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, Omniture.com, the exact URL would be my page name (http://www.omniture.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 Omniture.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.