ABOUT THE VENDOR
NetIQ Corporation is a provider of e-business infrastructure management and intelligence for all the components of an organization's e-business infrastructure -- from back-end servers, networks and directories to front-end Web servers and applications. The company is headquartered in San Jose, CA., with development and operational personnel in Houston, TX; Raleigh, NC; Bellevue, WA; Portland, OR; Australia; the United Kingdom; and Japan.
ABOUT THE CUSTOMER
A part of Thomson, Peterson's is a provider of lifelong learning online resources, software, reference guides, and books. The Education Supersite at
The Thomson Corporation, with 2001 revenues of $7.2 billion, is a provider of integrated information solutions to business and professional markets worldwide. Its learning businesses and brands serve the needs of individuals, institutions, and businesses with a blend of products and services tailored to any learning environment.
ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
WebTrends' Web analytics software and eService solutions provide insights into Web site visitors' behavior and preferences. Multiple end users can directly access and run reports via their browsers. WebTrends solutions now power the e-commerce initiatives of over 55,000 customers worldwide, including over half the Fortune and Global 500s.
From the beginning of the launch of their Web site in 1996, Peterson's realized that they needed to track the activity of the users on their site. Many software programs at that time didn't provide the in-depth detail they needed. Two years ago Peterson's began a search for a new solution that would give them detailed information on the content of their site as well as the activity they generated for their clients. SearchCRM spoke with Bill Herron, Peterson's director of Web traffic management, about the project.
SearchCRM: Why did your company decide to evaluate Web analytics solutions?
Herron: For example, we wanted to be able to tell Boston University exactly how many visitors viewed their In-Depth Description (a two-page article that an institution can purchase that provides detailed information about the institution). In addition, we needed detailed information on each of our channels and the actions our users took within them.
SearchCRM: What were you looking for in a solution?
Herron: We needed a solution that was flexible, convenient and powerful. Flexibility allowed us to implement a solution by what we needed to track -- activity to individual channels on our site and activity to specific clients (over 25,000 of them). Convenience ensured we could spend our time analyzing the traffic reports as opposed to generating them. We needed a powerful program that provided the detailed information we needed now and that could expand its capabilities in the future.
SearchCRM: What made you choose NetIQ?
SearchCRM: How did you make the transition to the new solution?
SearchCRM: What was the most challenging aspect of the implementation?
SearchCRM: What is the most rewarding result of the Web analytics solution so far?
Herron: There have been many. We realized that we were not receiving as many search engine visitors as we should have, which lead to a Search Engine Optimization effort that had a dramatic impact on search engine referrers and traffic to the site as a whole. We also identified a deficiency in traffic to a key sector of our site. Using the information in WebTrends Live, we identified areas within our site where we could make changes that could increase traffic to this sector. Continuing to use WebTrends Live, we could measure the effectiveness of these changes over time. Measure -- Change -- Measure is becoming a mantra at Peterson's as we continue to strive to improve our site for our users and our clients.
SearchCRM: Did you encounter any internal resistance?
Herron: Classification of a Web site can become extremely frustrating. People have their own ideas on how to classify an item and all of them are correct. Ensuring a comprehensive and accurate scheme that meets the business objectives and that anticipates future questions is essential. In addition, developers being developers may push to implement a homegrown solution. Explaining why you should go with a vendor who is an expert in Web analytic solutions can be a challenge, especially if the developers do not completely understand the complexities involved. Backing up your arguments with a cost and ROI analysis can help overcome this.
SearchCRM: When do you expect to see ROI?
Herron: We've seen it. Within the first few months we identified the problem with search engine referrers, implemented a course of action, and saw substantial increases in traffic. Just a few months ago we identified a problem with a portion of our site, implemented changes, and saw immediate results. We have also demonstrated the values of being a Peterson's client, which has had a substantial impact on renewals and new sales.
SearchCRM: Can you provide any statistics or success measures?
Herron: The SEO process resulted in a 49% increase in the number of aggregate visitor sessions and a 71% increase in visitor sessions for a specific channel a couple of years ago. This year, we implemented a number of keyword buys on search engines which have helped increase overall traffic by over 16%, but more importantly, the buys as well as changes made to our site, have helped increase conversion rates to over 10% of unique visitors.
SearchCRM: What advice would you give to companies beginning a similar project?
Herron: Start by defining your objectives. What are you hoping to capture, what reporting needs do you currently have, what types of analysis are currently being done, and what information is needed to give insight into your business and customers? Consider what will be needed in the future. Once the objectives are defined, classify your site. This is especially important in a client side solution. You must identify the content of your entire site and group information (channels, products, customers, etc) accordingly. Evaluate the solutions available. Review the feature sets, but keep in mind that many are often hyped. Ensure that the features you need will truly give you the benefit to make the project worthwhile. If you are brand new to Web analytics forget about implementing a high-end data warehouse OLAP solution. While the benefits sound impressive, you'll be overwhelmed with the data and will almost definitely fall into analysis paralysis. There is a ton of actionable information within mid-level solutions, such as WebTrends Live, which can lead to action and a return on investment.
SearchCRM: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Herron: We took too long in switching the management of Web analytics from the IT department to the Marketing department. In the past, Web analytics was just one of the functions of my department which also included Web operations, quality assurance and technical support. This year we reorganized and now my team and I focus exclusively on Web traffic and analytics as part of the Marketing Department. Areas we work on included Web traffic reporting to both our employees and clients, Web analysis to drive improvements to our site, search engine optimization, search engine keyword buys, internal and external advertising and vendor management. Having a team that focuses exclusively on traffic optimization allows us to drive change and improvements.
Linda Formichelli's writing has appeared in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle, Psychology Today. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out her Web site http://www.twowriters.net
This was first published in May 2002