Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Tips for Family Tree Websites

We have differing reasons for creating genealogy web sites: to show off what we can do, the hope of attracting people who can fill in the gaps, to help others, we enjoy coding, or a combination of any or all. These aims have one thing in common, people need to be attracted to the site, and we would like them to stay there for a bit and return from time to time.

This blog is the first of a short series and here I will be concentrating on measuring a site's effectiveness. Now one might think that this should be the last in the series but I disagree, as it is easier to implement at the start of a project, and right from the start one will be able to measure the effectiveness of changes to the site once up and running.

No knowledge of HTML is required except that the file can be opened in Notepad to expose the code, and the last tag is the "close body" tag which looks like </body>. I will be concentrating on Google Analytics. After signing, up one can obtain a piece of code which is copied and pasted just before the close body tag in every web page.

Now the hard bit's done, what can Google Analytics do? Well, as might be expected, it can tell you the number of visitors to each page, but more than that, which country they came from, which browsers have been used, how long each visit lasted and the bounce rate - that means the number of visitors who enter and leave on the same page. I should emphasise that all data is strictly anonymous.

When I first created my current site, FergysWebsite I noticed that the bounce rate from my opening page was much higher than I would have expected. I knew that IE6 browser is still widely used and suspected that my index page might not be compatible. Sure enough it wasn't, and by correcting that page I cut my overall bounce rate by more than 10%. This means, I hope, that more visitors will visit again.

The one option I really like is called "Benchmarking" and will be found under "Visitors" on the top left of the site report. It takes the statistics for the site and compares them with the averages for sites of a similar size and type. For "genealogy" click on "Open category" near the top of the Benchmark screen, then select Lifestyles>Parenting & Family>Genealogy and the charts will superimpose the average on the chart for your site. For example, the bounce rate, which is naturally high on genealogy pages, can now be compared with those on other genealogy sites, brilliant!

© Ronald Ferguson

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