What is web analytics? In a nutshell, it’s analytic information about how traffic interacts with your website. Web analytics can measure traffic, traffic sources, page views, and all the other sorts of data on your site that you need to watch in order to make informed decisions about how you want to optimize for search engines, site-architecture, design, usability and other ongoing optimization efforts of all sorts. Google Analytics generates a daily statistical report based upon the information collected, so you can essentially sculpt your site with information that’s gathered in real time. There’s a lot to say about Google Analytics—more than you could fit into a blog post! For now, we’ll focus on the five most crucial stats: conversion rate, page views, geographic location, referring links and bounce rate. What are they? What do they tell us? And how can you put that information to use?
This metric is pretty straightforward. How many people are coming to your site? Google Analytics records your traffic daily, so you can see traffic day by day, month over month, or year over year. You can click in to the date range and compare this October to last October, or this quarter to last quarter. It’s a really nifty feature, when you’re trying to monitor your long-term progress. Google also tells you what percentage of your traffic is comprised of new visitors to help you gauge how much your audience is growing.
Page views measure the number of pages visitors are looking at after they land on your site. Page views per visit are calculated by taking the total number of pages viewed and dividing them by the total number of visits. Page views, among other things, will help you to determine the navigability of your site. If the average visitor is looking at three to five pages on your site, you’re doing pretty well! That means your site architecture has been designed to invite users into a deeper engagement, or it may mean your content is just really good quality.
Bounce rate is a metric that measures the percentage of visitors who leave your site shortly after landing. Generally, it’s counting the number of people who click into your landing page from the SERP and then bounce right off. If your landing page contains all the information you want your customers to see, then this is no problem. Otherwise, a high bounce rate means you’ll need to take a look at whether your SEO and PPC efforts are bringing in the right kind of traffic.
If you find that people are landing on your home page but bouncing right off you may want to revisit your home page design. Is it laid out in a readable and understandable format? Are links to other pages easy to find? Are your links readable and do they clearly define where the link goes? How is your spelling and grammar? Many people will immediately leave a site with poor spelling and grammar. Do you entice people to move around and explore your site? Is your content interesting? Poor, dry content can drive people away.
If people are entering on a page other than the home page, how are they finding the page? Web analytics can show you which keyword searches people are using to land on that page. Can you use those keywords on your home page also to direct visitors to enter by the front door? Are people linking to your page from another site? Knowing where people are entering and exiting your site, what pages they are viewing and whether they are moving around within your site can tell you a lot about how well your site is communicating with visitors.
This tells you where your viewers are from in the world. If you find most of your views are locally based and your goal is to reach a geographically wide audience you can try advertising on sites in other geographic locations. How about writing for another blog in a location where you would like to increase your presence? You may even find the majority of your audience is coming from a specific location you never even dreamed of before.
Referring links – This shows you if you are receiving traffic from other sites. Was your product posted in someone’s blog with a review? Are people talking about your services on Facebook? You can help increase your referral links by establishing relationships with other blog owners, writing for them and having them post a link to your blog. Do you have an ecommerce site and need to increase your referral links? Start a tips and tricks newsletter relevant to your customers and visitors. Have people sign up for a monthly tip. If they are good tips people will share them with others and post them on Facebook and Twitter. Can you establish a relationship with another company whose products are relevant to yours and refer each other on your individual websites? For instance, if you sell dress shoes can you shoot pictures of models wearing the shoes with dresses from another company and give credit to the company in the form of a link and vice versa?
For most commercial sites, this is the most crucial metric of all. The whole reason you invested in building a website was to bring in more business. So how’s that going for you? Not sure? Check your conversion rate.
The conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that end up reaching a given goal. In other words, if your website is an ecommerce site your goal is most likely to have visitors make a purchase. If your site is not an ecommerce site and you’re not selling anything your goal may be to have people sign up for a newsletter or participate in an opinion poll. In most cases you’ll need your visitors to actively participate and interact with your site to measure the conversion rate.
If your conversion rate is low, you have to ask yourself some questions. Do you have a strong, highly visible, super-functional Call to Action on every page of your site? Do you have clear descriptions and images of the products you are selling? Do you have noticeable and active links to your newsletter subscriptions? Do you offer a way for people to get involved in your site? Are you clearly walking your visitors through your site to reach your goal? Is your site easily navigable? Is it cluttered? Cluttered sites with too many flashing ads or too much information crammed onto one page can be difficult for people to process. Out of frustration and confusion they may leave, even if your product or service is best for them.
There are a number of sites you can go to download web analytics. Google Analytics is a popular free service you can use. There are also a number of pay for service programs you can use such as