Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Click Analytics is for Bloggers, Librarians, and eCommerce

If we wanted nobody to read the content we generate, we'd just write in our diaries.  Blogs, organization websites, and eCommerce sites are generally interested in maximizing the useability and aesthetics of a website so users can absorb enough information (and the right information) to keep web users from going back to Pinterest, Facebook, or their last Google search. Anyone who creates their own website or blog may find it beneficial to track the "areas of activity" once a visitor has decided to pull up the webpage.  Each webpage is designed with a specific motive.  For the "crafter" it may be to expose the world to a "do it yourself" project that you created independent of Pinterest.  For the librarian it may be to guide a wandering student or professor to access the immense amount of educational resources available to them that could aid in their research.  For the eCommerce webpages it may be to provide just enough information to guide visitors to the products they need and to ultimately make a sale.  In all of these scenarios, click analytics is a field of web analytics that focuses on the spatial aspect of a webpage and provides statistics and/or a color code representation of the website to identify links that are most frequently clicked.  Web designers can use this information in improving the layout and positioning of links on their website.

Click Analytics can be used to answer the following questions (Reference):
  • Is the layout optimal for what I want users to accomplish on the page?
  • Are my users seeing the content I want them to see?
  • Are my users finding what they're looking for on the page?
  • Are my calls to action motivating or visible enough?
  • What links are users clicking?
There are many open sourced and commercial software tools that provide click analytic capability. I will describe the pros and cons of three click analytics tools that anyone can use to look at where most users click when they visit a webpage.

1.  Google Analytics' In-Page Analytics

Google Analytics' In-Page Analytics visually represents click data on a webpage.  To examine the data on various links you navigate the webpage as you normally would.  The data for each link is overlayed on the website and the total number of clicks a link receives is tracked and segmented into specific groups such as mobile device users.  In Page Analytics displays an overview statistical report on the side panel and extracts useful data generated from other Google Analytics tools.  Inbound sources, or top referrals, are links from other websites that lead visitors to the webpage.  Outbound Sources are link that cause a visitor to leave the webpage. A screen shot of the In-page Analytics tool can be seen below.

  • Segmented click data allow managers to see how different groups of people navigate through the website.
  • Determines how a webpage is being used and identifies flaws in layout, navigation, and content.
  • Doesn't discern between the same links if they are listed in multiple places on a webpage.  Therefore, if information is desired about which link is used more (when two links guide the user to the same webpage), other software may have to be used.
  • In Page Analytics provides click data on the current webpage and therefore, can't be used to compare the effectiveness of old vs. new webpages.

2. Labsmedia's ClickHeat

ClickHeat is an open source tool that creates a "heat map" to visually display clicks on a webpage.  While a heat map is generated, no specific statistics about the about the number of clicks or percentages are displayed.  Warmer colors such as yellows, oranges, or reds indicate a great number of clicks while the absence of color represents little to no click activity.  Each map contains a legend that will outline the number of clicks a certain color represents.  ClickHeat can be used in conjunction with Piwik, a free open source web analytics tool, and can be an alternative to Google Analytics. A screen shot of ClickHeat can be seen below.