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Complete Web Monitoring by Sean Power, Alistair Croll

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Chapter 1. Why Watch Websites?

Smart companies make mistakes faster.

When it comes to figuring out what business you’re in, there’s only one rule: nobody gets it right the first time. Whether you’re a fledgling startup or a global corporation launching a new brand, you’re going to tweak your strategy before you find the best way to go to market.

There’s no secret recipe for this. It takes time and resources to try something out, and the sooner you know it’s wrong, the sooner you can try something different, wasting less time and money.

The changes you try may be simple, iterative adjustments to messaging, usability, or target market. On the other hand, they may be far-reaching—switching from a product to a service, targeting a different audience, or dealing with the fallout from a launch gone horribly wrong.

Successful companies adapt better than their competitors. However, it’s easy to miss the key point of adaptivity: You can only adjust when you know what’s not working. Everyone needs to make mistakes faster, but not everyone can make mistakes properly. Many organizations simply lack the feedback to know when and how they’re messing up.

The amazing thing about the Web is that your visitors are trying to tell you what you’re doing wrong. They do so with every visit cut short, every slow-loading page, every offer spurned, every form wrongly filled out, every mention on a social network, and every movement of a mouse.

You just need to know how to listen to them.

This book is about understanding the health and effectiveness of your web presence, and the relationship you have with your market, so you can adapt. It will show you how to monitor every website that affects your business—including your own—and how to use the insights you glean to iterate faster, adapting better than your competitors. It’s about closing the feedback loop between the changes you make and the impact they have on your web audience.

Close this loop and you’ll strike the right balance of brand awareness, compelling offers, web traffic, enticing site design, competitive positioning, grassroots support, usability, and site health that leads to success. Ignore this feedback and you risk being out-marketed, out-innovated, and out of touch.

A Fragmented View

At many of the companies we’ve surveyed, nobody sees the big picture. Different people watch different parts of their web presence: IT tests a site’s uptime; marketers count visitors; UI designers worry about how test subjects navigate pages; and market researchers fret over what makes customers tick.

The walls between these disciplines can’t stand. Each discipline needs to know how the others affect it. For example, bad design, leads to abandonment and missed revenue. A misunderstanding of visitor motivations makes otherwise compelling offers meaningless. Slow page loads undermine attractive websites. And successful marketing campaigns can overwhelm infrastructure capacity. As a result, these once-separate disciplines are being forced together.

Your online marketing battle isn’t just fought on your own website. Right now, someone online is forming a first impression of you. Right now, your brand is being defined. Right now, someone’s comparing you to a competitor. The battle is happening out in the open, on Twitter, Facebook, reddit, and hundreds of other blogs, mailing lists, and forums.

While it’s essential to watch your own website, it’s just as important to keep track of your competitors and the places where your established and potential communities hang out online. If you want to survive and thrive, you need to be aware of all your interactions with your market, not just those that happen within your own front door.

Complete web monitoring isn’t just about watching your own website—it’s about watching every website that can affect your business. Those sites may belong to you, or to someone else in the company, or to a competitor. They may even belong to someone who’s not a competitor, but who strongly influences your market’s opinions.

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