Sept. 12, 2006 SDF Search Analytics

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On Tuesday September 12, 2006, the SDForum Search SIG was held at AOL’s Mountain View headquarters. Dave McClure of moderated a panel consisting of Don Loeb of Feedburner, Scott Rafer of MyBlogLog, LeeAnn Prescott of Hitwise and Jeff Gillis of Google Analytics. They discussed the tools and techniques they use to analyze traffic to and from websites and blogs.

LeeAnn Prescott of Hitwise showed how search analytics could drive traffic to your site. Hitwise is an online competitive intelligence service that measures traffic on millions of users for thousands of companies. Search is the largest factor determining traffic to any site. For instance, most people use search engines for education purposes and may go to Wikipedia or Encarta. Search is less important for news sites that get traffic from e-mail, blogs or portals or other news sites. Creating a search suggestion associated with a particular term can drive more traffic to your site. An example is Saturday Night Live’s rap parody of Chronicles of Narnia, where it attracted more traffic than the book or the movie. If the key term is in the first thirty characters, it will like help in driving traffic.

Prescott also talked about the Library of Congress, which faces the challenge of making its collection of old media available to new technology. Their challenge is to index 184 terabytes of content so it can be searched by millions of people everyday. Reference site searches result in incredibly long tails of related terms that must be analyzed to create relevant searches for users. These long tails are the results usually seen in page 10 of a Google search and are rarely relevant to what people are looking for.

Jeff Gillis said Google Analytics tries to find out where user traffic is coming from. The sources can be paid or organic, from blogging, e-commerce or publishers. They study funnels or the series of steps that lead toward the goal, such as a customer searching for and buying a product. Sometimes a customer will not complete a transaction and analytics help them find where a customer dropped out of the process. Buying the right keyword can really help your business.

Scott Rafer of MyBlogLog not only finds out where customers come from but where they go. A customer visits a blog and they build profiles of them and give them places for their pictures and other content. Rafer talked about the advantages of using workhorse search terms that customers look for everyday. It is these ‘go to’ or brand name terms are what will build traffic to a site over time. Traffic analysis is important to understand what blog content is truly popular. Write for traffic if you want traffic.

Don Loeb of Feedburner. Helps publishers measure their audience traffic based on subscribers, RSS feeds, clicks and other criteria. They intend to measure not just where customers come and go, but how they graduate from a casual reader to subscriber. Have a 360-degree view of the customer can give greater insight into their needs and drive more traffic. Loeb gave an example of people with an interest in roasting coffee beans being linked to interest in RSS subjects. Perhaps people who study RSS need lots of coffee.

In the end, as more people search, there will be more tools to know what they are searching for.

Copyright 2006 DJ Cline All rights reserved.