What is Web Analytics? Plus, The Key Metrics You Should Be Tracking!
What is Web Analytics?
Leveraging Web Analytics will help you make smarter decisions, understand customer behaviour, increase customer engagement, and critically find opportunities for improvements that improve the bottom line…
Web Analytics is a way of capturing, measuring, and understanding how customers behave on your web site. It allows you to understand where your customers have come from before they get to your site, plus how they got there. For instance, did they use a search engine, or were they referred to you from another web site linking to you? Once they were on your site, what pages did they like, and how long did they stay? Depending on the purpose of your site, understanding more about the time of day people visit, and from which country can be very beneficial, especially if you are doing location targeted or time-based campaigns.
As your site grows in size and complexity, typically your digital footprint will increase in size and complexity as well. Web Analytics tools also provide a great way to quickly find what’s working and what isn’t. For instance, you might have removed a page that is still ranking highly in search engines. For the potential visitor who has found the page on a search engine, all they will see is a dead link. For you, you lose potential traffic and a potential loss of love from search engines when they come back to re-rank you. If you were using Web Analytics tools, an increase in traffic to your ‘404 page’ (‘page not found’ error page) can also alert you to similar problems. Alternatively, you might love a particular page due to its design, styling and awesome flashing imagery. However, running a page speed report could well highlight this page is not ranked as highly with search engines as some of your other more simple, and faster loading pages. Particularly if a lot of your traffic is from mobile devices.
Web Analytics can report on other design or UX issues. For instance you might find your bounce rate [anchor link to further down page] is very high. There could be a number of reasons for this, such as a web visitor just wanted to find your phone number or post/zip code and has left your site quite happy. Or the issue might be more sinister, and the design of your page is putting people off.
Too Much Web Traffic Data?
Heard of Big Data? (Update!! – There is now even Huge Data, everyone loves a bit of jargon). There is so much data available to an organisation these days, and from so many sources that it can be totally overwhelming. The result; not “data-analysis” but “data-paralysis”. The risk here is “head in the sand syndrome” where nothing gets done, and nothing new is learnt. You’re then flying blind and missing opportunities that your competitors are probably mopping up and trading on. The secret here, even though you can practically measure everything: don’t try to measure everything! Start small and just try and measure something – for example if the purpose of your site is to capture data from visitors, start measuring the conversion rate of your site: what percentage of visitors go on to complete a form?. As your visibility grows, your curiosity will help you find the answers you need to look for.
Why Do I Need Web Analytics? What Should I Tag?
The more you understand about what is actually going on across your web site, the better and more informed your business and marketing decisions will be. This should quickly lead to improved results and sales for the same marketing spend. Or even better, the same results with less marketing spend. However, any web analysis needs to be effective and should always be focused on the end goal of the business, not just vanity metrics.
Keep an eye on your competition. Set up and use a web traffic report to benchmark your online performance against your key competitors. We advise setting up a simple report - either weekly or monthly - that charts your progress (both good and bad), and then share this throughout your organisation. Not only does this report become competitive and addictive, but this really helps focus more people across your organisation on what activities are ‘really’ important. You’ll probably quickly realise what activities you’re all doing that are ‘not important’ as they are not making any significant difference.
What do I Need to Measure on my Web Site – What KPI’s do I need?
There’s a ton of stuff you could report on. However, before you first start drowning in data, and secondly sifting through out of context results, take some time-out to really work out what your business is trying to do. Don’t approach this in isolation or by a single job function (i.e. just your job).
We’ve regularly seen individual roles in large organisations argue for more PPC budget simply because it’s the biggest contributor to sales/leads/etc. when measured as the “last click”; however spending more on paid media is not in itself a key business objective. If you keep breaking it down, the main business objective is usually to sell more stuff, or find more customers/members. This works just the same for charities too. If that is your organisation’s main objective, deconstruct this goal and work backwards to set the right KPIs for your organisation. To sell more, you either need more of the right quality leads, more conversions from leads to sales, or a combination of both.
The key things you should be aiming for are getting more of the right traffic to your site, and then making sure as much of that traffic converts into ‘sales’ as possible. Easy eh?
What are the KPIs I Need To Track on My Web Site?
Google Analytics has a great framework for helping users better understand what is happening on their sites. It’s the ABC of web analytics.
Within this Google framework, key areas you may want to measure could include:
Traffic Sources - Where is your traffic coming from?
Search engines – the best source of traffic (it’s free)
Pay Per Click – quick to set up, but can be expensive
Referral links from external web sites – well done
Visits from email campaigns – good campaign integration
Traffic from social media – you must have good content or engaged followers
How are visitors behaving on your web site?
Top visited landing pages
Top visited web pages
Time spent on site vs. number of pages viewed
Top exit pages
Proportion of traffic viewing on Mobile or Desktop
New or returning traffic
How many site visitors converted to a sale?
Conversion rate from PPC to actual sale
Conversion rate from 1st page of a form to last page of a form
Conversion rate from start of purchase process to confirmation page
Additionally, key technical problems with your web site can also be picked up
Server errors - any server downtime when your site, or individual pages were not shown
404 page views - number of times an error page is shown
Average page load time - number of seconds on average a page took to load
What Web Analytics Tools and Software Do I Need?
There are several great ways to start collecting web traffic data. Probably the most popular and powerful free tool is Google Analytics (Standard). This can do a ton of stuff and collect most of what you need. However, once you’ve got the data, the more you can make it look good and easily understandable, the more value you’ll get from all those numbers, and the more people across the organisation will want to see it - as they better understand it. Although the presentation layer in Google Analytics is good, there are other options for more customisation and tailored dashboarding software. One solution is to export key data from Google Analytics and open in Microsoft Excel. The power of Excel’s conditional formatting will really help improve data visualisation. Alternatively, tools such as Tableau really help bring data to life with custom interactive dashboards. So once you have the data, you can easily share it, make better informed decisions and make efficiencies through your web site and campaigns. Basically do more of what’s working, and less of what’s not. With the right numbers and reporting, good digital marketing is not all subjective. It’s actually also quite scientific.
If Google Analytics is not an option, or you feel you need more than this tool can offer, then look to something like enterprise version of Google Analytics – Analytics 360, Adobe Analytics (originally known as Omniture). Or the IBM-owned CoreMetrics.
Once you’re King or Queen of the KPIs and you’ve mastered the basics, you may want to invesitigate further. In that case there’s a ton of specialised tools out there. But here’s a few good ones:
Kissmetrics - lets you zero in on individual behaviour, i.e. cohort analysis, conversion and retention at a segment or individual level
Mixpanel - an advanced mobile and web analytics tool hat measures actions rather than page views
Parse.ly - built for publishers, it offers detailed real-time analytics
CrazyEgg - uses ‘heat-mapping’ to show you which parts of the page are getting the most attention
Open Web Analytics – Open Source softwarebut will require some technical experience
Clicktale - uses ‘heat mapping,’ keystrokes and mouse movement
Where Do I Start?
The key to successful interrogation of digital data is to start with the questions. What is your overall goal? Or, what are you really trying to find out? This in itself can sometimes be hard - especially when working in larger organisations with different teams - all with different business objectives. However, breaking down silos and getting everyone in an organisation to focus on the right numbers is a speciality of ours. We love making the complex look simple.
If you’re stuck trying to find value in your data, or can’t even find your data, give us a call as we would love to help. Just a give us a call, or drop us a note and share your challenges on our handy form.