Do you have any idea how many visitors your website gets in a day, a week, or a month? Do you know how long, on average, visitors are on your site or what the bounce rate is? Do you know which page of your website is the most popular? Do you know what keywords are used to search for your site?
Wikipedia: “Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage…Web analytics is not just a tool for measuring web traffic but can be used as a tool for business and market research, and to assess and improve the effectiveness of a web site.”
(There are 2 categories of web analytics: off-site and on-site. I’m going to discuss only on-site analytics.)
The Numbers Have Always Been There
From nearly the beginning of internet time, web servers have generated a log file that primarily recorded the number of “hits” or client requests made to the server for a particular website. This data continued to grow to provide information about where the request came from, which page of the website was hit first, and other data points. You could view this raw data directly from the file, but soon web log analysis software was developed to present the data in a more readable format.
While log file analysis was all well and good in its day, web analytics software today is much more sophisticated and is able to present a lot of useful information. This is done by “page tagging” or inserting a short script on each page of the website. These scripts feed the information back to your analytics account for that website, rolling the data up into an interactive user interface with lists, tables, charts, and graphs.
Your site’s analytics data not only shows how many times the website was visited and which pages were viewed, but also the browser used by the visitor, the type of device and operating system, the country they were from and even the language they used. The raw data is analyzed to present scenarios such as percent of new visitors vs. returning visitors, average number of pages viewed per visit, visit durations, and how visitors found your website.
What To Do With the Data
As mentioned in the Wikipedia quote above, “web analytics is not just a tool for measuring web traffic but can be used to assess and improve the effectiveness of a website.” For example, “Bounce Rate” is the percentage of single-page visits, i.e., visits in which the person left your site without visiting any additional pages. By looking at pages with high bounce rates, you can think about ways to improve the content on the page to encourage visitors to read on, access other pages, or contact you.
Another data point is the type of devices visitors are using to access your site. If visitors are trying to view your site from their smart phone, you might want to seriously consider a mobile version of your site. (“Mobilize Your Website“) Simply being mobile-friendly could increase your conversion rate, i.e., people call you because you’ve made it easy to do so from their smart phone!
Other data that I always find interesting are the keywords or phrases people used that got them to your site and which pages they landed on. This can reveal a thing or two about your content and whether people are getting to the page that is most useful to them.
I could go on and on. There’s so much good information.
Whoa! Back up! Start Here
I use “Google Analytics” for all the websites I design. Yahoo! has “Web Analytics.” There are analytics tools, e.g., Coremetrics (IBM), Omniture (Adobe), WebTrends, Unica NetInsight (IBM), and many more. The easiest way to get a list of programs and how they compare to each other is to search for “review web analytics tools.” However, while Google Analytics and Yahoo!’s Web Analytics are free, other solutions must be purchased, but likely provide more features, in-depth coverage, and support.
View Your Website Stats
Want to see your website stats? Contact your web developer and find out if they have your site set up with an analytics program. If they have not done so, request to get set up and ask to have a log in to the information so you can access it directly. If you maintain your own website, go to Google or Yahoo!, create an account and follow their instructions for setting up your website analytics.
When viewing your analytics reports, your primary thought should be: “How can I improve my website so people can find it, find the information they were seeking, and choose to do business with me/my company.”
Work with experts, such as internet marketers, SEO experts, website designers and developers, and web copywriters, that can help you continue to improve your web statistics and, hence, meet your business objectives.
Track Your Changes and Continue to Analyze
Document when changes are made and track your statistics to analyze the effectiveness of the change. (Be patient. Some changes take time to gain traction.)
By reviewing your website stats coupled with some out-of-the-box thinking, planning and execution, you’ll see better results for your website and for your business.
Which analytics program do you use? What data do you find the most useful?
*(Anybody know who starred in the movie by the same name?)