Just having a website is not enough. To get the most out of your investment, you need to track visitors to your site and monitor what they do when they get there. This will help you drive up traffic and increase conversions
“Most firms’ websites fail to perform because they ignore their objectives when creating a web strategy or don’t measure how well their online marketing performs against their targets,” reveals Peter Hawtin, founder of web marketing agency Brand New Way. “You need to monitor if your site is meeting your objectives by measuring key performance indicators.”
Getting started with web analytics
“There are more advanced, paid-for tools available, but for most small firms the free tools are sufficient,” advises Hawtin.
Most packages track users in the same way. You have to place a special piece of tracking code on each page of your website. This enables your analytics package to follow visitors as they move through your site.
What to track with web analytics
There are a plenty of meaningful things you can measure with an analytics package.
The first thing most businesses measure is the number of visitors their website receives. Most analytics packages will show two different statistics:
- Total visitors (also called sessions). This figure counts each visit to your site, even if the same person has returned more than once.
- Unique visitors (also called users). This figure filters out repeat visits, so each person is only counted once.
Another common measurement is the number of page views. This counts how many different pages have been viewed on your website.
Where are your visitors coming from?
Knowing how your visitors found your site is crucial, because it enables you to pinpoint which of your online marketing activities are effective.
One of the main ways websites receive traffic is from links on other sites. These are called ‘referrers’ and their data is very valuable. For instance, if a review gets posted about your business and it contains a link to your site, your referrers will show you that the review exists.
Another source of website traffic is search engines. You’ll want to know what search terms people are typing in to find your website, and where search engines rank your business and its competitors.
Web analytics relating to search can often be enlightening because visitors may be arriving via keywords and search engines you’re not aware of.
If you are running marketing campaigns or adverts, you can specifically track traffic from those campaigns using analytics. You should have an objective in mind, and you can attach it to your campaign in order to see how well it performs.
“Small businesses often don’t have the resources to do all types of online marketing, so they need to see where it's most worthwhile, and direct resources there,” explains Hawtin.
As well as telling you which channels visitors have used to find you, web analytics can also pinpoint their location. This can be useful if you plan to target customers in a particular area.
Although analytics packages can tell you where your visitor has come from, they don't collect any personal information - so you can't identify who they are. However, most do place small files called cookies on people's computers, so you may need to notify visitors under the EU cookie law.
Monitor how visitors use your site
How visitors use your site speaks volumes about the quality of its content and navigation. Analysing this will help you to develop the site and improve your conversion rates.
“Find out what proportion of people coming to your website do what you want them to do and convert to your desired objective,” says Hawtin.
Your objective will usually be to persuade a visitor to complete a key action - known as an 'Event' or 'Goal'. For instance:
- ‘Liking’ a post on Facebook
- contacting you via a 'submit form'
- placing a bid on eBay
- making a purchase
For example, you can create a goal which will track when someone makes a purchase and how much they spend.
You can also track visitors who fail to complete. This can help you identify problems with your online order process. If conversion is low, you can look at the ordering process to determine how you can make your site more user-friendly or ‘sticky’.
“By simplifying an online application form or installing faster payment software, people will spend less time on your site but you’ll get a higher conversion because they’re more likely to complete the process,” explains Hawtin.
You might discover that parts of your website content are ineffective. If your website is content-driven, you will want to improve or update it more regularly.
However, your objective may not be as straightforward as getting people to spend more time on your site.
“There’s no point getting the results of your web analysis if you’re not going to do anything,” he concludes. “But if you interpret your results and make a one or two per cent improvement to them each quarter, it’s worthwhile.”
Browse topics: The internet