A Primer to Web Analytics: What Does It Say?
Reading Time: 5 mins
Imagine you have an online store. You built a website and you are very excited for its launch. After all the efforts you and your team put in, you are finally ready to welcome customers. You dive straight into the marketing strategies to get a lot of eyeballs. It looked all easy in your head, like butter melting on a slice of hot toasted bread. But then reality sets in and, guess what, it’s not as simple.
You don’t have a lot of visitors. The ones who visit leave without taking any action and it’s highly disappointing. You don’t know what’s going wrong. This is clearly not what you anticipated. We think we have the power of internet to reach hundreds and thousands of people with this single word. But making a website and a few social pages is not the end of a strategy. In fact, that’s where it begins.
So let’s begin with what’s the most basic thing you should do: setting up web analytics and understanding its metrics. Without web analytics you are simply assuming what the user likes and dislikes and the reasons for his or her action (or in this case, inaction).
What does the user want?
When you begin with a web strategy, you must know the needs and wants of your customers. Web analytics can help you only when you know what your customers expect out of you. Your strategy must highlight business objectives, customer segments, target audience, competitor analysis, market growth, opportunities and a content strategy. You should be able to answer these two questions for a powerful web strategy:
1. What does the user want from their visit?
2. What does the business want from the user’s visit?
These two questions help you understand a lot of things. If you have an online store, your goals will probably be:
1. Being a leader in whatever you are selling
2. Selling more products every month
Now where will these goals come from? You can conduct interviews with a sample audience and understand where the market gap is and how you can bridge it. You want customers to visit your website, browse through your products, buy them and recommend them to their friends. You want them to think of you as a thought leader, so you have an active Facebook, Twitter and Instagram page with engaging content. You want them to find you when they are looking for products you sell, so you have ads running on search engines and remarketing campaigns on pages they visit. Later, when you want repeat customers, you can run loyalty programs, referral campaigns and have offers on the most popular items.
Now that we have a strategy in place, how do we know if it’s working well? We measure its effectiveness. So let’s dive into tracking with web analytics.
The first few things we want to know about the website are:
1. How many visitors does the website get?
2. Who are the visitors?
3. How did they land on the site?
4. What did they do when they landed?
5. What did they not do when they landed?
6. Are they taking any action towards their goals or ours?
7. Is a change in our marketing creating a change in the traffic flow?
The next step is choosing which metrics you want to dedicate your attention to out of the hundreds available on Google Analytics. You can actually be sure of which ones to look at by the web strategy you design. Every business (even if they are operating in the same market) has certain unique goals. But none can only survive on page views and bounce rates. There’s more to analytics than that.
Key performance indicators
KPIs help determine progress towards the set goals and objectives of the business. Choosing them carefully will result in overall improvement of the website. For example, if your goal was to get people to the “contact us” page, KPIs would track visits to that particular page.
Some important key performance indicators are:
1. Non-branded keywords — Keyword lists without the company name, product or service are very useful.
2. Visitor acquisition channels — Visitors can come from various channels like search, display, email, direct, social, referrals, etc. This data can be used to plan your spends effectively and reorganize the channels you want to continue targeting.
3. Top referrers — Some websites refer the maximum number of customers. Track those websites and see how good their traffic and conversion rate is.
4. Goal achievement — Setting goals in web analytics is crucial in understanding how your overall strategy and marketing efforts are doing.
Sometimes websites need users to do simple things like watch a video or click on call-to-action button, in-site ad or promotion. Google Analytics allows people to track these actions with event tracking and virtual page views.
Event tracking in Google Analytics is tracking the user’s interaction with an element on the web page. The element can be anything from videos, podcasts, images or buttons to forms or scroll bars. It basically allows you to track actions that don’t involve loading another page.
Virtual page views
A virtual page view is what Google’s Web Analytics considers a hit when in actuality no new page has been loaded. It is used to track actions that do not require a page to be loaded but are considered a page view.
There are four major predefined groups in web analytics that require repeated attention: audience, acquisition, behavior and conversions. This data is compared with the history to find major changes.
This category focuses on who is visiting the website. It helps answer the following questions:
1. How many users visited the website?
2. How long did they stay?
3. Where did they come from?
4. Which pages did they visit?
5. Which device did they use?
6. How did they navigate through the website?
7. From where did they leave the website?
This is an interesting category to analyze. It tells where your visitors came from when they found your website. Users can find your site in multiple ways. You should be aware what they are and which ones are the best. This data can be used to plan your spending better.
Traffic sources in Google Analytics, paid advertising (search, display and video) or organic marketing (social, direct and referral) show how well your marketing is doing (or not doing). The whole reason we do all this is to understand where the business stands, what should be done to get further, where to focus our resources and how to do it.
Behavior helps you understand how your users are interacting with the content, placement and navigation of the website. It also reveals which actions are more important and engaging users better. Using this data, you can make better decisions for overall improvement of the website. Content and pages that aren’t performing well or are creating hindrance in the customer’s journey can be eliminated with this information.
Lastly, conversions are the most important metrics that highlight how well the website and marketing is doing. So for an e-commerce business, users who add products to their cart, purchase and finally come to the thank-you page are converted customers. They have fulfilled the website’s goal. For a service-based business, the goal may be reaching the “contact us” page to place a call or fill out a form. Once the acquired user does that, he or she is a converted customer.
Using the conversion value, we can determine which pay-per-click campaign, email campaign, social campaigns, keywords, promotions are most valuable for converting a customer. This data can help make informed decisions while spending the next batch of dollars on marketing.
When you first start out, all this might seem scary. You might not know why your campaigns don’t have a happy ending even when you tried everything from every article on Google. But hey, it’s OK to not know a few things. Your data will eventually teach you a lot of things about your brand, its presence, its customers and its performance. With time you will know the right actions to take, thanks to web analytics.
About the Author
Janvi Arora is a web analyst and content writer. She loves to write topics on digital marketing to help people improve their knowledge and stay update continues. She specializes in implementing and executing inbound marketing, which is based on principle of law of attraction. Janvi has trained many professionals and teams to execute digital marketing projects in various industries.