3thefourIt’s generally known that those who ask the right questions get the right answers, gaining that way a competitive edge that can make a decisive contribution to their success. Just the same applies to website operators where the most successful ones are those that meet the expectations and needs of their visitors. Prerequisite is to know the proper answers to important questions such as: “What is happening on my website? Why is it happening? How does it happen? And where is it happening?”

By making use of the right analysis software, all these questions can be answered easily and comprehensively, and based on the findings, website owners can then optimize their online presence in a targeted and user-centric way, getting at least one step ahead of their competitors.

So, the ideal approach would be to analyze and illuminate an existing website completely as well as the usage behavior of its visitors. For doing that, different tools can be used that allow both an overview of the macro perspective and a detailed view from the micro perspective. It can range from the analysis of the entire website or just specific pages, to the monitoring of user behavior on individual detail pages, up to visitor surveys.

The four Pillars of Web Controlling

Such kind of web-controlling is based in general on four main pillars: traditional web analytics, detailed mouse tracking, on-site surveys for visitor satisfaction and the possibility that visitors can comment on individual pages via feedback buttons.

Though web analysis and mouse tracking fall into the realm of so-called "passive visitor observation", since all data is collected without user involvement, the satisfaction survey and visitor feedback, however, actively involve the visitor in the website optimization and is therefore called “active visitor survey".

Traditional Web Analytics

Of these four tools for web controlling, the traditional web analytics is the best known and most widely used. Web analytics provides an overview and answer the question: "What happens on the website?" Thus, a good web analytics software displays in real-time, among others, how many visitors come to the site, where they come from, what technical environment they have and where they leave the site again. Click paths reveal how visitors navigate and what paths they take on the website. In addition, there are interesting indicators, such as length of stay, basket size and conversion rate.

Mouse Tracking

A mouse tracking software, however, allows a detailed view of the user experience on individual pages, ideally without additional plugins on the visitors’ side, capturing and recording all mouse movements, clicks and scrolling behavior of visitors. The insights website operator can gain with mouse tracking are extremely valuable, as they are based on the high correlation of eye and mouse movement, which is backed by scientific studies that prove a match of eye movement and mouse movement by about 70 percent.

Without having to pay for an expensive and complex eye tracking studies in a usability lab, website owners get valid insights about what the user perceives on the Internet and what he actually experiences with mouse tracking. With such a solution, operators can analyze user behavior in detail and optimize particularly critical areas, such as landing pages, the ordering process or forms, based on the recorded mouse movements.

Ideally, a mouse tracking solution aggregates the individual visitor sessions to overlay maps, so that website owners can see at a glance where visitors perceive what, how far they scrolled, what things they are interested in or in what especially, and how long they looked at it.

For example, if the dropout rate on pages with forms is very high, a professional mouse tracking software not only can find out in which order the fields are filled out and how long it takes people to do that, but even in which concrete form field visitors actually leave the page.

Just using these tools, operators can gain valuable insights, such as, for example, the facts that many visitors stay very long on certain pages, how long exactly and what is the conversion rate.

Based on the recorded mouse movements, website operators can determine which contents are of great interest, since visitors spend a lot of time there. Unsuccessful clicks on non-clickable sub-headings and the scrolling behavior, for instance, show that visitors are possibly looking for more information or links. Thanks to the detailed form field analysis, a glimpse at the booking screen allows to detect where most crashes happen - which is usually in the phone number field that is marked as a required field.

On-Site Surveys

Aside from the passive observation of visitors and the analysis of their usage behavior, their satisfaction is, however, a subjective perception that can’t be measured by observation only. Therefore, an active on-site survey is recommended.

An appropriate software must take into account that the overall satisfaction is composed of several so-called partial satisfactions with certain website features, for example including usability, content, or the look and feel of the website, which again can be broken down into further sub-satisfactions and should be collected in the survey. Similarly, survey software should provide prioritized recommendations for action that can quickly detect which optimization measures bring the most satisfaction.

Direct Feedback

Through an active visitor survey, site owners can understand the reasons for a particular visitor behavior much better. For a more detailed visitor feedback on individual pages, the operator may additionally activate a feedback button on the website, allowing visitors immediate and straightforward praise or criticism, error messages and concrete suggestions for improving each page.

Essential for a really efficient web controlling is however, above all, the possibility to combine the findings intelligently. Only an integrated web analytics solution really allows the development of successful campaigns that get to the right target group and meet their expectations.

Of course, as the most important criteria, data protection compliance, fast and easy implementation, simple intuitive operation and results must be guaranteed in real-time. Also quite useful are modular solutions that can be scaled as needed and are available in the SaaS model, besides keeping costs as low as possible, Then, the comprehensive web controlling and the success of the web presence become a child's play – so just make sure to ask the right questions.

By Daniela La Marca