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Unsure whether to measure Web site success by hits, visitors or visits.

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Solution: The real answer is "none of the above." While large and growing numbers of hits, visitors and visits are all a good thing, serious Web marketers know these measurements alone don't provide a true picture of a site's success. Search engine spiders, spambots and curious competitors all inflate these numbers. While a good site traffic analysis program can distinguish wanted from unwanted traffic, there is a much better way to measure your site's effectiveness.

The real key is conversion rate, the percentage of site visits that actually result in transactions.

Every well-conceived and strategically designed site has at least one holy grail, which is the place where a desired transaction occurs. For e-commerce sites, it is the order confirmation page at the end of the shopping cart. For institutional sites, it is the "thank you" that appears when the "contact us" form is submitted. For affiliate link sites, it's the qualifying click-through that creates a commissionable sale. Other such events include e-mail list signups, forum memberships, completed surveys and contest entries.

A good Web site traffic analysis package tracks navigational paths through the site from entry to exit. Armed with that information, you can:

  • Add links to guide people to a transaction from every logical point within the site and eliminate links that don't;
  • Analyze referrers to gauge which sites and search engine/keyword combinations produce the most transactions;
  • Use unique landing pages for your promotional efforts so you focus on the ones that result in transactions.

Your goal should never be to merely have people visit your site. Continually monitor your conversion rate and adjust.

Tom Snyder is president and founder of Trivera Interactive (www.trivera.com), a Web site development and online marketing company.

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