Back to web analytics…I am picking up where I left off two weeks ago. First, a quick reminder about the five steps of performing web analytics – which are as follows:
- Define goals for what you want you web site to do (easier said than done)
- Define metrics for measuring these goals
- Collect data to understand the current situation
- Analyze the data
- Make changes and go back to Step 3 (Collect Data)
In a previous post, I covered the first two steps; in this post, I will address the last three steps, collecting and analyzing data, as well as making changes to improve performance:
Step 3– Collecting Data
There are several important types of data that need to be kept. The simplest form is information collected on a "registration page" on your website, where visitors fill in their name and contact information prior to downloading materials from the site. This information is valuable because folks who spend the time and effort to truthfully fill out your form expect to be contacted. Therefore, the likelihood of these being real leads is quite high. Alas, few people will probably fill out the page and you will have to work a little harder to get the information.
The next type of data to collect is the type of people who visited your site and statistics about their behavior. At the simplest level, use tools like Google Analytics that automatically collect this information and even trend it over time. After you have installed GA on your site, it will automatically start to collect data. You will be able to view statistics and trends on a monthly, weekly, or daily…even hourly basis. This is important because often, "absolute" values related to visitor behavior are far less important than understanding behavior trends. I will provide some examples in the next section.
Step 4- Analyzing Data
I will use Google Analytics (GA) to demonstrate how to analyze website data quickly and easily. When you log into Google Analytics, you will see a page like the one shown below. This is page is called the "dashboard" and from here you will be able to locate almost everything you want to know (at this stage). This is a top-level view; you can get more granular information on any topic, by clicking on the page’s hyperlinks.
At the top of the page, you will see a graph of the number of visits to your website over time. Below this, you will see some of the important values, including "number of visits", "pages/visit", "bounce rate", "page views", "average time on site", and "new visits". I covered some of these values in a previous post. To keep it simple, I will focus on just a few of the most important values, explain what they mean, and then how to use the values to improve your business performance.
· Number of visits – this is the number of people who visited your site during the duration of the sampling interval; typically a month.. If you just launched a new site, this number is particularly important; if your site has been up for awhile, it is usually more important to see whether this number is trending up or down. From a marketer’s perspective, you will eventually want to trace these numbers to specific marketing activities to see what is working and what is not. I will try to expound on this in an upcoming post.
· Bounce rate - how many people left your site after viewing the first page – a high bounce rate usually means one of two things – the landing page is not effective or that there is a mismatch between the message on the landing page and the link that sent the person to your site. In either case, a high bounce rate means that you need to take action. A 20% bounce rate is pretty good; a 70% rate means you have trouble. We will look at this in Step 5.
· "Pages/visit" and "Average time on site" – the "avg. number of pages" and the "average time a visitor spent on your site" before moving on, respectively The absolute values here will depend on the type of site you have. A blog site will usually have small values. An ecommerce site should have larger values. For many folks, trends here are often more important than the absolute numbers.
For any sort of business analysis, it is extremely important to track where visitors are coming from. The two top things you will want to analyze; one is how people reached your site and the second is to figure out who the visitors are. Let’s look at each one in turn.
How Visitors Reached Your Site – At the bottom left of the dashboard figure, you will see a section titled, "Traffic Sources Overview." The pie chart here breaks down how visitors reached your site; the possibilities are as follows:
· Search engines like Google or Yahoo (this includes both paid ads and "organic" searches). There is a lot more to analyzing search traffic, particularly because you pay for some of it. Therefore, doing it right will bring you business and save money, but this will have to wait for a future post.
· Referring sites – these are sites that link to yours, like partner or affiliate sites.
· Directly –number of visitors who keyed in your company’s URL in the browser address field.
· Other – the visitor was directed to your site via another channel. Examples of "other" include clicking on a link in an email message or clicking on a banner ad. You will need to do some additional work to be able to leverage this field for marketing purposes, and this is beyond the scope of this introduction. Good information is available on the Google Analytics site, under the code section.
Who Are Your Visitors? – There are a number of things you can learn about which people visited your site. Two things that I find particularly useful are geographical distribution and the visitor’s home Internet domain. The latter is particularly valuable for business to business websites. Here’s how you view these:
· Geographical distribution – there are several ways to view this; the easiest way is to drill down on the "Map Overlay" section of the dashboard, as shown in the figure above. This will give you the numbers of visitors from different locations.
· Visitor Domain – click on the "Visits" hyperlink in the dashboard, then on "Network Properties" and then on "Network Location." On this page, you will see a list of IP domains from which people visited your site. There will usually be a large number if Internet Service Provider (ISP) names like Verizon, etc., which means that people used this ISP to reach your site. There isn’t much you can do with this information, easily. However, there might be a large number of company domains as well. This means that somebody from that company visited your website. When you correlate this information with your email lists, completed web site forms, sales meeting summaries, telephone call logs, etc. you can usually piece together who these people are and what they did on your site. This is extremely valuable information for companies selling to businesses.
There is a lot more you can do to analyze web site traffic, but this is a good start.
Step 5– Making Changes to Improve Performance
OK, now that you have a basic understanding about what you can learn about your website traffic, what can you do to better achieve your business goals? Two things you can immediately change are your website content and marketing programs. Again, there is a whole science behind how best to do this, but here are some quick and easy suggestions.
If you see a high bounce rate, or low "Pages/visit" and "Average time on site" values, then you need to make some changes, pronto. What this means is that people didn’t find what they were looking for on your site. It is usually due to one of the following reasons:
· Your Ad keywords are not relevant. Change your keywords to be more in line with what your company/service does. It doesn’t make sense to drive people to your site (and pay for it!), if they aren’t really interested in your company’s product or service.
· Your messages are not relevant. If you get lots of click-throughs from your marketing campaigns (e.g. email, banner ads, etc.), your message may be compelling, but your site doesn’t deliver. Locate the campaigns that are working, by analyzing the "Traffic Source" pie chart on the dashboard.
· The keywords are relevant, but your site does not capture the audience. Change the website landing page content to provide more relevant and compelling information.
If you see downward trend on the "number of visitors", or in the "amount of time spent on the site", look at the marketing programs you ran during the sampling interval (i.e. the last month) and compare them to the programs you ran during the previous interval. Did your messaging change? Did you use different email lists? Were there any significant announcements in the market? All of these things can have an impact on your web site traffic. By analyzing the correlation of visitor traffic to marketing programs, you will uncover a treasure trove of actionable data.
If you see a sudden spike in website traffic that can’t be traced to marketing activities, check for articles, blog posts, or other media mentions that might have driven the traffic. Then cultivate that channel to continue to drive traffic to the site. You should be monitoring these media sources at all times.