5 Ways to Spend your Extra Income & 15 Reasons to Analyse your Web Server Logs

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.

Unless your social skills need some serious polishing, you probably pay a fair amount of attention to a person’s body language when talking to them. A person’s facial expressions and body language can give far more away about what they’re thinking and saying than their actual words. Which is one of the many reasons that a face to face conversation is often more effective than a phone call, email or letter.

Chances are that you can’t see your website visitor’s faces and body contortions when they arrive at your website, which depending on what you’re selling may be a good thing. But unlike real-life conversations, your visitors are, to all intents and purposes, hooked up to a sophisticated tracking system that individually monitors where they go, what they read, how long they spend on each page, what interests them, and even “personal information” such as their location, time of day, operating system, browser, resolution and more.
There are too many analogies equating websites with physical stores, but can you imagine how useful such information about a physical store’s visitors would be? Unless reality starts overtaking science-fiction sooner than expected, however, this isn’t going to be happening any time soon.

Your website server, on the other hand, already has this ability. Yet for reasons that I cannot even begin to understand, most businesses aren’t tapping into it.

As a regular speaker at a variety of different conferences around the world, I often deliver presentations on web analytics, and am permanently amazed by the number of companies who are failing to use this information to retain visitors and increase conversions. I just don’t get it. If you’re one of the many companies who aren’t spending time using the gold that lies within your server logs, or you’re one of the companies who have the task on the to-do list, but never get round to it, or devote only a few minutes a month, then this article is for you. I hope it gives you the incentive you need to move.

1) Understanding your visitors brings in more sales. Watch. Learn. Sell more. How’s that to get you started?

2) Gut instinct is a great technique for deciding which dessert to go for, but 100% useless when it comes to trying to turn more website visitors into sales. Don’t think you already know or can “probably guess” what your visitors are doing. You don’t and you can’t.

3) Converting visitors to customers is cheaper, easier and more effective than acquiring new customers. Losing potential customers is easier still, and if you’re not analysing your server logs then you’re losing them on an ongoing basis.

4) Mathematics. Small changes to your main website pages can produce more sales. If by moving the location and text of one of your main page links, or by moving a logo or screenshot on a page, you could increase the number of downloads by 20-25%, what impact could this have on your sales?

5) Web Log Analysis (WLA) is the only way to identify black holes – the seemingly innocent pages on your website that suck visitors in, after which they are never seen again. Stop throwing away your hard-earned traffic!

6) Referrals. Or more precisely the sources of relevant and targeted visitors. If one of your top referrers starts sending more or less traffic, wouldn’t you like to know?

7) Hidden gems. Most websites have their showcase pages – the ones that do a great job of presenting the product and produce the sales. Without WLA you simply can’t and won’t know how many (or few) visitors make it to these pages, and what they do once they get there. Hint: Reading the content is better than leaving in less than five seconds.

8) Publicity options. You get a lot of traffic from a variety of sites. Much of it is worthless, some is reasonable and a small percentage is actually worth paying for. In an age dominated by Google AdWords, there are still other advertising options out there. Knowledge is power. Stop wasting opportunities.

9) Brains vs. appearance. I like to think I’m one of the lucky few who has both, but in reality probably have neither. When it comes to commercial websites, I’d estimate that around 5% of them either look good or perform well. Around 94% do neither, and 1% looks good and performs well. Are you part of the 94%, the 5% or the lucky 1%? Looking good is easy. Performing well isn’t. Without WLA…

10) Typical rates are for idiots. Forums and newsgroups are full of self-proclaimed experts who speak of “typical” conversion rates – visitors to download, download to sales etc. Most of these people would do better concentrating on their businesses instead of sharing bad advice. The only “good” conversion rate is one that is better than any previous month’s. Without WLA, however…

11) Businesses improve, expand and give their competition a run for their money by enhancing their abilities, expertise and knowledge. Even a rudimentary level of analysis can reveal an astonishing amount of actionable information.

12) Assuming that your website receives a reasonable level of traffic from the search engines, it’s safe to assume that most of these visitors aren’t looking for what you’re currently selling. And while most will be looking for something completely unrelated, some of their searches may be of great interest to you. Fact: One of the services that SoftwarePromotions sells was born through our realising there was demand through WLA.

13) Know your patterns and trends. All websites have very clear traffic patterns and trends. All conform to a seven-day-cycle, and many follow seasonal highs and lows. This information should have a bearing on release schedules, new product launches, website maintenance, office closure and more.

14) Patient’s chart. All of us have at some point been to visit a relative or friend in hospital, where we’ve no doubt noticed their charts, usually at the foot of the bed. The reasons for having this are obvious: the various professionals need current and accurate information that not only shows the latest information about the patient, but also indicate the trends involved. The charts give them all the information they need at a glance; sometimes vital for the patient’s wellbeing. You can see where I’m going with this.

15) Search Engine Success (or not). If you’re getting it right, then Google is probably by far your most prolific source of free, targeted traffic. But a lot of it won’t be relevant, and many of these visitors won’t be interested in what you sell. If there’s a problem, you need to know about it.

15 should be more than enough reasons to convince you that you should be analysing your web server logs files. Assuming that what you’re selling is (a) good and (b) in demand, then you can’t go wrong. Regular and organised log analysis can only help you make more money. Once your sales start to increase, you might want to consider the following five ways to spend your extra income:

Buy some really good log analysis software. It’ll make the job faster, more pleasurable and more effective.

Pay someone to do your WLA for you, using your shiny new log analysis software.

Go on vacation.

Retire young.

Be seen, be sold.

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.