The following is a guest blog post by Ron Pare, writer and owner of the model railroading e-zine, Scratch Builders Guild, where he helps new modeler's build the model railroad of their dreams.

There are two types of model railroad sites. One is for those who truly love what they do and enjoy sharing their stories and photographs with others. The second type is an eCommerce site for model railroad enthusiasts.

When opening a new store location many shop owners consider CCTV for security reasons. What if these stores used CCTV (closed caption television, aka security cameras) to watch what their customers are doing? Imagine a web analytics program that allowed us to do the same thing on our websites?

gives us a chance to be in touch with not only who views your site but your site itself. With Woopra, I can instantly communicate with that person from my home town to find out if I know them, and ask them how I can serve them better. Ron Pare - Woopra tracking dashboard live statisticsI can tag these visitors to keep track of how many times they visit, know where they go on my site and how much time they spend reading and browsing. I can track the words they use to search with, and even find out if they are searching for items I haven't yet thought to offer.

I run a consultation company that helps hobby shops and model railroad clubs market themselves in today's economy. We use products like Woopra to open up their eyes to how much traffic they miss out on by not embracing technology. Today many of these shops and clubs loose site of where their market is going, Woopra can really show them their market is right where it always was.

The benefits of using Woopra for my model railroading site are:

  • Realtime website analytics - Statistics so advanced yet easy to understand. It is the who, where, when and why of my site.
  • Very detailed geographic location tools to help me see where my visitors are coming from.
  • Track where visitors came from, and when, helping me choose the best times to update my site.
  • Events tools allow me to follow certain events like registrations, article specific views, specific referrers (such as an ad. response), etc.
  • Great record keeping details for sponsors and sharing with fellow enthusiasts, or even friends and family. Nothing like a little brag or two.

Lets look at two scenarios I use Woopra to help me make my model railroad website decisions.

Using Woopra to Track Local Needs

ron-pare-guild_modelrailroad-bldg1Tracking the needs for your parts, products, and services is critical. Let's say you've designed a Craftsman model kit and the local hobby shop won't stock it, saying there isn't enough local need. Walthers, the worlds largest distributor of model train kits and parts, won't answer your calls, time and money is running out.

You know there is a need out there, so why stop with local shops and major distributors. Become your own distributor. Promote your kit and wares at a popular hobby website or on your own site and use Woopra to track the response to the new product.

With Woopra installed on the site, you can track how well it worked by using Event Notifications.

  1. Set up a Custom Event Notification from sites carrying your kits to be alerted as to when someone arrives from that site.
  2. Set up another Custom Event Notification to alert you when someone visits that product's page.
  3. Study the Analytics panel by Geography to focus on shops in a high traffic area.

Maybe you will learn that there isn't a high need for that specific kit in your area, maybe the response is from another location. Or you might find out that others have been longing for someone to create it. If you build it, they might come.

Using Woopra to Track Event and Club Publicity

Woopra Analytics - tracking the newsI belong to a model railroad club which sends out press releases and announcements of special events and club activities, both online and off. It's important to track the coverage as well as the response.

As head of publicity for a local chapter, you may have a specific page on your website for such event and activity announcements. When you send out printed or emailed newsletters, you can track the response and activity to that page.

If you monitor the Woopra Analytics > News panel, you can track which news agencies have listed your event information, and where the traffic is coming from through the Social Networks, Email, and Referral tracking panels.

Advertising and promotion is not easy, especially for a small membership group run by volunteers. Tracking that advertising and promotional campaigns is even harder. Understanding what works and what doesn't is very important as such attempts aren't always welcome, especially when you are asking for local media to help promote a social event that attracts only a select few. Model railroads aren't everyone's favorite thing, but to those who love them, and many kids, they are fascinating.

The more I can track the responses to my products and promotional campaigns, the better my decisions in the future on what types of marketing I choose.

Woopra helps me see the whole picture, and does that better then anything available today.

Tracking Traffic with Woopra on the Scratch Builders Guild

Monitoring traffic by country with WoopraI love using Woopra to monitor the activity on my website for model railroad enthusiasts and builders, Scratch Builders Guild. While only 14 months old, the site has recorded 2,874,914+ hits and 264,825+ pages viewed. These are not a huge numbers in this viral age, however it is significant none the less. How I got to this point has mostly been focused through statistical data, networking and using Woopra.

Referrers are sites that people followed a link to your site. Following those referral links to their destination gives a great opportunity for you to comment in some way at that site and lets them know that someone likes your site, too. This is the single most effective way to promote your site for free, using today's version of word of mouth. Woopra makes that easy.

Woopra provides a live and historical map to track the geographic location of where your visitors come from. In cities where I see multiple users visiting often I send emails to the local Clubs to update them various projects or site updates, connecting and networking with other model railroad enthusiast around the world. Without Woopra, this information would be challenging to track down. With Woopra, who knows where this will lead.

Woopra has all the features you could ever want and I mean that. Contact a visitor with a MSN style chat notifier and freak out a few people especially when you know who it is and call them by name. Woopra allows free chatting without the visitor ever having to install anything past Java. When it comes to helping out a fellow model railroad fan via your site, you open doors in ways few have even considered. The barriers are dropping.

I am sure even if you do not know the difference between a hit and a pageview, you will still feel like you know your website and visitors a whole lot more.

Ron Pare - train carsRon Pare writes extensively for the popular model railroading e-zine, Scratch Builders Guild, and manages multiple authors on his Joomla site. Recent articles include SE8C Signal Board, Digitrax (DCC), Dakra Dry Goods, RSLaser (Z scale), Crystal Springs Creamery, Sidetrack Laser (O scale), and Model builder, Software.

If you would like to contribute a guest blog post on using Woopra or web analytics, please contact us.

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