ISInc , we use Google Analytics to help answer that question. The best part (for a small growing company) is that it is FREE! Implementing the software is as easy as adding a bit of JavaScript to the beginning and end of your page templates.

Google Analytics answers the Who, What, When, Where and How questions you have about your users. Using this tool, you can:

  • Identify how many people came to your website, and who was returning
  • Who are your best referring sites
  • What advertising campaigns are working
  • What are your user’s client browser capabilities (definitely helpful if you are planning a new application)
  • What is the most popular content
  • What keywords should you look at/buy in the major search engines based on traffic
  • How is your business converting on it’s message/products
  • Where do users leave your website?

What it doesn’t do is record what happens behind the scenes in your application such as if you have an error, or what crawlers visited your site in the last 24 hours. To answer those questions you still need to look at server side logging.

Now this wouldn’t be a useful article if I didn’t give a couple of how-tos.

  1. Create an account for Google Analytics. They will guide you through registering the domain you want to track. After the process is complete, you should have a tracking ID. This looks something like “UA-XXXXXX-X” (replace the X’s with your numbers)
  2. Next you need to add the tracking code to your website. This can be done a number of ways depending on what you want to accomplish. The easiest way is to just add it at the very end of your page before the </body> tag. Here’s an example of what you would insert (Make sure to replace UA-XXXXXX-X with your own tracking ID):
    <script type="text/javascript">
    var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www.");
    document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E"));
    var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("UA-XXXXXX-X");
  3. Go back to the Google Analytics web page and verify that the tracker code is receiving information. If it isn’t , make sure you are using the appropriate tracker ID.
  4. Wait 24 hours and visit the Google Analytics website to see where your users are coming from!

We have been using Google Analytics for the last year with great success. If you have any additional questions, please comment to this post!

If you are interested in learning more about the JavaScript necessary to create a tool like this, take a look at our Introduction to JavaScript class.

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