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How To Read (And Understand) Web Analytics

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September 5, 2018Uncategorized

Web Analytics tools can be murky waters to navigate. Do you know how to read Google Analytics? Is it even that important?

Let me answer that question with another question… how’s your website?

To clarify, I’m not asking how pretty your website is. I’m asking how your small business website is doing.

Who’s looking at it? How many people? Which pages are they looking at? Are those people actually buying what you’re selling?

If you don’t know how to read your web analytics tools, you don’t know. And knowing how your website is performing is a crucial element of knowing how a website works for your business.

So we thought we’d put together a guide to understanding web analytics tools. This isn’t specifically a Google Analytics tutorial, (though SEO Hacker has a great one of those,) but what we aim to do is talk briefly about some of the best web analytics tools in 2018, highlight the different types of data that you’ll encounter in any particular analytics report, and explain why each of those matter to your small business.

So let’s dive in:

Web Analytics: What Is It Good For?

Absolutely everything, when it comes to gaining a good understanding of your site’s performance.

As a business owner, you know that your website is only as good as the amount of real, measurable traffic and sales that it can secure for your business.

In other words, if you’re thinking about what to invest in your website, you need to know your return on investment. (ROI)

How do you determine your website’s ROI? By asking questions that can be answered with real, quantifiable results.

These are questions like:

  • How to track how many people visit your website?
  • Where do your website visitors live?
  • How to find the most popular pages of a website?
  • What blog content do your visitors like the most?
  • What is the best way to track referrals to your website?
  • What marketing tactics drive the most traffic to your website?
  • Is your website mobile-friendly?
  • How can I improve your website’s speed?
  • How many visitors has your site converted into leads or customers?

These are the types of questions that web analytics tools can answer… as long as you know where to look.

Your average Google Analytics report might seem like a jumble of graphs and numbers, but what you’re really looking at is a clear indicator of how your website is performing. Where it’s doing well. Where it can be improved.

And once you know what changes you need to make, you can make a plan to improve your entire website.

But first, an important question… where to get that web analytics data to begin with.

The Best Analytics Tools- 2018

The first question when it comes to working on your website’s analytics data?

What tools to use to get that data in the first place!

There are a metric ton of web analytics tools out there, ranging in price from free to hundreds of dollars per month. Which tool you choose all depends on which analytics are the most important to you.

We decided to highlight some of the most popular web analytics tools around today. In no particular order, here are our top 5 tools to check out:

Adobe Analytics

Adobe puts out one of the most popular analytics services out there. It’s not hard to see why.

There are a ton of options inherent in Adobe Analytics. You can manage, merge, and target audiences. You can detect anomalies and outlier data. You can collect data from multiple channels, and there are native 3rd party integrations to help you analyze data from all sorts of interesting places your website makes contact with.

All great features. Just know that you’ll be paying for them.

Adobe’s marketing cloud isn’t cheap. A marketing department who knows what they’re doing with the information that it can provide can really do wonders for a company website. But with a steep price tag, (enterprise accounts can expect to pay tens if not hundreds of thousands per year,) it’s really important to make sure that the ROI of these tools

In other words, when you buy Adobe, you’re buying a finely tuned marketing machine. Make sure you’re not buying a Ferrari when what you really need is a golf cart.

SEMrush

SEMrush is an awesome tool for viewing your analytics data through the lens of Search Engine Marketing. You can view your site’s analytics, along with the analytics of your competitors.

It’s also chock-full of great SEO and SEM tools to help with everything from keyword research to backlink building.

(Full disclosure: we use SEMrush at SuperWebPros. We particularly love their Keyword Magic Tool.)

That being said, SEMrush’s intended uses are primarily SEO and SEM optimization, (if you’re wondering what the difference is between SEO & SEM, we wrote a whole blog on that topic on it’s own,) and the dashboards are primarily designed as such.

So while it’s a great tool for determining how well your site is performing on search, (and how it might improve in light of your competition,) it may not be the ideal tool for getting a simple high-level view of your website’s overall performance.

Hubspot Analytics

What can we say about Hubspot? They’re industry leaders. They combine all the aspects of your digital presence into one product: marketing, website, CRM all working together in one seamless package.

That means smooth integration. It means having a clear connections between your analytics data and the clear paths to action.

It also means a hefty price tag. And an all-in-one solution means committing to features you may or may not need.

If your business can afford Hubspot, it’s a brilliant tool. Just make sure you can fully utilize it and make sure you’re getting the best bang for your proverbial buck.

KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics is one of the most accurate analytics and lead-tracking tools out there.

The dashboards are customizable to fit the metrics you want to keep an eye on. You can follow the path of your site’s visitors to get a robust understanding of how the average user experiences your site. You can schedule reports to regularly run and tailor them to track the metrics you’re targeting.

The trade off for this robust and in-depth tool? The user interface might be challenging for someone new to interpreting analytics. It can take a long time to work out the kinks and implement the tool to its fullest, really tailoring it to your business.

It’s also not the cheapest tool on this list, so it may not be the best entry-level place to get your feet wet with analytics.

That being said, if it meets your budget and you feel confident in your ability to navigate the UI, this is a tool that’s definitely worth exploring.

Google Analytics

Of course, we have to talk about Google Analytics.

It’s likely the most recognized analytics tool on the market. And, well, what do you expect? It’s got “Google” in the name, after all.

It has all the elements that you need to understand how your website is performing. It’s relatively easy to use.

Aaaaand it’s free. (At least for its basic functions.)

So while it may be, in several ways, inferior to most of the tools listed above, Google is pretty much the gold standard for entry-level analytics users. It’s the perfect balance of affordable, extensive, and approachable.

That’s why we’ll be tailoring the rest of this post to a typical Google Analytics dashboard… though you’ll find the principles should apply no matter which tool you end up using.

The 4 Types Of Metrics You Should Be Tracking

Now, when you first arrive to your analytics dashboard, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data that’s available for you. But as a rule, there are 4 types of metrics that you will want to keep an eye on.

Website Metrics To Track #1: User Metrics

When we’re talking about user metrics, we’re talking about questions of “Who.”

How many hits is your site getting? How many users are looking at your site? Who are they?

User metrics seek to answer these questions so that you can build a profile of your average visitor, and also some insight on how well you’re reaching your target audience.

Website Metrics To Track #2: Behavior Metrics

Where user metrics focus on questions of “Who,” behavior metrics focus on questions of “What.”

What pages are your site’s visitors gravitating to? What pages do they linger on? Which ones do they leave? What types of devices are people viewing your site on?

These metrics are great at helping identify your users’ priorities and how to best position your offerings.

Website Metrics To Track #3: Acquisition Metrics

Acquisition metrics are all about the “Where.”

Where are your website’s visitors coming from? What search engines are referring them? Are they coming from social networks? Are websites referring traffic to you?

Answering these questions can help maximize relationships with referring sites and highlight opportunities for digital advertising, SEO, and social media marketing.

Website Metrics To Track #4: Web Conversion Metrics

Once we’ve answered the “Who,” “What,” and “Where” metrics, it’s time to look at web conversion metrics to learn “How Much.”

Are visitors being funneled to your targeted landing pages? Are they filling out contact forms? How many online purchases are being made directly from your site?

This is the ultimate test of website performance: whether your website is converting visitors into customers and leads. These metrics can help shine a light on the effectiveness of your landing pages and calls-to-action.

What Are The Best User Metrics To Track?

There are a few types of website user metrics that can provide useful insight.

Total Sessions

Basically, this measures how many times your website got looked at.

This isn’t an indicator of how many unique users are visiting your site, but rather the amount of times that those users are active on it.

Many times, a “session” can reset after 30 minutes or so of inactivity, or it may reset at the end of any given calendar day.

Total Users

By contrast, this metric measures the number of unique visitors that show up to your site, regardless of how many times they view your pages.

In fact, in Google Analytics, this metric used to be known as “Unique Visitors.”

This is one of the better metrics for determining how much traction your website is getting, because you’re literally tracking the number of prospective customers that are there viewing your small business website’s content.

Page Views

While Total Sessions are giving you an overall sense of how many times your website as a whole is being viewed, page views are giving you a little more detailed picture.

This metric is going to show you the total number of pages on your site that visitors looked at. If this number is significantly higher than your “total sessions” metric, you know that people are moving around your website and looking at the different pages. If it is around the same, they’re viewing less pages.

Keep in mind, this does take repeated page views and repeated users into account.

Average Pages Per Session

This will expand on your “page views” metric to show you how many pages a user will visit during the average visit to your website.

Like the above, this also does factor in those repeated page views, so someone returning to the same page over and over may be skewing your results.

Percentage Of New Sessions

This is a cool one. This metric measures how many visitors, who have never visited your website before, have discovered you.

This higher this number, the more people who are finding your content for the first time. Which means the more potential customers for your business! So you’ll always want to see an increase in this metric, continually high numbers here usually mean that your outreach efforts are paying off.

What Are The Best Behavior Metrics To Track?

Now that you’ve got a handle on what user metrics to keep an eye on, let’s look at some behavior metrics so you can measure what, exactly, those visitors are up to.

Most Visited Pages

Here, you’re not just checking how many times your pages are being viewed, but you’re seeing which of those pages your visitors are gravitating to.

Now usually, (but not always!) the most visited page of any website is the Home Page. Which makes sense… after all, most direct traffic, (that is, traffic that comes from typing a page’s URL directly into the search bar,) is going to go straight to the home page.

The interesting information in this metric is going to be directly under that top result. Look at the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th results on that list. Which pages are there? Are they the ones you expect?

Ideally, you’ll want to see your landing pages, pages optimized for conversion, sitting comfortably in those prime spots. This means that your marketing funnel is working as it should, moving traffic from your blog and your home page to the places where people can buy your product or service, or fill out a lead capture form.

If you’re seeing blog posts or educational site pages in these spots, it likely means that you have good information, but need to work on your Calls To Action.

Average Session Duration (Dwell Time)

This metric measures how long the average session on your website lasts. How much time are visitors spending on your site once they’re there?

This is a phenomenon called Dwell Time, or Time-On-Site. The longer your dwell time, the more content your customers are taking in.

And here’s the thing about dwell time: search engines like it. Google tends to prioritize sites with high dwell time, as it indicates that the site is providing helpful and relevant information to its visitors.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate measures how often people arrive at your site, look around, and leave without clicking anything.

As a rule, you want a low bounce rate… after all, you want your potential customers and clients to learn more about you and come to a buying decision.

That being said, that’s not always true. Sometimes you have landing pages where there’s literally no other option other than to bounce or convert.

A good indicator of whether your bounce rate is healthy is to examine your site’s bounce rate in relation to your dwell time. A low bounce rate with a high time on site may not indicate that your site is helpful… it may mean your site is too confusing to navigate!

We talk more about this phenomenon in our Website Home Improvement Tip video on this topic:

Device Information

This metric will provide you with a breakdown of how people are experiencing your site, whether they’re viewing it on a desktop computer, a mobile phone, or a tablet.

This is helpful when considering your site’s mobile friendliness. How easy is your site to navigate on a mobile device? Are forms easy to fill?

You’ll want to make sure that call to actions are simple and compelling, and conversions are unimpeded, no matter what device your customers or clients are using.

For more information on why mobile matters, check out our post on that topic!

What Are The Best Acquisition Metrics To Track?

If you want to make sure your digital marketing efforts are working, and where you can improve, you first need to know where your visitors are coming from!

Organic Search Traffic

This metric measures how often someone is referred to your site through the normal function of a search engine.

In other words, this is the number of people who search for a query, see your site come up in the results, and then click into it.

If your organic search numbers are down, you may need to revisit your business blogging strategy. If you don’t have a blog, this is a great reason to start one.

Understanding this metric helps you understand how much of an impact your SEO efforts are having. A robust Organic Search results is a great sign, it means that people are looking for answers and finding them at your small business website!

Direct Traffic

This measures how often somebody types your site’s URL directly into the search bar and accesses your website directly.

Direct traffic shows you how much of your website’s traffic is comprised of people who are already familiar with your company. They know you well enough to head straight to your site, which means they’ve either already made a buying decision, are darn close to doing so, or have some other connection to your company and will never be a client. (For example, an employee who visits your site to pull information.)

You’ll always have some direct traffic, (and you should,) but if it’s the majority of your traffic it’s a sign that all is not well with your website.

Social Network Traffic

Shocking enough, this metric measures the amount of website traffic you receive from various social network pages.

This is a great barometer for the effectiveness of social media ad campaigns, as well as how well your company pages are performing in general.

The higher your engagement on social media, the higher you can expect this number to be.

Referral Traffic

Specifically, this metric measures the amount of your small business website’s traffic that’s referred by directory websites.

Some examples of these can include yellowpages.com, Yelp, or any other industry-specific directories.

Understanding how much of your traffic is being referred from where can help you make decisions about whether any given directory is worth investing in. For example, if Yelp is driving a bunch of traffic to your site, it may be worth paying for advertising there, or encouraging customers to leave positive reviews.

What Are The Best Web Conversion Metrics To Track?

Here’s the big question, where the rubber meets the road: what performance level metrics can you track to determine whether your website is making you the money that it ought to be?

Google Analytics Goal Tracking

Here’s what some people don’t realize when they’re trying to make sense of their analytics dashboard: you can actually set up your analytics tools to track the goals that you’ve set for your website.

In Google Analytics, it’s actually a pretty simple process. Where it gets hairy is to determine which goals are actually helpful for your business at any given time.

Depending on your site, and the specific calls to action inherent in your business, this could be incredibly customizable and bespoke to your needs. That being said, there are usually 3 types of conversions that small businesses want to track on their sites: landing page views, lead captures, and ecommerce sales.

Tracking Landing Page Views

Okay, so tracking landing page views doesn’t directly measure conversion. But it does help you determine an element that’s crucial to conversion: how well your website is funneling traffic to your landing pages.

Setting up goal tracking on specific landing pages is a great way to monitor whether your landing pages are getting the amount of traffic they need to have a significant impact on your conversions.

If they aren’t, it’s a wake up call to sharpen your call to actions on your site pages, and to make sure your site’s content hierarchy is organized with conversions in mind.

If they are, it’s a sign that you need to work on your landing pages themselves to make them more compelling and more likely to convert.

Either way, you’ll need to know how many people are viewing your conversion opportunities to really understand your conversion rate. Which brings us to:

Tracking Successful Lead Captures

Every time someone fills out a form on your website, you should be tracking it.

If they sign up for your mailing list.

If they request a demo of your services.

If they hit you off your “contact us” page.

And especially if they’re responding to the Call To Action on your landing page.

Setting up goal tracking on your lead captures allows you to compare the number of actual leads to the landing page views you starting tracking in the step above. Now you know your website’s conversion rate.

Tracking Website Sales

If you sell anything on your site, you need to track the number of sales in your analytics.

That’s the end-goal, right? The ultimate conversion.

If you’re an ecommerce site, this might be a purchase from your online store. If you’re a service, this may be a “sign up” button attached to a payment collection system.

Regardless, this is the ultimate number to boost and to watch.

Your Website Is Only As Good As Its Ability To Convert

Familiarizing yourself with analytics tools will be crucial for you to fully understand the performance of your website… whether it’s driving meaningful traffic to your business, and then converting on that traffic.

Being able to analyze the data from the metrics above can help you understand what you need to do to take your website to the next level.

Maybe your site has a high bounce rate with a low dwell time… you may have issues with your website loading slowly, and need to optimize your images to increase your page speed.

Maybe your site has low organic traffic, and you need to focus on doubling down on your SEO and business blogging efforts.

Maybe you have plenty of traffic, but you’re not seeing the conversions you want to see. You may need to work on your call-to-actions:

Here’s some good news, regardless of what your site needs help with, you have a Pro ready to help.

At SuperWebPros, it’s not enough to build a website that looks great. It has to work great, too.

That’s why we offer ongoing, proactive monthly services to make sure that your website continues to work hard to grow your business.

Sign up for a free website review. We’ll take a look at your existing website using all the data we mentioned above, and more. We can build you a new website designed to convert. We’ll always be available for fast, effective Super Support. And we’ll even provide you with unique blog content every month to help increase your SEO footprint.

If you’re ready to boost the performance of your small business website where it counts, rely on the Pros today!