If you haven't seen Danny Sullivan's post in response to one of my critiques on a track that took place at the SES Conference on Day Three, then check it out. This post is actually not in response to that but does discuss the points from that track.
Web analytics can be crucial in understanding how your users get to your site but then, more importantly, what they do once they get to your site. We all know that traffic can be good and can be bad. We do not want to optimize for keywords and drive traffic to our sites that have nothing to do with our site or what it is selling, that just wastes server resources and costs money. We do however want to optimize for the best keywords, by best keywords I mean - keywords that have a high conversion rate. A conversion rate can be a purchase, someone filling out a contact form, someone calling for more information or even someone adding a comment to your blog post. Many of the famous speakers are the SES conference call this a "call to action" and I am pretty sure that Shari Thurow came up with that term, or at least made it what it is today.
Many Web analytics programs give you the ability to track these call to actions from the search engine or entry point to the final conversion point. This funnel is an important criteria when it comes to tracking your success and an SEO/SEM. As Danny Sullivan said, it is not totally about how well you rank for keyword A or keyword phrase B, its more important if your keywords are converting into what you want them to convert to (call to action).I will be upgrading my Web analytics software to Urchin 5.0, I've been using them ever since they were in Beta. I selected Urchin 5.0 because they have always been a solid company and the offer a nice packaged program. Since I have many clients, the 100 user pack works well but I would only share the 100 user pack for users in my local server network. Transferring log files would quickly eat up my bandwidth rates and cost me more then I want to spend. Its priced well enough for a single site and is easily installed or upgradeable.
The only downside to Urchin right now is that their "Conversion Manager" is not due out until the end of January 2004. If I wasn't such a Urchin fan and loyalist I would have probably gone with one of the competing products, probably WebTrends. There are others such as Click Tracks which was pushed heavily at the conference, I don't like that it doesn't run on the server itself. Many other solutions are ASP solutions which have its pros and cons. Urchin runs locally and is able to use cookie based tracking in conjunction with log file analysis because they use 1st party cookies whereas ASP solutions used 3rd party cookies.
The Web Anlaytics programs presented at the conference included: WebTrends Urchin Click Tracks WebSideStory Forgot the others, will look at my notes and post the rest.
I recommend reading the comments by Danny Sullivan and Laura Thieme who were both speakers/moderators of that track at the conference.
Too be continued...