Web Analytics: a safe bet
by Andreas Roell
Web Analytics: A Safe Bet
Knowing the habits and tendencies of your Web site visitors can be a vital tool for improving business
Andreas Roell is president and CEO of Geary Interactive, a full-service digital marketing firm founded in 2000. With offices in Las Vegas, San Diego and New York, Roell has built a successful online company specializing in Web development, media buying/planning, search engine and e-mail marketing. He can be reached at (619) 239-5953 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the beginning, there were two. The early days of Web analytics consisted of two differing techniques that both collected information about Internet browsers. The options were Web log or tag based analysis. Log file analysis could track visitor numbers and presented a rudimentary picture of what visitors looked at online. Tag based analysis, on the other hand, captured more information about a browser’s activity, but it proved difficult to implement and presented an incomplete statistical picture.
Those days are gone. Now leading hotel properties have concrete statistics of exactly what viewers see, for how long and whether they have been to your Web site before—just to name a few. Web analytics today marries data gathering techniques with business objectives to give online marketers information that truly impacts the way people interact with Web sites. With the combination of software and industry experts, your Web site can give you invaluable feedback about consumer demographics, optimization opportunities and brand identities.
To do so, cookies are downloaded to a browser’s computer to track Web behavior for 30 to 90 days. Current analytics, with cookies, can assess if a browser clicks to your Web site through a banner ad or other paid advertisements which can help ensure that your entire online marketing budget is effective. An analytics team can also determine correlations between more traditional marketing efforts (print ads, billboards, commercials) if there is a spike in visitors during a campaign.
Effective Web sites are indispensable. Thorough analytics are paramount in improving and targeting communications with potential, current and future consumers. Whether your aim is increasing online reservations, casino traffic or newsletter signups, the game is the same; the more you know, the better prepared you can be. Web analytics is the way to arm yourself with the knowledge needed to improve your online presence.
Where to get started?
To accurately judge your successes and missteps in online marketing, key performance indicators (KPIs) must be developed. KPIs should be unique for every hotel and casino because each provides and promotes different messages to a unique combination of consumers. As such, KPIs should be tailored to each brand to give a realistic guide of measure. To stay up to date with all online actions, develop proper KPI reports at different levels of detail. The best way to create KPIs is to get input from all relevant departments about your hotel. Once KPIs are established, bench marks can be set up to gauge online performance. Keep industry averages in mind when evaluating benchmarks, but do not rely on them. Every hotel and casino is different, but it is nice to know where you stand.
Conversion rates are a common KPI in the hotel and casino market. It is valuable to know the rate between how many people visit your site and how many actually make a reservation, plan an event or visit your casino. In addition, if users book reservations on their first visit to your Web site, you can attribute that to high brand awareness and confidence. If they leave for an hour, then book a reservation on your site, it is a safe assumption that they continued their research or had reservations (excuse the pun). Either way, your Web site could incorporate more information or testimonials to enhance consumers’ perceptions of your casino.
What should you track?
The casino and hotel industry should pay particular attention to when and how people leave their Web sites. While reserving a room, if a user exits your Web site during the payment step, perhaps a simple boost in privacy practices could increase conversion rates and brand confidence next time.
Web sites for hotels and casinos, like other companies, brand themselves to attract a certain clientele. Analytics can ensure that the right user is targeted with your Web sites’ features and images. For example, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino targets a young, trendy demographic, and their Web site reflects it. A homepage with provocative images and concert promotions speaks to their rock-loving, active visitor base. Hard Rock, by designing its Web site around its target market, is able to attract and keep browsers’ attentions.
When targeting multiple population segments, analytics gives managers the opportunity to personalize their Web interface with viewers because it recognizes returning clients. Mirage’s Web site, for instance, can direct a browser to business-focused content if the user previously spent time researching conference rooms or business centers. If a user exhibits search patterns, analytics software will know about it. Personalization, resulting from accurate analytics, allows marketers to tailor their brand message so it resonates with its intended audience.
Analytics can give managers updates on what their marketing efforts are saying to their audience. If patterns arise showing that visitors do not click beyond the rate page, then perhaps a price break promotion should be considered. Enticing clients into one reduced-rate stay could be the beginning of a loyal relationship.
Why should you track?
The better question is what happens when a Web site does not properly employ analytics. With the increasing incorporation of rich media and interactive options into Web designs, analytics software has responded with more complex methods to monitor browsers’ Web behavior. Basic Web stats do not cut it any more. With more interactive Web sites emerging, it is imperative that all aspects of Web sites be monitored.
The latest software can dynamically analyze which aspects of your Web site are effective. Before, attributes like images, headlines and sidebars were changed one by one, and then analyzed to determine which had impact. Now programs can strategically manipulate a Web site’s design simultaneously. The result is accurate statistics in a shorter amount of time. With goals and deadlines in the back of every manager’s mind, fast and precise numbers are vital to evaluating where you are in relation to where you need to be.