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May 10, 2003 Volume 6, Number 5


* Introduction - Editor's Comments

* What's New at

* Statistics Canada releases

* How well is your web site performing?

* Small Business Stats Facts

For data table spacing, this newsletter is best viewed in Courier 10


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I have has a number of queries over the last couple of weeks related to web
site benchmarks so I have decided to address the issue in this edition of
the BR Newsletter.

Keep in mind however that the key to achieving positive performance online
is marketing. Next week (May 12-13-14, 2003) the 6th International Internet
Marketing Conference takes place in Montreal. The focus is the sharing and
teaching of 'best practice' methods in Internet marketing. It is an event
well worth attending.

I hope you find this issue helpful.

John White




Site Summary:
Monthly report on virus and spam activity. Includes country of origin (e.g.
Canada, United States, Great Britain etc.)

Site Summary:
Annual tonnage information and traffic reports.




Statistics Canada released the following statistics over the last four
weeks. We have listed those releases we feel are of the most interest to
Canadian entrepreneurs.

Very few of these statistics are available on-line. The URL listed is a
direct link to the press release associated with the data. It provides
contact and ordering information.

If you want to purchase any publication related to these releases please see
our web site: We offer a 20%
discount on most Stats Can publications and a 10% discount on Stats Can
electronic products. For more information you can reach us at Put "StatsCan" in the subject line of your e-mail.


Hog statistics, 2003

Greenhouse, sod and nursery industries 2002

Red meat consumption 2002


Gambling: An update 2002


Annual Survey of Commercial and Industrial Machinery and Equipment Rental
and Leasing 2001

Annual Survey of Consumer Goods Rental and Leasing Services 2001

Annual Survey of Automotive Equipment Rental and Leasing 2001

Consulting Engineering Services Price Index 2001 (preliminary)

Annual Survey of Architectural Services Industry 2001

Annual Survey of Advertising and Related Services 2001


Telecommunications statistics 2002 and fourth quarter 2002


Financial and taxation statistics for enterprises 2001

Input-output structure of the Canadian economy 1997-1998

Provincial and territorial gross domestic product 2002


The evolving workplace: Determinants of training 1999

University enrolment by age groups 2000/01 (preliminary)


Consolidated government finance: Assets and liabilities As of March 31, 2001


Annual Survey of Manufactures 2000 and 2001


Volunteering on company time 2000


Federal government spending on science and technology 1993/94 to 2002/03

Provincial distribution of federal expenditures on science and technology
1994/95 to 2000/01


Overcoming distance, overcoming borders: Comparing North American regional


Aircraft movement statistics 2002




How do you know if your web site is under performing? We have all heard of
phenomenal online success stories so it is natural to be disappointed if
your own results are not "newsworthy". But how do you know if your site is
really missing its potential.

Before you can decide how your site is performing you need to consider what
you mean by "performance". Are you looking at traffic volumes or sales
conversion rates? At the off-line impact of an online campaign or the
successful online support of off-line sales?

There is no right or wrong answer. It depends on the nature of your web
site. Is it a "pure play" web business or only a portion of your overall
business strategy? It may sound crazy but many business owners declare their
web site a failure without having a clear idea of what they would consider a

Once you have decided on your definition of performance it is time to
establish current performance levels and your desired performance targets.
Your current performance level is calculated using primary data collected
from your server and your customers.

Start with your server records. Your host should have a page you can access
providing you with basic data related to your web site. Do not be
overwhelmed by the variation of statistics available. Many servers in
addition to traffic reports now provide statistics on such topics as Top Web
Browsers, Screen Resolution and Depth (Colors), Top Operating Systems etc.
While these figures can be helpful especially when you are considering
implementing new graphics or web features, they generally have very little
to do with measuring web site performance.

The most important figures for the majority of web sites are the number of
"unique visitors" (estimated number of actual visitors to your site), Top
referring URLs (where people are coming from when they reach your site), Top
trails (how people navigate through your site), Top Search Keywords and
Phrases (How people are finding your site). Depending on how you define
performance there may be other figures you are interested in. On your first
visit to your server stats page browse around and look at the various
reports available that may provide insight into performance.

Server statistics are available by year, month, week, day and hour. Do not
base your performance measures on anything less than a month time frame.
There are too many variables that can come into play when using limited
reference periods.
There are also separate programs you can purchase to analyze site traffic.
Before you buy any software make sure you actually need the "in-depth"
analysis they are offering. Stats for stats sake are meaningless. Look at
your definition of performance and the data you need to assess it. If you
require more depth than your host server provides then go for it!
For more information on Web Traffic Analysis see: "It's a Hit! Gauging
Success through Traffic Analysis", By Chris Beasley Also see the incredible book by Ken
Evoy: Make Your Site Sell (especially chapter 15)

At GDSourcing we measure our performance by examining traffic volume and
traffic patterns (how people use our site). We then compare these numbers to
sales data so that we are able to establish sales conversion rates. (Number
of sales / Number of Visitors)

If your performance measures are based in part on off-line sales or customer
action, you will need to survey your customers to augment server statistics.
Do not develop a massive questionnaire. Ask for only the information you
really need. (How did you find out about our sale? OR Did you find our
online customer service tools helpful?) The purpose here is to benchmark and
improve business performance so don't alienate your customers by making
exceptional demands on their time. Respondent fatigue can lead to inaccurate
responses as well customer annoyance.

Of course once you have a conversion rate or other performance ratios
established how do you know if they are good or bad. Unfortunately in most
cases it is difficult to know. Very few Internet benchmarks exist. The
diversity of services and products sold online, not to mention the various
ways companies use their web sites makes it impossible to have meaningful
benchmarks. Reported conversion rates range from 0.1% to 5%. Much depends on
the product being sold and the nature of the visitors.

The GDSourcing web site offers a great deal of free information so we have
high traffic volumes and our overall conversion rate is relatively small.
For our own research purposes we actually calculate a number of conversion
rates looking at the sales to traffic ratios of specific pages as well as
the web site as a whole.

While it is next to impossible to find relevant benchmarks on web site
performance you can source information on various components of performance

You can compare your traffic volume to top performers in your sector at a
couple of web sites. Alexa ( provides ranking
information by one-week average and three-month average. It also provides
data on Internet reach. Alexa expresses reach as number of users per
million. You can also read reviews of your site or its competitors (if any
have been written).

Another source of traffic ranking information is
( Be aware however that both Alexa and
Trafficranking have their own means of calculating traffic rankings. Neither
is absolute. Use these resources as comparison tools within their own

Related to traffic is your apparent market potential (AMP). You can
determine this by creating a detailed profile of your best customer and then
comparing it to the demographics of the online population. For GDSourcing
our best clients are new entrepreneurs and small businesses but not every
small business has the potential of being our market.

Using a variety of sources we have estimated that only 39% of small
businesses actually go online for business purposes and of that number, only
83% conduct research and of that number only 50% actually purchase online.
By knowing the proportion of our market that is both online and willing to
purchase we have an apparent market potential. We can then assess whether
our performance is meeting this potential or if there is need for

A few places to start looking for AMP information are our Canadian Internet
DataPoint site (, NUA Internet
surveys (, and Emarketer
( Also do not forget to look at reports and
studies available from related organizations and associations. Internet use
is often touched upon, even if the focus of a full report is much broader in

For example if you operate a ski resort web site and are disappointed with
the level of bookings coming through your site you need to first assess the
apparent market potential for online bookings. If the potential is not
there, it is possible you are expecting too much from your site.

Ideally you want to determine how many skiers actually use the Internet when
booking a holiday. We start our search by looking at tourism resources. At
the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation web site there is an
extensive study of Canadian and U.S. travelers. The Travel Activities and
Motivation study covers various specific travel markets among which is
travelers with Interest in Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
( Within
this study we find out that 78% of U.S. and Canadians skiing and
snowboarding enthusiasts used the Internet for research and that 36% used it
to actually book their latest trip.

The results of this survey are reinforced by the demographics of
skiing/snowboarding enthusiasts. Looking at the Canadian Ski Council's 2002
Canadian Ski and Snowboard Industry Facts & Stats we find that they are very
similar to heavy Internet users - average and above average incomes, 12 to
45 years of age.

The research indicates that searching for skiing locations online makes
sense. The market is there. It is now a matter of developing a better online
marketing strategy. (A topic of extensive discussion in and of itself!)

Statistics Canada is another source that can assist with both AMP and
industry benchmarks. Results from their survey of Electronic Commerce and
Technology can be accessed via the CANSIM database:
( Copy the following number
string (including the .. and all ,) into the CANSIM table number search box:
358-0007..358-0012, 358-0014, 358-0015 It will provide you with a complete
list of available tables related to business use of the Internet.

>From this database you can determine annual percentage increases in sales
industry and by customer type (i.e. businesses, consumers or foreign
markets). You can also examine the percentage of businesses in your industry
that have a web site and the key features of their web sites (e.g. online
payment, interactivity, digital products or services, access via wireless
mobile device). There is a charge for this data but it is not outrageous. As
with all CANSIM data the price is $3 per time series. Most businesses can
get away with a $21.00 charge for a detailed profile.

Our new Canadian Industry Profiles provide benchmarks by industry.
( For the most part the sales mode is
secondary to the product or service so they are not of particular interest
to "pure play" Internet businesses. There is however one exception, the
retail category 454110 - Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses. The
definition of this category is

"Establishments primarily engaged in retailing all types of merchandise
using the electronic and print media to induce direct response by the
customer. These establishments employ methods, such as broadcasting
infomercials, broadcasting and publishing direct-response advertising and
publishing traditional or electronic catalogues, to display their
merchandise and reach their customers. Transactions between these retailers
and their customers typically require the use of information technology
(telephone or computer network) and the delivery of merchandise is typically
done by mail or courier. Establishments primarily engaged in retailing from
catalogue showrooms, without stock, are also included."
While these benchmarks are vital to examining "non-store" retailing
performance, they do not provide much insight into web site performance.

Finally there are some sector specific studies that are conducted on web
site performance. They tend to be conducted by research firms that
specialize in a particular area. One such study released recently was the
Annual Internet Survey for Associations and Non-profit organizations
This study provides insight into web site practices of associations and
non-profit organizations in Canada. It includes age of web site, web site
traffic, web site budgeting etc.

To a certain extent these types of studies are "needles in haystacks" but
the specific nature of their data, especially if it is related directly to
your business, makes them worth the search. Usually companies that produce
such reports do not want to keep them secret. They are either trying to sell
a more detailed version of the report or consulting services.

Announcements are usually published in trade journals or related industry
association newsletters. Use a periodical database to search relevant
publications. Sometimes it is difficult to find these kinds of announcements
by keyword alone. If possible, also browse through the hardcopies of all
relevant periodicals. You can access many of them in a major local library.
You can also try release vehicles such as Canada Newswire.

If you are unable to find sector specific reports do not despair. Ideally
you would want to compare yourself to peers but if it is not possible, do
not abandon the project. Establish you own benchmarks by consistently
monitoring your own web site performance. Assess your apparent potential by
analyzing your market. Do not lose site of the purpose of tracking
performance: to improve it! Acquiring benchmarks is only the beginning. It
puts you a position where you can then turn to targeted web site marketing.

To learn more about the art and science of web marketing register for the:
Internet Marketing Conference IMC 2003 at the Palais des Congres, Montreal
PQ, May 12-14, 2003.

Like a 3-day intensive course in Internet marketing and strategy, IMC
delivers value by bringing together dozens of leading industry marketing
experts. Through case study evaluations of successful online methods and
businesses you will gain an understanding of the ways, tools, and strategies
that work in today's online world.



Each Business Researcher Newsletter ends with a collection of five
statistics that every entrepreneur should be aware of.

1. In the smallest workplaces (less than 20 employees) how do employers
support employee charitable volunteering?

About 60% of employer-supported volunteers in small workplaces reported
approval for time off, compared with 53% in workplaces with over 500

Similarly, 59% of employer-supported volunteers in small workplaces reported
approval to change work hours, compared with 52% in the largest.

Source: Statistics Canada (April 2003)

2. What do Canadians consider the top indicator of success in their own

Work-life balance (30%).
Challenge of job (14%)
Level of responsibility over your work (12%)

Source: Ipsos-Reid (May 7, 2003)

3. By how much did self-employment grow in 2002? 2001? 2000? Which province
had the fastest growth?

2002: +3.3%
2001: -3.5
2000: -5.9

Fastest Growth: Quebec

Source: CIBC (March 2003)

4. How many one-person operations are there in Canada? (Self-employed no

1.5 million
(2/3 of entire self employed businesses)

Source: CIBC (March 2003)

5. What is the percentage of Quebec SMEs that carry out regular strategic
planning? What are the reasons for not developing a strategic plan?

While 73% of the companies surveyed in 1998 claimed to carry out strategic
planning on a regular basis, this number was down to 67.7% in 2000.

20% of SMEs said that they had a lack of time to spend on strategic
planning. Another 11.7% maintained that such planning was unnecessary due to
the nature of their business.

Source: National Bank of Canada (January 2001)


G D S O U R C I N G - R E S E A R C H & R E T R I E V A L
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UPDATED: 08/06/03
1998-2003  GDSourcing - Research & Retrieval