In web analytics, we all can get a bit too focussed on how our/the site is doing in relation to the KPIs that you measure against. But are you watching the ‘broken’ parts of your site?
I do, and here’s some suggestions on things to look for:
Most analytics programs gather error reports. They typically they are configured to report out on 404 errors (a page not found) and list the URL or page name requested and often the referring link/URL where the request originated. You can track other error types easily as well. For example, in HBX, all you need to do is pass a different value to the hbx.mlc variable in the page error code (e.g. /error/404 or /error/500) to distinguish between the types. You could even write code to pass custom variables such as the time the error occured.
You can also eliminate a lot of these errors by running a link check on your site occassionally. The free W3C link checker is an option and there are also many tools on the market that do the same or better.
Looking at your ‘failed keyword’ reports (keywords/phrases typed in your site search engine that did not return a result) can be quite interesting. As Hurol Inan writes in Search Analytics â€“ A Guide to Analyzing and Optimizing Website Search Engines “the nature of keyword errors might be diverse, but common types include hitting the search button without entering a keyword, misspellings and mistakes in using notations such as + and -” and “examining frequently occurring errors, [can help you] figure out ways of dealing with them; for instance, modifying the search help text or associating frequently misspelled words to their content items etc.”
Indexing of error pages
Another worthwhile option is to look at your favourite search engine and see how many error pages are being indexed. if you know how you title your error pages, you can do this using the allintitle: and site: search options. For example, looking at WebSideStory.com we can see that they have 174 ‘404 error pages’ listed in Google. No reason for that, and easy to clean up. Saves page rank headaches as well.
Tracking funnels and forms can not only help highlight abandonment points but may also flag server-side issues causing users to not complete. Take a bit of time too to ensure that your forms are being tracked correctly. For example, a couple weeks ago I noticed a discrepancy between the actual number of form submissions and those being tracked in my analytics tool. A bit of investigation and problem was resolved.
What are some of the ‘broken’ parts you are watching? What are you doing to make your site experience the best it can be?