March 2003 Newsletter

What are Typical Website Statistics,
and What to Do With Them

**** Quick Picks

Just in case your web designer or IT department still believes in Flash and splash pages, here is an article that may shift their opinion - and make your website better for architects. This is a quote:
"Your glitzy Macromedia Flash animations may dazzle and impress, but over-reliance on Flash may render your website all but invisible to the major search engines." [and to iPad users - added]

Our newsletter below says that search engines are a great way to get free users to your website. Why not get as many as you can - for free from the search engines?
[Link removed - information out of date]

**** The 4specs Perspective

Few marketing managers have any competitive information to compare their website performance to others in the construction industry. I have spoken with hundreds of marketing managers and have developed an idea of what typical website statistics are for a "specified" construction product website. My comments are certainly an educated guess. Yet my estimates could be very valuable to you.

First, it is very important to know the two key measurements about your website:

  1. How many user sessions, or visitor sessions, you have each month.
  2. How did users get to your website - also known as referrers or referring site

We think that most manufacturers get between 2,000 and 12,000 user sessions per month. Most of the marketing managers I have spoken with are in this range. Clearly manufacturers like Andersen Windows and Kohler get many more, perhaps 100,000 or more. Smaller manufacturers with specialized products may be well under 1,000 user sessions per month.

In our May 2001 newsletter we discussed tracking a key measure of website performance over time. I think the most important measure at 4specs is the number of referrals made to manufacturers each month. For your company, the number of monthly users or visitors is probably the best measure.

By graphing your key statistic over time, one can see growth or problems as they develop. Website changes, and website optimization, will show up as changes to the trends. Part 1 of that newsletter is about how to set up website stats. Here is our graph for 5 years of clickthroughs at 4specs.

The second key measure is how people got to your website. This is best measured by referring domains or referring sites. Here is a WebTrends Live report for 4specs from 2001. Change for the better is the best measure of successful advertising or website optimization. There can be no questions as to the results when measured by server log analysis programs.

We are seeing fairly consistent referring sites across many product websites. (A referrer is the page where the user clicked to get to your website) Note this is a summary and not an average. There is quite a bit of guesswork on these stats, and your stats may be very different. If you want to send me a copy of the referring sites along with the number of user sessions, we can discuss your specifics.

[edited 9/2012]

We asked our advertisers in mid-2011 to provide us with their Google Analytics Traffic Sources report. The original newsletter estimated how traffic got to the manufacturer's website. This spreadsheet pdf is the result of 80+ manufacturers providing us with their actual stats.

[end edit]

The  goal here is not to increase any one category, but to use the typical stats as a way to focus on specific tasks to increase the overall user sessions - and then to measure them over time.

Here are my comments about each of the numbers:

  1. This represents the pecking order based on many manufacturers results, both on a paid advertising basis and a free basis for 4specs, Sweets and CMD. Your results may be different, but this has been a typical ranking for manufacturers advertising in these places.
     
  2. While website optimization for other search engines can add visitors, and good initial web design will get them with no additional optimization, clearly your focus should be to increase referrals typed in names from ads and brochures, and from Google and Yahoo and look to paid listings in construction specific services.
     
  3. No referrer means that the browser did not leave a referrer. This could mean that the user has you bookmarked, or knew, or guessed at, the name and typed in the name. I have heard of "no referrer" being as high as 75% for companies with a simple dot.com name.

    You can increase these numbers by clearly using your URL in advertising and brochures. Tubular Specialties Manufacturing has the url - CallTSM.com. They are planning to use this URL more clearly in their ads and brochures on the next revision. This is an easy way to increase the number of people using their website be remembering the name.

    My favorite laugh last month was when I heard that a 4specs' competitor tells people that their referrals show up as "no referrer" due to their scripts. This is an easy way to conceal their lack of performance. If you want more information about how to track their referrals, let me know.
     
  4. Google - Most Google users understand why Google is high - Google works. Google's success is the reason why there has been a recent a major consolidation of search engine ownership.

    To increase the number of referrals from Google, simplify your website. Here is a past newsletter on how to make your website more search engine friendly. Also consider advertising in their Ad Words advertising program. Here is our newsletter last year on advertising on Google.
     
  5. Yahoo substantially changed their search system and it may now pay to advertise on Overture. Here is our newsletter on why.
     
  6. search.MSN.com is the referrer when the person types a key word into the browser location window. MSN has been changing how they rank websites. Looksmart is one key contributor to search.msn listings.
     
  7. While other links may not be important in the number of referrers from these websites, being linked from many good pages can increase your Google page rank and thus increase the number of referrals from Google.

Clearly this table is a composite and an average. Unless you can generate this information for your website on a monthly or quarterly basis, you cannot measure the effectiveness of advertising and search engine optimization.

Let me know your questions and your results.

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Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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