When first deploy­ing web ana­lyt­ics, many com­pa­nies often make a crit­i­cal mis­take. In their zeal to flip the switch they sim­ply drop a tag on their pages and start gath­er­ing page data. While this seems rel­a­tively harm­less, it is actu­ally one of the worst mis­takes you can make. Why? Because most web ana­lyt­ics tags gather data at the URL level by default.

For exam­ple, if I dropped a basic tag on the home­page of our web­site, Omni​ture​.com, the exact URL would be my page name (http://​www​.omni​ture​.com). Alter­na­tively, some tags will cap­ture the page title, which in Omniture’s case would be “Omni­ture — The Lead­ing Provider of Web Ana­lyt­ics and Web Site Statistics”.

So what’s so bad about this? Here are four rea­sons why you should use friendly pages:

Poor direc­tory struc­ture: Web­sites are some­what like homes — some­times they are clean and well orga­nized; other times they are sim­ply a mess and the own­ers can’t even find what they are look­ing for. If you’re not for­tu­nate enough to have a clean, well orga­nized direc­tory struc­ture, using this struc­ture as the cor­ner­stone of your entire ana­lyt­ics plat­form will only result in failure.

Dynamic pages: Many web­sites are increas­ingly dynamic. From retail­ers using dynamic com­merce engines like Broad­vi­sion or ATG, to rich media sites based on Macro­me­dia Flash, dynamic pages are the stan­dard. If your page tags sim­ply inher­ent these dynamic URLs, you’ll be left scratch­ing your head try­ing to sort thru this rats nest of page names.

Search Engine Opti­miza­tion As search con­tin­ues to rise in impor­tance, mar­keters are more fre­quently tun­ing their web pages to draw more favor­able nat­ural search rank­ings. These changes often involve chang­ing the page URL (to include rel­e­vant key­words), or chang­ing the page title to bet­ter reflect page con­tent. As you might expect, any of these changes will wreak havoc on your ana­lyt­ics sys­tem if you’re using URLs or page titles.

Busi­ness evo­lu­tion: Busi­nesses grow, pri­or­i­ties change, merg­ers hap­pen, new prod­uct are launched. All of these events, plus many oth­ers, can impact your web site struc­ture, includ­ing URLs and page titles. And if your web ana­lyt­ics page nam­ing struc­ture is depen­dent on either of these sources, you’ll once again find your­self strug­gling to make sense of your data.

Any of these issues can seri­ously derail your web ana­lyt­ics suc­cess. Even basic ques­tions like “How many vis­its did that page receive?” can be dif­fi­cult to answer with poor page names. Even worse, try to ana­lyze vis­i­tor click-streams with poor page names. Often times, you’ll just give up. And poor page nam­ing impacts not only you, but every­one in the orga­ni­za­tion. Prod­uct man­agers can’t look at traf­fic to their sec­tions, mar­keters can’t find land­ing pages, web pro­duc­ers can’t find their con­tent, and exec­u­tives will quickly write off your entire ana­lyt­ics effort because they can’t under­stand a basic report like Most Pop­u­lar Page. All of these con­se­quences sig­nif­i­cantly limit your ROI potential.

To avoid these frus­tra­tions and max­i­mize your web ana­lyt­ics suc­cess, we strongly encour­age you to use “friendly page names”. So what is a friendly page name? Tak­ing the above exam­ple for Omni​ture​.com, a friendly page name would be “Home­page”. For a prod­uct page, it might be some­thing like “Prod­uct: iPod”. And for an inter­na­tional cus­tomer sup­port page, it might be some­thing like “Ger­many: Cus­tomer Sup­port: Con­tact Us”

Friendly page names can vary quite a bit from site to site, but the basic prin­ci­ples remain the same. Use an approach that can be eas­ily under­stood by any­one in your orga­ni­za­tion. True, this may require more effort upfront, but believe me — it will pay off expo­nen­tially over the long run. Plus, if you’re an Omni­ture cus­tomer, we actu­ally offer sev­eral inno­v­a­tive ways to auto­mate this task. If you’re unsure how to do this, please do not hes­i­tate to ask your Account Man­ager. And finally, if you’d like assis­tance with best prac­tices in friendly page names, we’d be happy to help.