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Internet analytics are, in general terms, statistical and tracking tools that any entity with a web presence can use to monitor Internet traffic on owned and operated websites. Analytic data is comprised of many different tracking statistics, from obvious ones like page views and unique visitors to more complex examples, such as bounce rate and click depth. Properly interpreted, Internet analytics can help shape and influence a company's web-based business strategies by indicating, among other things, what sections of a site are the most or least popular, how visitors find the site, and how long they stay.
In addition to offering insight into user demographics and behavior, Internet analytics can help a site owner tailor keywords on each page to raise the site's prominence in search engine results. This activity is known as search engine optimization (SEO), and takes advantage of the unique algorithms that various search engines use to deliver results, to boost the likelihood that a given page winds up near the top of the list. SEO often involves rewording content on a site to include more commonly searched keywords.
For sites that are engaged in the online sale of products or services, Internet analytics can prove critical in determining the best methods for improving sales and customer retention. While most companies, whether they host their own website or use a hosting service, can access basic analytic tools — such as visitor counts — the value of analytics has spawned an industry of third-party tracking companies. A multitude of businesses now offer paid tracking and analytic services over the Internet, while others, like Google®, which has a product known as Google Analytics™, offer some versions free of charge.
Given that it is free and has a comprehensive feature set, Google Analytics™ is by far the most widely used web tracking software currently available — with roughly 85 percent of the overall market share as of January 2010. The company enjoys a further advantage through the close integration of its analytics service with its online advertising service, Adsense™. With it, users can access both services from the same content management system, with ad revenue tracking integrated directly into the analytics results.
Take analytics with a grain of salt. If you don't understand a few things about the numbers, they can deceive you. Analytics might count page hits, but how good is the analytical tool at hand at measuring bounce rates (how often people close the page quickly instead of engaging with it), the actual location of users, how many visits are from automated bots, etc.? Some analytics are better at providing good information than others, so do some research before relying too much on a company.