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Introduction to Website Analytics for Economic Development

 

Is your economic development website successful?

You could answer that question from many points of view – design, content, ease of use, visitor response – but the real answer depends on whether the site helps your department find new sources of economic growth for your community.

To determine your site’s success on that basis, and to improve your lead generation success rate, you need tools to help you understand your website’s traffic patterns.

If you can’t track your website interactions, you can’t determine if your website is working. You have no idea if it’s performing to capacity (or not) and whether the money you have spent is producing any results that matter.
Your website, by its very nature, can be a bottomless source of data about existing and potential economic drivers in your community and the effectiveness of your organization in meeting their needs.  Mining this data, however, can be very challenging for EDOs with constrained budgets and staff.  Various software options exist and it’s useful to understand the functionality and limitations as they apply to the economic development function.

Basic Website Analytics for Economic Developers

Perhaps the best known tool for basic website analytics is Google Analytics. This free reporting platform tracks a lot of aggregate information about the traffic on a website. Google Analytics provides a graphical summary on a wide range of data points including:

 

  • Visitors – Find out how many people came to your site and how many pages they view on average, find out where in the world they are coming from, which types of browsers and computers they are using or if they are viewing your website using mobile devices.
  • Traffic Sources – Find out whether your website visitors are linking to you from other sites, are finding you through search engines or typing your URL in directly.
  • Content – Find out which pages people land on, which pages are the most popular and from which pages they leave your website.

 

The Google Analytics “Goals” menu can be used to increase the value of Google Analytics for economic developers.
Goals are desired visitor actions on your website.  You might want a visitor to visit a key page or download a PDF about your new industrial park.  When you define a goal, you tell Google Analytics which page view constitutes the completion of a goal, and the program tracks the views.  While it doesn’t tell you who downloaded the PDF, here is a quick, reliable way to measure the effectiveness of a campaign, e-mail blast or any other individual initiative using quantitative data.

Shortcomings of Google Analytics – from an Economic Development Perspective

While Google Analytics tracks a lot of basic information and is a free tool for understanding your website’s traffic, it has a number of shortcomings for economic developers:

Getting started can be difficult because there are a great many information options and few directions.  Google Analytics offers educational resources  but within the site there is little or no help.

Most significantly for economic developers, data in Google Analytics is shown in aggregate, which means that you can measure the quantity but not the quality of your website traffic.
Although Google Analytics collects a vast amount of data, it does not translate into investment attraction leads or BRE (Business Attraction and Retention) traffic pattern identification.

Website Analytics – Tracking What Really Matters to EDOs

When push comes to shove, it is investment leads and business traffic that are the measuring stick for the effectiveness of your website.

It is identifying those leads, after all, that are your goal in growing your community and therefore the goal of all of your marketing initiatives. The website is your central and main marketing tool. It has to be designed to do more than deliver information, attract compliments or even win a design award.

The right website analytics tool, one that balances cost against value within the boundaries of your organization’s resources, is one that generates leads.

What can an economic developer do to get more out of an investment attraction website? How can the website work harder to contribute to generating investment opportunities? How can the organization know that its site is working at optimal effectiveness and which marketing activities are attracting prospects?
The answers can be found by mining, then translating relevant data into tangible, useful information.  This series of articles will examine the latest advances in web analytics methods and technologies.

 

 

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