I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your Web analytics provider is holding out on you. As every marketer knows (and what your analytics aren’t telling you), it’s not the how many that matters, it’s the who.

To find the real information diamonds in the analytics rough, you must analyze your analytics. Bar graphs, pie charts and numbers reports just don’t cut it. Going beyond top-level traffic data can help you:

  • Screen competitors from your Web site;
  • Redirect high-value leads into a separate queue for “intensive care” marketing;
  • Tailor your site to appeal specifically to certain high-value visitors;
  • Personalize site components and offers to appeal to visitors on an individual basis;
  • Narrow the number of prospects for more costly, yet more effective direct mail campaigns;
  • Weed out unlikely sales prospects; and
  • Work out which offers should be extended to which groups.

So how do you find these info gems? Web analytics providers such as Google Analytics, Omniture and Coremetrics make it easy to embed page tags on your site’s pages. The page tags are snippets of JavaScript code that act like little turnstiles, capturing and recording information on each visitor as they click their way through your site.
Web analytics services tally this information and provide colorful dashboards with visualization and analysis features summarizing number of visitors, traffic trends, popular pages, referrers and hundreds of other customizable statistics.

But they usually don’t provide access to any personally identifiable information, beyond an IP address. First, Web browsers don’t offer much in the way of personal info, so there isn’t much data available. And Google Analytics, for example, blocks access to any personally identifiable information (PII) that is available, due to privacy concerns. The European Union is even considering classifying IP addresses as PII, making it illegal for EU Web marketers to harvest and use that information. (An IP address is the unique Web address of the computer a visitor is using to access a site.)

There’s another problem with Web analytics data.  Once your visitor data is summarized into reports, the data is dead. Report-based solutions usually don’t allow you to continue to update marketing data from multiple channels. Most Web analytics vendors charge additional fees for access to the original source data harvested directly from your page tags.
 
Clearly, Web analytics alone doesn’t provide the precision tuning of information and data access necessary to manage a successful marketing campaign. But linking IP addresses to external databases opens up a world of opportunity and insight.

Although IP address lookups are relatively new to marketers, the practice of compiling business information in databases has been in use since the 1940s, about the time the ZIP code system was implemented throughout the U.S.

Linking IP Addresses

With an IP locator database you can match to a compiled database, that links IP address ranges to a particular company, or organization. And once you know the company you can append business demographics like type of business, annual revenues, number of employees and other important prospect qualifiers.

Here is how it works:

1. An anonymous clicker visits your site.

2. Analytics software captures the clicker’s IP address.

3. A script on your site sends the IP address off to look for a match in the IP locator database (like looking in an Internet phone book).

4. The IP locator database finds that this IP address belong to www.xyzcompany.com, the URL for XYZ Company at headquartered in Anytown, USA.

5. Another script matches the XYZ Company to a business demographics database and adds the following information to your visitor’s record:

Type of Business: Manufacturing, Aircraft parts
Annual Revenues: $5-10 Billion
Number Employees: 10,000
Public Company: Yes
Exchange: NY
Ticker Symbol: XYZ

6. Voila! Your clicker is no longer anonymous! Now you’re honing in on the who, and can begin prospect triage to find and focus on the visitors most worthy of your immediate attention.
 
Keep in mind that IP address monitoring doesn’t identify the specific individual who visited your site, but it does get you in the door by flagging the company or organization that owns that IP address. In other words, you’re in the building, but don’t yet have access to the private offices.

The advantages of this type of monitoring are clear. You don’t have to ask your site visitor to fill out a single form or register, and there is a wealth of information available on larger companies and organizations.

If you are able coax your visitors into leaving their email address or street addresses, then you will be able to match more visitors to the business demographics database.

So what’s the catch? There are several.

First, IP matching is only useful in identifying the larger companies that are found in the IP locater database. That’s approximately 2 to 3 million businesses, just a fraction of the 20 million businesses found in the U.S. alone.

Second, there is a charge for access to the IP locator and business demographics data. Depending on the source of the data, this usually costs a minimum of $5,000 per year for access and monthly updates, and some vendors charge $50,000 or more (it pays to shop). Many B2B marketers can justify this cost with a single sale and the improved efficiency and effectiveness of their sales reps.

Third, your Web analytics software has to be able to track and store data on individual visitors, not just summary data. Many free or lower cost Web analytics solutions only provide reports and don’t allow access to detailed visitor level data. Upgrading to premium Web analytics services can cost a bundle.

Is there an alternative? Fortunately, yes. The tools for building powerful custom Web analytics solutions are available now for those who want to take back control of their online data and integrate it with offline data and CRM.

Roll Your Own

The tools you need to build your own Web analytics solution are:

1. A script to collect data from page tags on your Web pages.

2. A Web-enabled relational database capable of integrating data from multiple sources and multiple data formats.

3. Data feeds from all relevant sources.

4. A customer relationship management system for managing the combined data.

5. An end-user query tool for probing into your data and ad hoc queries.

6. A flexible, easy-to-use report builder for creating custom reports and dashboards.

For example, a software company that depends on trial downloads to recruit potential buyers should create an analytics system that retrieves trial download data, leads generated from microsites and landing pages, results from drip email marketing campaigns and Web data from custom page tags stored in their Web site’s database.

Creating a customized solution shouldn’t break the bank or become a second job to complete. Data management fanatics don’t have to settle for summary reports, dead data or high Web analytics fees. The right approach makes it easy to delve into visitor data and discover the faces behind your clicks.

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