Knowing where your website visitors come from, the devices they use and what they do once they reach your site can enable you to shape your online presence to meet your customers' needs. We look at how web analytics can help you meet your online objectives
Many good-looking and expensive websites fail; many that are low-cost or self-built succeed.
Why? The secret behind the most successful websites isn’t the level of investment or attractive imagery. It's simply that they provide clear routes to desired actions and enable visitors to browse content easily.
Why measure website performance?
Most websites fail to offer a tangible return on investment because business objectives have been ignored at the development stage. Similarly, if online marketing isn’t measured against company targets, websites will have a hard time making any kind of meaningful impact.
Whatever the business objective of your website, analytics can help you determine whether or not you’re meeting it. These vital tools reveal which marketing channels are providing a healthy number of visitors, which are near-dormant, and the parts of your website that are most popular. They’ll also sniff out the pages where your visitors bounce (that is, leave the moment they land on them), and provide data on individual page performance.
Armed with this information, you can create a marketing strategy and build a website that really works for your business. And, thanks to a wealth of self-build platforms including WordPress, Wix and Squarespace, you can do so incredibly cost-effectively.
Thankfully the choice of analytics tool is relatively straightforward. For most small firms, the free Google Analytics platform remains the best and most approachable web analysis software on the market.
Tracing your web visitors
Visitors will typically find you via natural search engine listings, from links on other websites, via pay-per-click advertising, or from links in email marketing campaigns and on social media.
If you've paid a marketing agency to undertake search engine optimisation (SEO) for your website but your search rankings don’t seem to be improving, the strategy may need to be reviewed. Best practices for being ranked by Google and other search engines change regularly, so it’s important you stay on top of the latest algorithm updates.
By using Google Analytics’ powerful reporting suite, you’ll also be able to determine which referral sources bring in the greatest number of visitors, and which marketing channels are underperforming.
As well as telling you which methods and platforms visitors have used to find you, website analysis tools will also reveal their geographical location. There has been massive growth in local search marketing, and data from Google suggests that half of all search queries are based on location. Getting your business listed in online directories such as Rated People, Checkatrade and Thomson Local and using services like Google My Business can help you attract more local business.
If you're targeting customers in particular regions, geographical data is invaluable when it comes to assessing how successful you've been. Location data can also alert you to opportunities in areas you may have otherwise overlooked.
Optimising your website for mobile is now essential, and analytics will show you how many visitors are visiting your site from their smartphones or tablets. It will even break down the operating systems and web browsers they use, enabling you to focus on the right strategy for cross-browser and device compatibility. For example, if 90% of your visitors are using Safari on iPhones to access your site, you can focus page testing on that platform combination.
Monitoring how visitors use your site
The way visitors use your website speaks volumes about the quality of its content and how easy it is to navigate. By analysing your site, you’ll be able to determine which areas need improvement. Gaining actionable data on how your website is used is the key to turning more enquiries into sales.
Most analytics tools give you the ability to define goals. A goal could be a particular route taken to reach the ‘Contact Us’ page, or the speed with which a call-to-action is clicked. Goal monitoring will enable you to check how many of your visitors are taking the desired journey, and gives you the chance to act when things aren't going to plan.
If conversions are low, look at how much time visitors spend on particular pages. This is usually referred to as ‘average time on page’ and, when combined with bounce rates, will provide key insights into the potential obstacles people are encountering. Try the journey yourself; visit your website with the mindset of a stranger and see how intuitive it is. Which - if any - CTAs stand out? Are there any obvious roadblocks? High bounce rates and low average times on page usually indicate that you have some work to do.
Page-by-page analysis can help you identify stale or cumbersome content visitors quickly abandon and pages on which they’re spending more time than necessary. Most web visitors will have limited attention spans, but those with more patience may spend a long time on confusing pages because they can’t understand how to get from there to where they want to go.
Making improvements - every little helps
Thankfully, the steps you need to take to improve matters usually require nothing more than common sense. For example, simplifying an online application form or installing simpler payment software could result in your web visitors reaching goals quicker, increasing your conversion rates.
Services such as Google Analytics reveal the journeys taken by visitors to reach your website and what they get up to once within your grasp. They offer meaningful data that confirms how effective your website is at guiding visitors towards goals and provide intelligence which, when acted upon, can make small percentage improvements each time. In the world of online marketing, that’s enough to make a big difference.
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