* Exactly how many people are visiting your website? * How long they're staying on your site before they move on? * Exactly where those visitors are coming from, each day? * How much of your website traffic is repeat visitors? * The exact paths people take as they click their way through your website?
Here's what I'm getting at:
If you don't know your visitors, it makes it *very* difficult for you to improve the performance of your website and turn more visitors into customers - AND - get more quality traffic. For the simple reason that you're effectively working blind.
Without knowing how people visit your site and what they do on your site, any attempts at growing your traffic and improving the profitability of your website is working with one armed tied behind your back, at least.
And unfortunately - the web stats that come with your web-hosting are generally not enough these days.
Depending on your web host, chances are you've either got Webalizer, Analog Stats, or AWStats installed on your server. Here's how that software works:
It takes the "raw" (unreadable to the human eye) information your web server stores of everyone that visits and presents this in an easy to understand way.
Unfortunately, due to a number of technical reasons, this information is often presented in quite an inaccurate way.
And in my personal experience, these software packages don't present this information in a particularly helpful way either for someone trying to improve the conversion ratios and profitability of their website.
What I personally do, and what I would suggest you do is use a "Tracking Solution" that accurately tracks and reports all your visitors in an easy to read and understand way. These solutions come in two forms: Software & Services
Both these options have their pros and cons, but what they both do very well is present exactly what's happening on your website right up to the minute, and in a way that's very helpful to you for making good (and profitable) decisions for your business.
To start with here's a software solution you can install and use for free on your website:
Now before you go and install it, you should of course be familiar with installing software on your server. If you're not comfortable installing software on your website, a tracking service (which I'll come to in a moment) would probably be best for you.
And it's also important to note that installing software on your website can often put more strain on the server. This is particularly true if you're on shared hosting.
I've personally used the following free tracking software and it works well. See what you think. Go to http://www.curve2.com and look for "TrackPro". As I write this, version 2 is in Beta and is downloadable from the site at the following address: http://www.curve2.com/trackpro.php
You'll also find many further free tracking software solutions at http://www.hotscripts.com.
But personally speaking, what I've found works very well and avoids putting any increased strain on my existing websites is using a third party tracking service.
The only things really to worry about when using a third party service are:
Over the past month I've been using ecommStats (http://www.ecommstats.com). Now, this service isn't free, but at this time they give you 50,000 free page views per domain, and depending how busy your site is those page views can last you a very long time.
The service works great and is very easy to add to your pages -- simply add three lines of code at the bottom of each of your pages (you can easily do this with Server Side Includes if you're comfortable with that) and all your visitors get tracked accurately and in great detail.
Alternatively - an entirely free (at this time) and very established service is StatCounter (http://statcounter.com). It even has a rave review from Tucows.com (one of the largest download sites on the internet) which speaks for itself and adds a lot of credibility to the service.
And just in case you're wondering how a free service like StatCounter makes money, well - since it's such a popular service with many webmasters logging in every day (and many I'm sure even more than once a day just like me) that it's made it very easy for them to sell a lot of advertising on their site. They also offer an upgrade to their advanced paid service.
But thinking beyond free services, as your business grows you may choose to upgrade to high end paid services that provide even more in depth information about your visitors...
Services like Urchin (Urchin.com - owned by Google) or Deep Metrix (DeepMetix.com). However, to help you grow your business to that point you need to keep a close eye on what your visitors are doing and where they're coming from, and free tracking software and services is a great way for you to start to do this.
Interested in making a full time income running an internet business?
Well, one of the first things you need to do is forget a lot of the "myths" that keep being repeated online. Let's go through five of them here:
Myth 1: "Running a successful online business is easy".
No it isn't. No business success comes easy.
If money was really that easy to make, word would spread and everyone would jump on it, including investors!
Business doesn't work like that - it's competitive, and because of this requires hard work and vigilance.
If you treat your internet business like a job, and always do your very best for your boss (you), then you're off to a great start.
That said - if you're only looking to make $200 extra a month, or even $500 extra a month, that IS easy. Just sell some odds and ends on eBay. A part time income is not particularly difficult to achieve online with online auctions and other outlets like Amazon Marketplace.
But - if you're looking for a full time income, you need to work at it. There is no "secret formula", never was and never will be.
Myth 2: "Running an internet business costs next to nothing".
Well, somewhat true, but it misses the point.
You can run an online business very cheaply (my basic running costs are around $150 a month - hosting, autoresponders...etc) but if you want your business to grow at very low cost, you'll have to do all the promotions for free.
Free online marketing tactics generally take time to work, and require a lot of elbow-grease: writing articles to distribute, writing pages to get search engine traffic, creating products, building up an affiliate program, getting links in to your sites...
Alternatively - if you want to speed things up, you can advertise. And depending on how well your site converts visitors into customers, and how targeted your advertising is, you can grow very quickly that way.
If you're interested in putting a few hundred dollars aside into an "advertising fund" and trying to build your business quickly that way, pay-per-click advertising would probably be the best way to start.
Focus on Google Adwords & Yahoo Search Marketing (formerly Overture) for starters since they have the most traffic, as well as the most responsive traffic.
But before diving in headfirst and potentially throwing good money after bad on inefficient advertising, it's strongly recommended you fully understand the subject, or get the advice of a professional.
Either consult with one (if you can find a reputable one), or devour eBooks on the subject.
Recommended eBooks are anything by Andrew Goodman or Perry Marshall. Make sure the information is up to date though as the pay-per-click field changes incredibly quickly. Twelve months is a lifetime when it comes to the search engines.
Also recommended is spending time absorbing the Google Adwords training site and also the Yahoo Search Marketing training site.
Both these companies want you to succeed with your advertising (since you'll advertise with them for longer) and so have a lot of great information to help you get started and build a successful advertising campaign.
Myth 3: "All traffic is the same".
This myth often presents itself as "Buy 10,000 visitors from us for $9.95 and you'll make lots of sales!" (or something along those lines).
Ignore such sales pitches - they're complete rubbish. And here's why:
Bulk traffic like this is completely untargeted and a complete waste of your time and money.
Just think - if you were selling a book through direct mail on "How To Get Rich In Real Estate" and you had to choose a mailing list to promote to, would you rather:
1) Mail your offer to a list of people who had already expressed an interest in the subject by purchasing similar products?
2) Or would you feel it was better to instead pick names at random out of the phone book and make that list the offer?
Silly question, right?
Well, it's the same online - all traffic is not identical. People surfing have different interests and motivations, just like they do offline.
To maximize your chances of making money, you want to target the visitors most likely to convert to customers for you and get them to your site.
Myth 4: "Opt-in email doesn't work anymore".
From my own personal experience:
Opt-in mail does work, but not as well as it used it. Many spam and email filters are over-zealous these days and delete mail people have asked to receive (opt-in mail) at the same time as unsolicited email (spam).
Plus - people are very worried about phishing emails these days (emails that try to fool you into typing in your private details) and often delete emails out of fear if they don't recognize who sent it.
But these points aside, opt in email can still work - so don't discount it before you try it.
Myth 5: "You don't need any technical skills"
Let's be frank - without technical skills you're going to struggle big time.
If you're going to run an internet business, for starters you want to be comfortable with computers and familiar with the internet.
And you really want to get to grips with HTML and FTP. Those seven letters are the building blocks of creating any kind of website and getting it live online. If you don't know them, get to know them. There's plenty of great tutorials online.
Or even just for starters - you can easily create web pages visually (without messing around with HTML code) by using a visual web page editor. There's plenty to be found by searching download.com.
So put these internet business myths out of your mind and get cracking on building your business into a success.
Louis Allport is an online product developer and marketer. He recently revealed a system that can help you create best-selling products practically on demand: Create Best-Selling Products On Demand