Vital Feedback for CPA Firms
- Having a website and not looking at its usage statistics is like
running a company without ever reconciling the cash account. The
statistics are an opportunity to reconcile a website. With the data,
an accounting firm owner can tell how well the site is working,
which pages need help, whether lead generation is on track, and
more. One can tell whether a website is doing what is intended,
or whether it’s just sitting out there in cyberspace looking
nice but wasting money.
people finding the website? More specifically, are they clicking
through from search engine results pages? Once there, do they
find the information useful and stay awhile, or do they take one
look and click away? A firm owner would know by checking the website
the most basic form, the information that even simple website
statistics programs provide includes the following:
Number of unique visitors;
Length of the visit;
Keywords used to find the site;
Top search engines that referred visitors to the site;
list of other websites that referred visitors to the site;
entry pages for the site; and
Top exit pages for the site.
what each of the above statistics is and why the data are important
can help business owners better understand whether the website
is working in the ways they want.
visitors. In the mid-1990s, “hits” were
the most-used gauge of how much traffic a site received. It was
soon understood, however, that hits represented every file the
visitor opened while on the site. In other words, when a visitor
enters a site’s homepage, the homepage file opens, but so
does a file for each graphic on that page. So, if there is a top
page banner, a side banner, a bottom banner, four photographs,
and the page itself, one visitor could be counted as eight hits.
That same visitor returning to the website an hour later could
rack up eight or more additional hits just from clicking to the
homepage. Not a very reliable measurement.
visitors, however, is a measurement that is exactly what it says.
It calculates one visit for each unique person who comes to a
website. This gives a more accurate description of how much traffic
the website actually has.
used to find the website. If search engine optimization
(SEO) is part of the firm’s overall website marketing strategy
(and it should be), one must know which keywords and phrases visitors
are actually typing into the engines. That will optimize the copy
(text) and other page elements to include the keywords visitors
are using and improve the site’s rankings on search engines.
Knowing which words and phrases to include requires research.
Never guess about which key phrases website visitors might use.
More often than not, you’ll be wrong.
the simplest statistics programs that come built into a web-hosting
account usually offer a list of the top keywords others have used
to find the website. While certainly not the definitive source
of keyword research, this is an excellent starting point. From
there, tools such as WordTracker.com and Keyword Discovery.com
can also help.
search engines that referred visitors to the website.
While anyone can quickly go to Google, Yahoo, or other search
engines to see if their site has been indexed and ranked for certain
search terms, how does one know if people are clicking from the
search engine listing to a website? Although being ranked is great,
unless those high rankings convert lookers into visitors, they
don’t do much good.
the top search engines that referred visitors to a website helps
an owner determine whether the site is getting any traffic for
high-ranking words and phrases.
of top referrers. Compiling information about other
sites that have included a link to a firm’s website could
be part of the data gathering. When a visitor leaves one website
and clicks to another URL, the site the visitor left will be recorded
in the tally for the incoming website. The visitor could have
clicked a link, but the visitor also could have typed the address
directly into the browser. So while this list can offer good insights
into how people locate a site, it should be taken with a grain
value of a list of top referrers is that it helps validate traffic
from pay-per-click ads and from other paid sources of traffic.
If a firm pays for listings on directory sites, then checking
the list of top referrers can allow the firm to see whether it’s
getting what it paid for. If the traffic from the directory site
doesn’t meet expectations, consider adjusting by either
upgrading or dropping the listing altogether.
in Statistics Software
statistics programs that can be purchased and installed on a web
server can help a business owner glean extremely detailed information
about visitor traffic patterns from the time visitors enter the
website until the moment they leave. While most cost several hundred
dollars, a company that is serious about accounting for the return
on investment in its website will find such software a worthwhile
using the standard statistics that come with a hosting account
or buying software from an independent source, any website owner
should take time to evaluate the information these tools provide.
They can provide excellent feedback to help tweak a website to
be more productive and efficient.
CPA, is the author of Effective Websites for CPAs: Grow Your Practice
and Profits (RJ Thompson Publishing Co., 2006; CPA Journal Book
Review, July 2007). Stangeland can be contacted at 914-478-8480