A brief history of website analytics

In a world obsessed with data, it’s no surprise that it’s the new buzzword for business owners.

With the fast rise of technology in the past 40 years, there’s more online information being collected than ever before. But just 20 years ago, business’s could barely see what was happening. Now with all the technology we can optimize and create complex sales funnels to generate and close leads on autopilot. To get to this point, web analytics was critical. But how did we get to this point? We dug in to find out. Here’s a short history of web analytics.

The Early Years 1990 – 2000

After the founding of the internet in 1990, businesses were still hesitant about the use and application. It was just a few websites that joined in the early 90s and experiencing this technological “Wild West.” Hits were recorded in log files. Hits were anything from text on an HTML page to an image, etc., but in the early days of the internet, it just text and links. Website owners knew that this data was necessary for determining how well their websites were performing and began trying to find new and better ways to collect and apply his data. In 1993, the log file analysis gave rise to early commercial web analytics companies starting with the found of WebTrends in 1993.

As more and more websites appeared, the importance of these hits became relevant. There was the start of trying to develop a commercial use for the internet. How to make money. How to generate leads. How to create online businesses. Innovation and the wide open nature of the internet made developments happen fast.

In 1995, Analog was created, which was the first free log file analysis program. Before this time, it could only be understood by tech teams who would then interpret it for website owners. Analog made it easy for the owners to understand to understand what was going on. Marketers could now dive in as well, which would push analytic developments even faster. Anyone that remembers the internet at this time recalls the popularity of the “Hit Counter”. Most blogs showed how many visitor had been there. Web-Counter was the first widely used provider of this service. Blogs began to spring up, and it became a competition to see who could drive traffic. This meant that adaptations created opportunities for smart website owners and businesses that could help website leverage this data.

By 1997, the web pages had moved from just links and texts to more and more visual elements, which caused “hit counters” which registers all actively to become inaccurate. There was also the development of video and audio on the internet. Web analytics had to begin accounting for the different mediums and click and actions that were occurring on their websites. JavaScript tags became the solution of this problem to filter “hit” data and more accurately report website analytics. JavaScript is still what used today.

The 2000’s

The Web Analytics Association (now the Digital Analytics Association) was founded in 2004. This formalized the creation of meant more stabled and essential tools. They developed a comprehensive and in-depth body of knowledge to help websites optimize and new methods and tools were created to report massive amounts of data. The rise of search engine marketing (SEM) and social media platforms meant that businesses needed to keep up with multiple traffic channels, understand trends, and make sure that they could optimize for different channels. The number of individuals connected to the internet grow globally and marketers kept finding way to take advantage.

During this time, Google was on the rise as the dominant search engine. The move that quickly set them apart with their Google Analysis product was the purchase of Urchin and launching Google Analytics. It quickly became the most widely used web analytics tool on the market. Tied directly to Google’s marketing tools, it allowed businesses to more effectively market, optimize, and expand their website presence. Web analytics companies took off as well.

Heat tracking maps, in-page data and usage, better reporting on behavior and audiences, recording visitor sessions, and more. This meant that businesses could continue to improve their ability to drive traffic and convert new business.

The 2010’s

Google released universal analytics which means that users could be tracked across multiple devices and platforms. Offline data and behavior could be reported too with additional information on demographics. Mobile apps and mobile phone use also increased, and estimation to optimize for the growing web traffic changed as well. More mobile apps and social media platforms mean that website owners and marketers had to be able to effectively segment and put the pieces together to optimize and interact they web traffic from various sources.

In 2016, Google Analytics incorporated machine learning which gave marketers smarter insights, real-time monitoring, along with all the other revenant metrics. There was more and more data being used, and insights gathered from social profiles, user behaviors. Marketers and smart businesses could begin creating more targeted advertising, optimizing their website copy, improve their A/B tests, and much more.

With advances in machine learning and new technologies, the insights gained from web analytics continued to increase. The market was flooded with new tools and tactics to optimize and enhance businesses present online. This meant to deliver better experiences for prospects and customers and generates more leads. Like anything though, technology can continue pushing and growing, and more and more data becomes available.

It’ll be important for website owners to focus and develop the critical metrics needed to improve their business and conversions. In a flood of data and continually trying to determine new insights and what to do with all this data. Making data actionable is the next big step that businesses need to take in the digital world.

Interested in how Leady can help you use your current website analytics to generate more leads? How your business can act on live data to help your B2B business sell more? The best way is to try it for free.