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June 17, 2011

posted by: Carissa Drohan-Jennings

Use Analytics To Go From Good To Great

Olympic athletes are not born great; they are made to be great through extensive training and conditioning.  It is true that these individuals may have some innate talent at a particular skill, but they still need to invest significant time in training and conditioning to become a top-tier athlete. 

World-class sprinters can often be found looking over video footage of a practice run to evaluate if their technique needs any improvement.  Once they see a problem, they adjust their movements until their performance is flawless.  By fine-tuning their technique, these athletes develop into star performers. 

This analogy can be applied in the business world as well.  Businesses are not born great; they are made great through continual improvement and conditioning.  In the same way that athletes use video footage to fine-tune their performance, businesses use various means of measurement to benchmark and evaluate their success. 

For example, a retailer may use sales figures to see if a particular promotion increased the monthly sales figures.  If the promotion is successful then a successful retailer will use it again; if not, they will adjust their strategy.  It is through such analysis that businesses are able to achieve optimized results.

In the world of online marketing, analysis is important to determine what advertising is working and whether advertising dollars are being spent wisely.  In the past, it was easy to place an ad online but it proved hard to evaluate its effectiveness.  As a result, many landlords were guessing at the overall impact the ads had on their lease rates.

Third party reporting, provided by many listing sites, improved landlords’ ability to decipher how much traffic an ad was generating, but it still did not allow them to fully understand the behaviour of those renters, or if the ads were converting into leads. That is no longer the case, as web analytics programs are readily available in the marketplace and are fairly easy to use.

Web analytics programs work by tracking all of the visitors to a site and gathering data on their movements.  If you think about it, all the traffic that arrives at a website comes from somewhere, be it a link in a search engine, a link in an online listing, a banner link, and so on. All of this traffic creates a “digital trail” of sorts, allowing web analytics programs to track the movement of visitors.   Once the movements are tracked the data is compiled into report format.

By monitoring the traffic of a website, a landlord can track how long visitors stayed on the site, how many pages they looked at, where they came from, when they abandoned the search or if they resulted in a lead.  In the case of advertising, landlords can see what traffic sources delivered the visitor, how long that visitor stayed on the site and if that visitor converted into a contact.  In essence, web analytics can provide clues as to the quality of the lead and allow landlords to truly understand if their advertising is effective and which advertising sources are the best investments.

There are many web analytics software packages available in the marketplace today and most of the software can easily be installed within minutes.  The programs do vary in price, complexity and their ability to track certain data. Leading names in the web analytics field include: Coremetrics, Omniture, WebTrends, Unica, HitsLink, VisiStat, Google Analytics, OneStat, Clicky, GoStats and others.

Some of the things to consider when evaluating these programs are:

 

Paid or Free

Usually paid analytics software comes with the option of hiring a consultant at a low price.  This may be a good choice for individuals who do not want to have involvement with the tool.  In contrast, free programs allow the Webmaster (or landlord) to deal directly with all the details. The benefits of such programs include cost-savings; the drawbacks include not receiving guidance from a consultant.  However, although analytics may sound complicated they can be learned quite easily and there are many tutorials available for some of the free products, such as Google Analytics.

 

Live (Real Time) Statistics

Not all analytics programs offer real-time tracking of visitors.  For example, Google Analytics only updates their reports once per day, which means that viewable data may not be accurate up to the minute. 

While real-time data tracking may be overkill for some landlords, it may be on target for others.  While most free services do not offer real-time tracking, some of the paid analytics programs do offer this option.

 

Features

Many of the paid analytics programs include other unique features that are missing from their free counterparts as well.  A great example is Woopra (www.woopra.com).  Woopra offers a chat widget that gives users the ability to have a live chat with visitors of the site. This could be an interesting feature if you have someone that could be available to chat with prospective renters in real-time.  There are numerous other features available in a variety of analytics programs as well, but some of the more important include:  mobile access, email reports, campaign tracking, conversion, and the ability to export the data to files compatible with a variety of other software programs.  Look for a program that covers these necessities.

 

A standard rental website - coupled with a great analytics program - can drastically transform your marketing effectiveness. Used correctly, analytics software can provide insight into many areas of online marketing, providing the right supporting data to make actionable decisions. Just as an Olympic sprinter watches video footage to evaluate their performance, so too a landlord should watch their analytics results to gain further insight into their advertising’s performance.   Everything gets better through a process of evaluation and so too will your online advertising. Use analytics to go from good to great!