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Website Forensics: How To Uncover Hidden Secrets

15th January 2014

4-minutes read

If you’re a website owner or involved with your organisation’s website, you probably look at your website statistics from time to time to understand how your site performs. However, there’s other information not available from your web stats that you’d love to know...

If you’re a website owner or involved with your organisation’s website, you probably look at your website statistics from time to time to understand how your site performs. However, there’s other information not available from your web stats that you’d love to know...

  1. I know how many people look at my website - but who are these people?
  2. Which keywords do my competitors use on their websites to improve their Google ranking?
  3. My competitor is a web-only business: how do I find out more about them?
  4. From where do my website enquirers originate?

Exactly who looks at my website?

Anyone who visits your website does so without you knowing who they are.

Statistics packages such as Google Analytics help you understand how many people view your site - and what they look at once they’re there - but Analytics does not tell you who these people are.

Wouldn’t you love to know?

Various paid services exist that track visitors to your site and endeavour to associate them with the companies they work for.

How does it work?

When you connect to the Internet, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) allocates to you an IP address, which distinguishes you from the ISP’s other customers. Some businesses need this number to be fixed, so it becomes theirs permanently. Every time you view a web page, the website you’re viewing - as well as any statistics or tracking services you use - can see your IP address. If the tracking service knows this IP address is permanently associated with a particular business, it knows that the website visitor works there!

Services such as IPFingerPrint, A1WebStats and Lead Forensics provide website owners with information about which companies visit their website and this information can be used to generate sales leads.

Which keywords do my competitors use?

If you operate in a competitive market, you’ll know about your rivals and you’ve no doubt spent time on their websites, seeing what they’re up to. If customers in your industry use the Internet to source potential suppliers, it's likely that your competitors are trying to rank higher in Google than you, so prospective customers find them first.

You can look at your competitors' keywords to understand this better. The keywords are not visible straight away -  but they’re easy to find if you know where to look! When you’re on your competitor’s site, use the option in your browser that lets you view the source code of the page. The text that appears between <title> and </title> reveals the specific phrase / keywords targeted by your competitor. Each web page can have a different main keyword.

My competitor is a web-only business: how do I find out more about them?

Online retailers often operate using a trading name, which doesn’t necessarily reveal the details of the underlying business. If you’ve come up against an online competitor but can’t work out who they are, what you can do?

Check the small print

All UK-based businesses are obliged by law to reveal on their website who they are. This information includes the business’ trading name and, if it’s a limited company registered with Companies House, the company number and registered office address. You’ll often find this information in the footer of a web page, on the Contact Us page or within the Terms & Conditions.

Companies House

If you’ve found a limited company name or number on your competitor’s site, you need to go to the Companies House website, where you can use WebCHeck to find out more about the business. However, unless you’re willing to pay for some of their reports, Companies House doesn’t give too much away! Try an online service such as DueDil instead. It’s free to create an account and you can research various aspects of a limited company, including the names of its Directors.

Sleuthing

If your competitor is a sole trader, the obligation to make clear who owns the website is no different. But what if they’ve "chosen" not to do this? It might help to find out who owns the domain name associated with the website.

Use an online WHOIS service. Type in the web address of your competitor’s site and you’ll find out:

  • Who registered the domain name
  • Their postal address

There’s a good chance that the registrant is also the website owner. You could now go back to DueDil to search for that individual and this will show you their Directorships.

From where did each website enquirer originate?

Nearly all websites include an online enquiry form that visitors complete to request more information. If you're a well-organised business, you will track these enquiries - perhaps in your Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) system - and you will use this info to manage the enquiry and to analyse marketing statistics.

However, you don’t know what brought this potential customer to your website in the first place.

Which of your marketing initiatives should be credited with generating the lead? It’s important to know because it will influence the marketing activity you invest time and money into in the future.

iceTracker

Rubiqa’s iceTracker product provides a solution. When you receive an enquiry from your website, iceTracker appends information to the email highlighting where the enquirer originated.

This allows you to build up a picture of which marketing activities produce results and, therefore, warrant further investment.

Rubiqa's Verdict...

"Website statistics is a vital tool in the armoury of a website manager but there will always be things you can’t discover using stats. The four scenarios highlighted here are ones we’ve encountered working with various clients: if any of these cause you problems, you now know how to solve them!"

Jeremy Flight

Jeremy Flight

Technical Director

Jeremy Flight

About the author

This article was written in January 2014 by Jeremy Flight, Technical Director at Rubiqa.

He has worked in the web design industry since 1999 and has helped many private businesses and public sector organisations with complex website projects. As the technical lead at Rubiqa, he is the primary contributor to our software products and is involved with projects relating to website design, eCommerce, database systems and mobile apps.

Away from work, Jeremy is a qualified cricket coach and works with junior players at his local club. He is also interested in property investment, golf, photography, playing the piano and holidaying in France.

Connect with Jeremy Flight on LinkedIn

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