Monitoring your web traffic

A man looking at traffic analytics data on screen

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.”

Get started with web analytics

One of the most commonly-used web analytics packages is Google Analytics. It's popular because it's free and has comprehensive features.

“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 piece of tracking code on each page of your website. This enables your analytics package to follow visitors as they move through your site.

Some website building software allows you to add your tracking code automatically. If not, you might need help from a web developer or IT supplier.

What to track with web analytics

There are plenty of meaningful things you can measure with analytics.

The first thing most businesses look at 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. You should also assess which pages are popular and why. Can you improve the performace of other pages based on what is working well for other pages?

Your analytics package should also tell you where your visitors are coming from both geographically and how they found you (organic, direct, search) and the devices they are using. Insights like this can reveal possible new markets (if, for example, you are receiving a lot of traffic from a specific country) or web development work you might require (if, for example, your site is not well optimised for mobile devices when you receive a lot of mobile traffic).

Where are your visitors coming from?

Knowing how visitors found your site is crucial, because it enables you to pinpoint which online marketing activities are most effective.

One of the 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 which 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 analyse your campaign in order to see how well it meets that objective.

“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 focus their efforts 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 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 actually do what you want them to do,” says Hawtin. Your objective will usually be to persuade visitors to complete a key action - known as an 'Event' or 'Goal'. For instance:

  • sharing or ‘Liking’ a post on social media
  • contacting you via an online form
  • signing up to your e-newsletter
  • 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 step by step to determine how you could make it more user-friendly.

“By simplifying an online form or adding a faster payment gateway, you’ll get a higher conversion rate because people are more likely to complete the process,” explains Hawtin.

You might discover that parts of your website are ineffective. If your website is content-driven, you will want to improve or update it regularly.

The key is to make sure that you do take some sort of action based on the data you find.

“There’s no point using analytics if you’re not going to do anything with them,” Hawtin concludes. “But if you can make a 1% or 2% improvement to your results each quarter, based on what it's telling you, it’s a worthwhile exercise.”

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