Website Traffic & Web Analytics: what should you measure?

Savvy website owners understand the need for web analytics to keep a head count and make sure their services are on target. However, for many website owners the world of web analytics is quite overwhelming. They realize the importance of measuring their web traffic, and pinning down goals and metrics, but don’t know where to start when it comes to reviewing and analyzing the data.

What should you be looking for in your web analytics, and what does it all mean?

There are different ways of viewing your web analytics. One way is by signing up for and implementing the free Google Analytics on your website (learn more by visiting the Google Analytics Product Tour). Most of the following information can be gleaned from any web analytics reporting tool, but in this case I am referencing the information and terminology provided by Google Analytics specifically.

When reviewing your web analytics here are some important things to look at:

1.       Visits – how many visits do you get a day/week/month/quarter/year? If you have more than a year’s worth of data, you can compare your visits this year against last year. This is especially helpful if your traffic is seasonal.

What you would be looking for with data on visits, and on the traffic sources listed below, is growth, an increase in traffic over time, particularly if you have recently invested in marketing or advertising your business.

2.       Traffic  Sources – where is your traffic coming from?

  • Direct visits – these are visitors who come directly to you site, either because they have bookmarked your website on their computer, or they typed the website address directly into the browser address bar.
  • Referral visits – these are visitors who come via a link to your website from another website or from an email.
  • Search Engines
    • Organic (non-paid) visits – these visitors are from the non-paid website listings you see when you do a search on Google, or another search engine. You are most likely to position well in, and get visits from these listings, if your website is search engine friendly and search engine optimized for your target keywords.
    • PPC (Pay-Per-Click) – these visitors click-through from the paid or sponsored results you see when you do a search at the search engines. These listings typically are positioned above the organic results, or as with Google, above and to the right of the organic listings.
    • Local Search visits – these are from people who are in your local area who have done a search for services you offer and found your website via the results at a local search engine such as Google Places (Maps), Yelp or Insider Pages. These results are often accompanied by a map and customer reviews.
    • Image Searches – these visitors might do a search for an image at Google Images or Bing Images and might come across a photo, illustration or graphic from your website. If they click on the image a couple of times they will end up at your website.

When reviewing the traffic from the various traffic sources, the first thing you should pay attention to is how much traffic you are getting from each source. Your first goal when getting familiar with your web analytics is to assess your base lines, the amount of web traffic you ‘usually’ get. Then when you do something to market or advertise your business, you can assess the effectiveness of that investment.

For example, if you decide to set up a Facebook page to promote your business, you should keep an eye on your referral visits, and obviously referrals from Facebook in particular. If you are aggressively promoting your business via Facebook, you would expect to see your overall visits increase, and when you review your specific traffic sources, you should see that your referral visits have increased, and that the main referrer is Facebook.

3.       Top Landing Pages – these are the main pages that visitors land on when they get to your website. The will have arrived there via one of the traffic sources mentioned above. The top landing page is often, although not always, the home page of your website.

A page might be a top landing page because it is optimized for the search engines and ranks for a keyword you are targeting. Alternatively, a top landing page may be a blog post that you have written that is very popular, and has been linked to by other high traffic websites. Which in turn is going to help your post rank well in the search engines.

Your top landing pages tell you a lot about how your website is performing at any given time, and why and how you are getting traffic from the various traffic sources.

4.       Top Content – these are the most popular pages on your website. When reviewing your top content, you can learn a lot about what your visitors are looking at most on your website, and hopefully that reflects both what they are most interested in, and what you want them to look at. If it doesn’t, you should work on making that happen.

Reviewing top content can also identify usability issues. Some of your pages might get more page views because they are more obvious, and visitors are encouraged to click-through to them. This is fine if this is content you want them to see, but if your visitors are not viewing content you consider important then you need to revise elements of your website design.

5.       Goals – In Google Analytics you can set up goals. You do this by tracking pages that you want your visitors to go to when they visit your website. These should be pages that lead to a conversion (a lead or a sale), e.g. a contact page, a newsletter sign up, or the start of a checkout process. Consider especially goal pages further along the conversion path, such as a contact form or newsletter sign-up submission ‘Thank You’ page, or a page confirming the sale of a product.

In Google Analytics, if you have goals in place you can look at which traffic sources your visitors are coming from and how many turn into potential customers (or customers, if an ecommerce site). This can help you understand which marketing efforts give you the best return on investment.

In a later post we will look at search term/keyword data, what you should be looking at, and what metrics you should have in place.

Do you have web analytics for your website? If so which tool or service are you using and how much do you get out of it?

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