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A PPC company recommened Engine Ready, I see a lot of discussion about Webtrends. If we're just getting started, do we need to buy something right away or are there other programs that can get us started until we need to buy up.
we use a combination of 1. mach 5 to analyse search keyword traffic and referals and so on and 2. a custom script to track everybody's movements page by page, so we can see the exact path any buyer took through the site (this works well for us as we don't have 100s of sales a day)
if however you want lots of pretty graphs and a lot of not entirely useful info (do you really need to know the operating system of your customers?) then try a commercial product.
you need to really decide what you want to know, the high end products, like urchin, are very expensive (but very good)
For now, be sure that your incoming PPC traffic can be identified as to source (google adwords, etc) and keyword used. Make sure your site gives out a persistent cookie on every page. Make sure your servers are logging all the available fields, including the referrer and the user agent. Make sure the logs are not getting deleted.
Decide whether you want to invest in a custom program written for you (which will probably reinvent the wheel already done pretty capably by others who have made it their life's work to do so and who have already made & fixed all the mistakes you'll want to avoid). You don't have to avoid collecting and reporting on too many things as long as you feel you can not be distracted by the extra stats; they are free and might just be useful. Consult with somebody who knows what's possible with advanced, thought-provoking and insightful analysis for your kind of situation, and who can advise you on what to analyze (and how to use it) and who will match you up with the right tool, because every tool has its ins and outs that you don't find out about just from the sales talk. Decide what you are going to do with the analysis --- decide in detail, not just "it'll be 'helpful' to be able to follow individual visits" etc. Remember that you can always see individual visits by parsing the logs with Excel, and that stats programs are best used as tools that drill UP, not down, for patterns, and that will thereby help you find which visits to (occasionally, probably) look at step by step.
Make note of the "who have already made & fixed all the mistakes ..." remark and realize that all this stuff is much more difficult than it seems, that installing something out of the box and taking the defaults is risky if you care about accuracy. Have somebody who knows what they're doing set it up and teach you, because I'm sure your time is more valuable in the context of improving your site and your products.
Sheesh. Too much caffeine this morning. Sorry!
Didn't want to buy it just yet as it costs a bit but after using their trial version I really think this is an A-grade tool. They have a few different versions of their product, each with big price differences but their trial one i tested works on your server log file and gives you some pretty good info like User behaviour (ie; user came to this page, then went to this page, etc etc).
If anyone here has purchased it, could you message me with the version you purchased etc and how you find it? It is a little pricey...
The trial periods offered by some of these products are worth their weight in gold for people willing to invest some time. Even if you don't buy, you will be smarter for it. It would be nice if all the vendors would just relax about industrial espionage or theft or whatever they're worried about, and offer this kind of access instead of relying on secrecy and arm waving. (editorial comment)
We're trying Webtrends On Demand on a 14 day trial but for some reason, it's not running correctly and there are no reports generated.
Thanks again for everyone chiming in.