Are you getting the most out of your website? Here are 18 tools and websites you can use to test theories and make improvements.
"Everything on the Web is measurable." That's a pretty common statement--so you'd think that businesses would also be measuring everything they did online, right?
Well, not so much. Slapping Google Analytics on your website isn't the half of it. And if you're not routinely checking in on this data, trying to derive meaning from it--and, most important, using this information to improve your website's performance--then you're probably coming up short.
Part of it boils down to tools: You need to know where exactly to look to derive the juicy tidbits and comparisons that can help you make improvements. Here are several tools and resources to try out. Some may just satisfy your curiosity while others can reveal deeper insights.
Want to understand how to do a better job moving people through your website and through the Web in general? Learn from the master as well as your existing users.
UseIt.com: Less tool and more resource, but invaluable. Jakob Nielsen is considered by many to be the father of website usability, and his old-school website has long been the go-to resource for website usability.
There are several tools out there that can help you understand how people view your Web page and interact with your content and links. Among them are CrazyEgg (you can see its "confetti analysis" at right), ClickTale, and Clickdensity.
There are several tools that can help you compare websites in relative terms to one another, giving you a better look at how you stack up against the competition.
Alexa: Provides statistics on relative popularity of websites based on the usage by those who have installed the Alexa toolbar.
Compete: Free and for-fee consumer intelligence tools; Compete's data "comes from a statistically representative cross-section" of 2 million opt-in consumers from across the US who "have given permission to have their Internet clickstream behaviors and opt-in survey responses analyzed anonymously as a new source of marketing research."
ComScore: Tracks and indexes the Internet's most popular websites, comparing measurements like traffic, content, and method of access.
Nielsen: Similar to comScore but using a different data collection methodology. Its "Top Tens & Trends" section tracks and ranks current powerhouses in television, Internet, mobile, music, books, DVDs, and video games.
Experian: A for-fee robust measurement platform, Experian's Online Trends section provides a free quick peek into online trends--like searches performed in search engines, social media sites, seasonal trends and more.
With more than 10 million global installations, freeware Google Analytics is now probably the king of website analytics. But that doesn't mean it's the only game in town, or even that other solutions can't provide you with useful niche data points.
Here are some you may want to check out:
Mint: Analytical tools include "Bird Feeder," which reveals RSS feed subscription patterns and click-throughs from individual feed items, and "Real Estate," which reveals your audience's most common browser window width and height--valuable for for design planning.
Webalizer: If you want to gain insights on past activity, before you installed an analytics program on your website, you can use Webalizer--a free tool that lets you "crunch" server log file and retrieve analysis from them.
Client advocate, digital strategist, and thought leader HOLLIS THOMASES, founder of Web Ad.vantage, helps companies navigate the complexity of the ever-changing digital marketing landscape and develop digital strategies. @hollisthomases