When we talk about website design, web marketing and well, web-anything on this site, we sometimes forget who we’re talking to. Some of our visitors begin reading one of our posts and quickly realize that the information is over their head. When we use advanced terms and concepts in our discussion, we ruin everything. We may as well be speaking a different language. To be of any value to most readers, we probably have to do things differently. So in this post we’ll try to give a basic overview of website analytics.
Analytics are a big part of the SEO (search engine optimization) services we provide our clients. They are a way for website owners (or hired consultants) to keep track of visitors to their site. By gathering and analyzing visitor data, businesses can get a feel for how well their website is performing. Access to the information gathered is incredibly important. It is so important that we believe every business website should be using some sort of analytics.
Although there are many different analytics providers, the most popular one out there is Google Analytics. I read recently that more than half of the Forture 1000 use Google Analytics to track their visitors’ data. It’s not surprising. After all, Google Analytics is powerful and free. The only requirement for using it is that you open an account with Google. (If you use Gmail, you already have one.) And because Google is constantly updating its features and improving the online dashboard used to review and analyze the data, for the foreseeable future it will remain an easy choice for businesses. There are more robust solutions out there (most being of the paid $ variety), but we believe Google Analytics would suffice for 99.9% of our business customers.
So how does it work? Well, you may be surprised to learn that the desktop/laptop/tablet you are surfing the web with right now can be uniquely identified from other devices. Without getting too deep into this, let’s just say your device has a number associated with it, kind of like the car or truck you drive has a tag number. When you visit a website with analytics installed, it records your tag number. It also puts some temporary code on your computer (a “cookie”) which help to identify when and how you got to the site and whether you are a new visitor or a returning visitor. As you move around the site’s pages, the analytics software continues to record your activity.
Anyway, now that you know the purpose of analytics software and how it works, let’s get to the good stuff.
Wouldn’t it be nice to learn:
- visits — how many visits your site had
- visitors — how many different people visited your site
- pages/visit — average number of pages per visit
- traffic sources — which page was the last page visited
- landing pages — which page did your visitor land
- exit pages — which page was the last viewed by your visitor (and perhaps the reason they stopped reading!)
While these figures are important to follow over time to measure activity on your site, none of these data points (referred to as “metrics”) will help you measure the how your website is performing (the goal we identified at the beginning of this post). How valuable your website is to your business is what we want to know. And because none of these metrics relate to contacts, leads, sales or other online actions which create value or revenue, we need to dig deeper into the data…
But first we need to tell Google what are the valuable actions that visitors can take on our site (“Conversions”) so that Google can give extra attention to them. These are different for each business. When someone does something important (like buys something, signs up for a newsletter, fills out a lead form, or does something else valuable enough to be identified by us as a Conversion) we can figure out what inspired that action… such as
- What was the original source of the lead? Not just the latest visit but the first contact with your site. Most businesses will place the most importance on how the visitor was introduced to them.
- Was the visit the result of a search on a search engine and, if so, which terms were searched for? Did the visitor search for your business name or was this a true organic lead? This is incredibly important.
- Was the visit inspired by a pay-per-click ad and, if so, which ad? This helps you identify your best performing ads and campaigns and which are not performing.
- Which landing page pushed the visitor down the funnel to his or her contact or purchase? Again, this helps you identify your best performing landing pages.
- Where did the visitor go before completing the transaction? Which page or pages were influential in the visitor’s decision to fill out the form, make the contact or purchase something?
Are you beginning to see the power of analytics? All of this data (and more) is in your hands for free to do what you will with it. And we’re here to help you get started, become proficient with it, and use it to your business’ advantage. Are you ready to harness the power?
So what do you think? Did this overview help you to understand the basics of website analytics or are you more confused than when you started? Your feedback is welcomed below….