opinion

Hosting Talk: Data-Driven Decision-Making

Steven Daris

From the earliest days of the Internet’s rise as a commercial marketplace, there has been a steady improvement in the technology available to monitor and analyze our sites’ traffic patterns. While speculation was once our main tool, webmasters now are able to determine with great specificity where their traffic comes from, both in terms of the geographic locations of their end-users and with respect to the referring URLs, search terms and social media mentions that drive new visitors.

Naturally, there’s much more to analyzing traffic than simply knowing from where it comes; traffic spikes can sometimes indicate a problem, like a password breach, or reveal unexpected new focal points for your marketing and advertising efforts. As such, closely monitoring your traffic can help you take advantage of opportunities while also keeping an eye out for signs of potential trouble.

As you go about monitoring your traffic, it’s important to understand that paying close attention to the way traffic moves within your sites is every bit as important as monitoring the traffic coming to your sites.

As you go about monitoring your traffic, it’s important to understand that paying close attention to the way traffic moves within your sites is every bit as important as monitoring the traffic coming to your sites. For example, if a specific video trailer or preview picture on your site’s tour is being clicked on by surfers at a rate much higher than the other images and links available to them, that CTR could indicate that a particular model, scene or genre is resonating with your customers. Conversely, if there are prominently placed links or images on your site that are rarely clicked, that might mean those promo pieces aren’t doing the trick and should be swapped out for something more appealing to your members.

Monitoring and identifying the source of traffic spikes is also crucial to site security and content protection. If you experience a massive upsurge to your members area that does not correspond to your overall traffic numbers, you might have an active password breach or an unauthorized third-party hot linking your content. Such breaches not only devour bandwidth and bog down site performance, they’re also effective ways for content thieves to make short work of ripping down your entire library.

Speaking of quick rips of your content, unless you don’t mind members downloading everything your site has to offer in an afternoon (or you have made proactive steps to defeat bulk-download software tools), you’ll want to monitor members area traffic and bandwidth consumption so that you can quickly address them and limit their impact.

In order to do detailed traffic monitoring and maximize the benefit of such monitoring, there are two basic things you need: the tools to do the actual monitoring, and a good relationship with your hosting company. The reason for the first is obvious: without the proper tools, you will be left in the dark about the intricate and important details of the traffic flowing to and within your site. And it’s imperative to maintain a strong relationship with your host so you can quickly and easily make substantive changes should they be necessary — and if you lack the manpower on staff to handle them.

There’s no shortage of tools out there that can help you effectively monitor your traffic, including Red Apple Media’s Media Commander control panel, which offers comprehensive reporting and live monitoring of everything from downloads and bandwidth usage to file popularity and extensive user-behavior. Among its many other functions, Media Commander enables you to throttle specific members’ usage and/or limit the number of concurrent downloads on a per-user or per-domain basis.

There are many factors that go into analyzing the data you collect about your traffic, but it all starts with collecting and tracking that data in the first place. After all, it’s entirely possible to come to incorrect conclusions about your data — but it’s impossible to conclude anything substantial if you don’t gather information in the first place. Data-driven decision-making is the only way to do business in this day and age, and if you aren’t already taking advantage of the analytical tools and techniques available, then you’re handing your competitors an advantage on a silver platter.

Steven Daris is CEO and co-founder of Red Apple Media, a managed hosting, e-commerce and video streaming solutions provider.

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