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In CMS Fundamentals, James Williamson defines content management systems (CMSs) and explains their role in web site development. The course demonstrates the different CMS solutions available today, including WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla; reviews CMS terminology and best practices; and shows how to develop a content management strategy. Guidelines are also included for evaluating a potential CMS, whether hosted or self-hosted, open source or proprietary, and choosing a CMS based on a specific need or focus.
Many content management systems, especially hosted solutions, will mention offering web analytic tools in addition to their basic CMS capabilities. So what are web analytics? Basically, these are tools that collect data about your web site, site visitors, and how your visitors use your site. This data can then be analyzed to make sure your site is organized correctly, gauge the effectiveness of content or marketing campaigns, and whether or not people are interacting with your site in the way that you envision. As with most features, the web analytic features of each CMS vary widely.
Some offer no analytic tools at all, while others offer robust sets of tools integrated directly into the CMS. When examining a CMS it's a good idea to see what type of tools are available, especially if you have very specific requirements, such as monitoring the return on investment of specific product specials. I would add that to me these features aren't as much of a deal breaker as other CMS features. There are so many third-party analytic tools available that the presence or absence of these features shouldn't be a deciding factor, unless you have some very specific needs that are tied directly to the CMS.
So what are some of the web analytic features that you should look for? Well, first examine what type of visitor data is being tracked. Some tools simply report back the number of visitors to your site, which pages they visited, and which links they clicked. Other tools contain an amazing degree of data, such as how long visitors stayed on a certain page, which actions they took, where the visitors came from, whether there were any referring links, so which browser they were using, and more. Some tools even let you monitor this data in real time.
Collecting the raw data is one thing and analyzing it is another. Many web analytic tools allow you to create rules or goals based on how your site should be used. Using the data, these tools can then gauge the effectiveness of your site and in some cases even offer suggestions on where to improve the site organization to help you meet your goals. For those of you with e-commerce requirements, many tools allow you to track items such as marketing campaigns, conversion rates, and product views.
Some of the more complete solutions also allow you to evaluate your product effectiveness through setting goals and comparing them to the available stats. So if you decide that web analytics are necessary for your CMS-driven site, I want to suggest a few options for you. First, explore the available analytic tools for the CMS that you choose. If the core CMS doesn't contain the tools you're looking for, there will often be an extension or plug-in available that will do what you need. Hosted solutions are usually especially powerful in this regard.
You might also want to check with your hosting company, as many of those offer basic web analysis tools as part of the hosting plan. There's also an abundance of third- party analytic tools available online. A quick search will give you dozens of options to choose from. If you're looking for an open-source or free option, I recommend looking at Open Web Analytics, SlimStat, TRACE WATCH, Piwik, or one that you've probably heard of, Google Analytics. Each of these options feature powerful analytic tools and are simple to set up and deploy for your sites.
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