Building Online Community

A How-to Guide: Using webstats to build online community

Build and measure community: Strategies to attract visitors
‘Customer loyalty’ – getting visitors to return
Target audience behavior: Understand your clients and community
Visualize your website as a store
Learn from traffic patterns
Content management based on traffic statistics

Building (and measuring) a community of visitors to your site

One secret of sites like Facebook, Amazon, ebay, Twitter, and Yahoo is ‘customer loyalty’, which means a community of returning visitors. These sites have generated trust.

To begin replicating this process for your own site, benchmark your traffic community based on the variables outlined below.

This is the point of tracking: evaluate your marketing strategy (i.e. site content) based on performance in terms of what your visitors do on your most important pages. What do they do just before they convert from visitors to clients?

Click here for an in-depth analysis of how to Use Statistics for Decision-making.

Customer loyalty and returning visitors

Some sites we measure have a very good returning visitor ratio of 30-40%. This group of visitors is their customer client-base, the community. So, if a community has 100,000 members, over a given period of time, two months for example, then you have the population of a small city coming to your site and returning. This means that people are actively using the info in some way. The useful aspect of this information could not be deduced from ‘pageviews’ alone, but is only interesting when the pageviews are correlated to unique visitors. This will tell you, for example, how many pages the average visitor views.

Understand target audience behavior

There are road signs to tell you how a community is behaving. A community comprised of first-time visitors has few variables. All you know at this stage is that your campaign generates first-time visitors. The best investment is to try and build a community of returning visitors and study their behavior. We have a community at opentracker that returns on a regular basis. If this community starts to visit our site less frequently and for shorter periods of time, using less information, we will take a look at the indicators and evaluate why such changes are taking place.

Visualize your website as a store with real people coming in & out

Visualizing a store and actual humans is a good way to measure the performance of your site, and to try & visualize what people are actually doing in your store. The trick here is to remember that the numbers are generated by people. Are these people doing what your site is designed for? What is the ultimate conversion goal that you have set for your site? From which page on your site do the most people ‘convert’ as you want them to? Is there a banner or link that is most frequently clicked on? This single piece of information is tremendously valuable. Click here to read more about Website Visitor Conversion Activity.

Learn from traffic patterns

One statistic that can give you an idea of what people are doing is the list that tells you which pages are being looked at most. This tells you which part of your store is most popular. Imagine pages as shelves or sections of your store. Do you have ‘staff’ or help resources to help people make decisions? The pages that are heavily trafficked should receive the most of your attention when you manage your content. Keep in mind, also, that while certain pages do have a lot of pageviews, they are perhaps viewed by a minority of people. It is therefore not smart to focus on these pages, simply because they have a lot of pageviews. For instance we measure numerous sites with forums & chat pages that continually refresh, thus generating many pageviews from relatively few people. These pages do not need attention in the way of marketing optimisation.

Content management based on statistics

The most interesting statistics tell what is happening on your pages: how long people stay. Average viewing time above 20 seconds is very good. Most people click away in less that 10 seconds. Therefore, if people are reading & returning, then you know that the site is being used, people are continually coming back to check for information or research / make purchases. You know which information is the most important, generating more interest. A newspaper has no way of knowing how much time its readers spend on a page, this is a wonderful comparative advantage for a website. The goal is to take your stats & use them to improve your marketing strategies.
  1. Identify important pages.
  2. Evaluate their performance based on statistics.
Further reading: Here is an article we wrote on How to Make Statistics Work for you.

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