What Your Website Is Telling You

There’s something you might not know about your website. While people are in the process of researching your company or applying for jobs, your website is very busy tracking their every move and generating detailed reports on their activities. Used properly, these reports can be a very valuable recruitment tool that will help you analyze Return on Investment, find new ways to promote your employment section, make informed site content decisions, and identify the number of individual competitors’ employees who are visiting your site. At the very least, a small amount of data collection is probably taking place behind the scenes of your site already. The most common Web servers – Apache, Microsoft IIS, and Netscape – typically include a scaled-down version of data collection software that gets a minimum of information, called “Web Logs.” At most, robust software from vendors like WebTrends and NetGenesis are being used to generate much more detailed Web Log analyses and reports that can track everything from which keywords someone used to find your site to which of your competitions’ employees are visiting most. Here’s a real-world example. By looking at a past WebTrends report of one of TMP’s client’s sites, we discovered the following vital information (among many other things):

  • They had approximately 4,500 unique visitors to their site last month
  • They got only 500 repeat visitors
  • Most users visited each page on their site
  • The top states of origin were Washington, California and Oregon
  • Half of all traffic to their recruitment site came from visitors to their e-commerce site
  • The top keyword searches that led to the site were “travel employment”

This is just a small sampling of the huge amount of data that can be gathered, analyzed, and acted upon. Based on the above data, though, we could recommend the following:

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  • Increase promotion on the company’s e-commerce site. Banner ads on this company’s own site, driving candidates to the employment section, could represent an excellent opportunity to further and inexpensively tap into an apparently large audience of interested visitors.
  • Expand the content areas of their site. Users of this site seem to be equally interested in the information about the company as in the actual job opportunities, which is rare in an age where many users go straight for the jobs and online application. Expanding content may provide for a more valuable user experience.
  • Geographically target the company’s advertising. Depending on where we’ve traditionally advertised, we might recommend that the bulk of their promotional budget should be spent in the 3 target states of Washington, Oregon and California.
  • Use push technology to encourage repeat visitors. Allowing candidates to easily set up email job agents is the most effective, most targeted way to drive repeat traffic to employment sites. If you’re building a job agent or already have one, make sure you’re promoting it just as much as the ability to apply through a prominent link in your employment navigation.
  • Optimize search engine promotion. The keywords “travel employment” can be optimized with search engine registration and the site’s metatags (pieces of code that users do not see, but come up as keyword hits on search engines). Since most traffic on the Internet is search-based, search engines can account for a significant amount of traffic to your site.

There’s a good chance that you’ve never seen one of these Web Log reports before. Your company’s marketing department is probably using them to analyze their own campaigns, but may not have thought of the impact the data might have on recruitment advertising or employment site building decisions. To get access to Web Log reports, start with your company’s IT or Web department. Ask them what data is available to you, how often reports are generated and how you can view the data. But before you go sifting through piles of data, here are a few caveats.

  1. AOL users typically cannot be tracked geographically. Since AOL’s servers usually reside in Virginia, you’ll probably notice a lot of Virginia hits. There are ways around this, like filtering out the AOL users on your reports or just looking at the data from other geographies if you don’t advertise in Virginia. If you do filter them out, make sure you take off the filter to look at other data so you don’t miss out on other data trends not relevant to geography.
  2. Some less robust reporting software cannot track the hits or impressions for individual pages or sections of their site. This renders the data that is gathered somewhat useless for employment site or advertising decisions, unless you use a more complex reporting tool. WebTrends and NetGenesis are two popular vendors that I’ve found to have excellent reporting capabilities.
  3. While Web Logs represent an underutilized source of information, they can be unwieldy. Reports can fill up over 100 pages. Depending on the vendor, Web Logs are typically organized and hyperlinked by category, but even the best categorization can prove difficult to navigate.

The good news is that there are companies out there who can help you make sense of the numbers. If you choose to go it alone, your IT or Web department can help you sort through the data by using a filter (depending on their software), which will allow you to view only the data you perceive as valuable. To view some sample Web Log reports, visit www.webtrends.com/reports/reports.asp. If your IT or Web department isn’t able to run the right kind of reports, you may want to consider an external vendor that has additional reporting capabilities. Taking the time to tap into this often-ignored resource can pay big dividends. Web Log Analysis can help you make more informed advertising and site building decisions using data you might have been missing. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (www.talentsparkconsulting.com), a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.

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