November 2003 Newsletter

How Can You Improve Your Results
If You Don't Know What's Happening?

**** The 4specs Perspective

More and more specifiers and commercial architects use the Internet as their primary resource when doing their detailed design and spec writing. They find your website (and your competitor's website) by many paths - bookmark or type in, search engine or construction publication. Your objective should be to increase the number of your Internet users at a reasonable cost.

Many marketing people are still hesitant about web promotions and advertising on the Internet . They have no way to measure how many architects and specifiers use their website for design information, and they do not know where their users come from. Because they don't have any information about their website's performance, they express fear, uncertainty and doubt about making the wrong decisions.

If you knew how many people visited your website and how they got there, decisions about Internet advertising and marketing would be easier.

When considering Internet advertising, ask and evaluate two questions:

1. How many people will you send to our website?

2. What is our cost per user?

Knowing this information, you can analyze advertising offers from different website publications. NOTE: For publications with print and Internet offerings, assign each offering a value and then evaluate. For example, assign a value to the yearly book (say half) and a value to the yearly Internet links (say the other half).

To answer these two advertising and marketing questions, you need to understand the following important concepts:

1. What is a referral? A referral is when a user clicks your link and is "referred" to your website. Your web server logs this information. This is also called a click-through. The name and address of the person is not available. You need to accept that a percentage of the users will impact on your specs and purchases. There simply is no way to get their names.

2. Where do my website visitors come from? Your web server (or outside service) tracks all incoming users. The link below shows the source of referrals to 4specs last month. I think advertising decisions would be easier if you had this information about your website.
http://www.4specs.com/stats/

You can track your website stats in two ways:

1. Put a javascript tracking code on every key page and use an outside service to provide statistical data. Your IT department or website consultant can set up the JavaScript tracking code on your key pages in 10 minutes. Web Trends, one outside service, has been around for a long time and costs $35 per month for most websites. They offer a free 15 day trial. Once this is set up, you will know where the referrals are coming from and how many referrals your website is getting. A link to WebTrends follows:
[Article no longer available]

2. Use a program to analyze your server logs. This takes a few hours to set up, but it gives additional information. WebTrends is a leading log analysis program and costs $500. (Price may be higher now - 2004)
https://www.webtrends.com/

Several free programs are available. I run Analog on my Unix server and my Windows XP desktop machine. Analog runs on the server shortly after midnight, and I can view the results soon after 9 PM Pacific Time. I use the report from Analog to see what pages or images were broken on 4specs and how many referrals I received that day from Google, Yahoo, Search.MSN.com and other places. I also have a Windows version of Analog (also free) where I can run older logs to see long-term changes.

A link to last month's 4specs monthly stats follows. To protect advertisers' referral data, I modified this version so it is slightly different from the one I see daily.
http://www.4specs.com/stats/

Referring pages - shows which pages your visitors came from. With Analog I can set the program to go as deeply as I want to, even showing 1,000 referring pages.
http://www.4specs.com/stats/l#ref

Referring sites - this is very different as it combines all referrals from a site to one number. Click below to the referring site report. Here you see the source of referrals to 4specs. You now see why I consider Google to be the most important search engine for product manufacturers.
http://www.4specs.com/stats/#refsite

This referring site report is where the rubber meets the road. It shows me how many times each source sent a user to 4specs' website. If you don't know these numbers for your website, you have to rely on the publisher to tell you the number. This is like the fox guarding the chicken house! A cross check of your stats with the publisher's stats should be within about 10%.

For more information about tracking statistics, go to our earlier newsletter article:
http://www.4specs.com/s2a/news/200105_website_stats.html

If you know where your referrals come from and how many each source sends, you are empowered to make logical and beneficial choices regarding Internet advertising and promotion for your company.

Should you have questions, I would be happy to help you. Recently, I reviewed one company's stats and gave them my interpretation - and learned a bit in the process.

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Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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