With the announcement of Orbitz.com’s habit of directing Mac users to higher priced vacation search results based on data reflecting that Mac users will pay more for travel and accommodations, the cat is out of the bag about the use of web analytics and how they can and have been applied for some time. Web analytics refers to the data collected and analyzed for the purpose of determining web user activity and the trends and statistics that go along with it.
Data collection of this sort has been done for decades but typically, businesses have not been quite so overt in their usage of the data. In most cases, the web analytics that are collected help developers , marketers and researchers get a general idea of what kind of visitors they have and what things the have in common which should in turn lead to a better understanding of consumer traits.
This better understanding can then be applied to making the user experience more useful, rewarding and complete. It also helps determine which areas and aspects to focus on for marketing purposes. The more a business gears their online advertising to specific consumer profiles, the more likely they are to get conversions to sales.
You have probably noticed that when you visit or sign up to a website, sometimes there will be a little line of text identifying your browser version and/or computer operating system and other information. This is a very small example of some of the data that can be collected from users. The positive benefit of this data is that it really can help enhance the user experience. for example, if you sold software online and noticed that your web analytics were showing a majority of your visitors were using Windows 7 as their operating system and Internet Explorer as their browser, you would naturally make sure your online store featured a majority of Windows 7 compatible software.
The less popular side effect of this data collection is that many websites track user browsing habits and information. For example, once you log into your online email account or Facebook account, the website collects information like the webpage your left to get to the sign in page, and the websites you visit after having logged in. That means they know where you go so long as you are logged into their servers. For many, this is a privacy issue that is not taken lightly and there is legislation being worked on to help define the boundaries of this information.