Are you tracking what's happening on your website? If you own a business and you don't know what's happening on your website, a big fat shame on you.
Your physical location may only see a few hundred people a month walking through its doors, but your website may be getting several thousand visitors a month. Don't you think it's important to know what's happening with such a large pool of potential customers?
Online marketing is the most transparent form of marketing available today. Your ability to track your ROI, in terms of time and money, is a departure from traditional advertising where you had to “pay and pray”. But it only works if you take the time to actually use what's available to you.
Do you have analytics tracking software installed?
It's easy to setup analytics tracking software on your website, all you need to do is set up a free account with Google and have your web developer insert a small piece of tracking code to your website. While there are many analytics tracking programs available, none of them offer the robustness and price point (free) that Google Analytics offers. So if you don't have Google Analytics installed yet, read this article to learn how.
I have analytics installed, now what?
Now that you have analytics tracking installed on your website, you can now track about 10,000 different metrics. Wait, what? Yes, you can now track everything that happens on your website, from what city a visitor came from, if they have been to your website before, to how much time they spent on each page of your website.
You now have a wealth of information at the tip of your fingers…..that's meaningless to you. This is where most business owners get scared off with a case of information overload. There is so much data, they get paralyzed and lost in the sea of information in front of them.
The first thing you need to do is to figure out what handful of metrics are important to your business.
The difference between metrics and KPI's
Don't confuse the two.
A metric is simply a number you track. For your website, that may be how many visitors you get every month or how many page views you get each month. Metrics form the cornerstone of how you will measure performance for your website and your business.
A KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is also a metric, but it's a metric that is super important for your business. It's a metric that moves your bottom line. It's a metric that helps you understand how you are performing against your business objectives. An example of a KPI (in relation to your website) may be how many people contacted you for a consultation through your online contact form. This would be a KPI for your business if one of your objectives was to generate 25+ leads a month through your website.
Business Objectives: Metrics -> KPI's -> Goals
What metrics are important for my website?
Since I don't know your business, I don't know what KPI's are important to your business. But what we will discuss here are what metrics you can track on your website that can do two things:
1- Give you indications of the effectiveness of you website
2- Give you information you can take action on
Number 1 is useless without number 2. If you can't (or won't) take action on your analytics, you may as well not track them at all.
Below are 5 metrics you should be tracking on your website, usually on a monthly basis. The important thing is to understand each metric, and understand what things you can do to move the numbers in them.
Setting up goals in Google Analytics is the heart of any online strategy. Technically it's not a metric itself, but a way to track metrics that matter to your business. Google Analytics allows you to set up goals for a number of different metrics. If you sell a product online, you may set up a goal for when someone completes an online purchase. You may set up a goal to track how many people complete your contact form or download an e-book you offer. You may set a goal for people that visit a specific page on your site or if they spend a certain amount of time on a page.
Setting up goals for your site is kind of like having KPI's for your business. Actually some of the goals you set up may be a KPI for your business, like online sales or email subscribers. Your job here is to determine what metrics are important for your business and create “Goals” so you can track your effectiveness.
The great thing about setting up goals through Google Analytics is that you not only see how well you are hitting your goals, you can reverse engineer the entire process and see where the people are coming from in the first place. You may find that your most engaged visitors are coming from some obscure local directory that you've long forgotten about. You may be able to directly tie a large % of online sales directly to a single social media platform. Information that is invaluable to your business.
The bounce rate is the % of people who came to your website and left, only visiting one page. If you have a high bounce rate on your website, it could indicate a lack of interest/engagement on the part of your visitors. It could also indicate you're attracting the wrong audience. A high bounce isn't always bad, your contact page may have a high bounce rate, but if people are filling in the contact form before leaving your site, that's a good thing.
If you consistently have a high bounce rate, there are a few things you should do:
- Find what pages are producing a high bounce rate, especially your important pages like your homepage, about, sales, etc
- Examine the pages to try and understand why people are leaving. Poor design? Poor copy writing? Missing call to action?
- Make small changes to that page each month or create an entirely different page and “Split Test” it against your old page. Google Analytics lets you do Split Testing testing for free, though you may need an experienced web marketer to help with that.
Analyzing, testing, and improving on an ongoing basis is how you turn a poorly performing website into a lead generating machine.
The visitor flow is the path that people take when they are on your website. You may envision your customers taking a path like this:
Homepage -> Feature Page -> Service Page -> Sales Page
Where in reality many people take a path similar to this:
Blog Article -> Home Page -> About Us Page -> Blog Article -> Service Page -> Sales Page
They may never even make it to any sort of sales page (or other action page on your site), maybe they visited your About Us page, that is unfortunate at best, and decided to look look for a different business.
By looking at the visitor flow on your website, you can see not only the path of pages people are taking on your site, but where they are jumping ship. Here is what you can do:
- Look at your visitor flow over a period of time. If you have a regular flow of traffic, checking each month is good. For a site with less traffic, look over a period of 3-6 months to look for patterns in visitor behavior.
- Look to see what pages your visitors are starting on your site (landing page) and where people are leaving (exit pages)
- Examine the pages along this path and see where the weak links are, and work on improving them.
- If there are pages that you feel are important for visitors to see, and they aren't seeing them, look for ways to give these pages more prominence on your site and inject them into the visitor flow.
For more on understanding Visitor Flow, check out this article.
These are 3rd party websites and social media platforms that are driving traffic to your website. Facebook, Twitter, other blogs, are examples of Referrers to your website. I had a client who was a real estate agent. He spent about 20 hours a month on Facebook, connecting with people and promoting her business. He also spent about 2 hours a month doing the same thing on LinkedIn. The anlaytics showed that not only did LinkedIn drive more total traffic to his website, the visitors from LinkedIn spent 3x's the time on the website than his Facebook fans did. He has since adjusted her time allocation between the two platforms. This is a perfect example of how anlaytics can help you make better business decisions.
If you advertise on another website, spend time (and money) on social media platforms, it's a good idea to see how well each one is performing. Things you should look at:
- How many visitors did each referrer send?
- How much time did they spend on the site? What pages did they visit?
- Did they take action on the site? Are they converting? Contact form, download, clicked through a link, etc
- What resources do I dedicate to this referrer in terms of time and money? Is the payoff worth it?
For this, I wouldn't make a decision based on a single month of data, look at it over a period of time so you have enough data to make an informed decision. It may also not be the platform, but the way you are using it. Maybe you need to test a different approach instead of abandoning it altogether.
Check out this article for more on analyzing Referral Traffic in Google Analytics.
Organic Search Traffic
Organic search traffic is how many people found you through a search, specifically through a Google search when using Google Analytics. Why is this metric important? It can give you valuable insights into the minds of your customers, as well as reveal opportunities for you to improve your website.
Organic search traffic is typically broken down into 2 categories, branded search terms and unbranded search terms.
Branded search terms – These are search terms where people type in your business, or a variation of it, in order to find your website. If you're Janet's Cupcakes, they may type in something like “janets cupcakes on main street” in order to find your website. This audience of people already knows you exist, they may be current or potential customers. Having a lot of branded search terms is an indicator of brand awareness in your market. These visitors are usually already engaged with your business and are more likely to convert than non-branded searchers.
Non-Branded search terms – People that use non-branded search terms, such as “cupcake shops in Charlotte”, do not know you exist and are trying to “discover” you, hence why we sometimes call them discovery search terms. Non-branded search traffic is at the core of why you want to do Search Engine Optimization, you're introducing your business to a new market that never knew you existed.
When looking at this part of your analytics, you want to look at your mix of branded vs non-branded terms. In the report, you can see many (not all due to privacy reasons with Google) of the actual search terms people used in order to find your website. This gives you valuable insights into the mind of your customer. You can see what they are thinking when they are trying to find a business like yours.
What can you do with this information?
- If you see search patterns or terms used that aren't incorporated on your website, you can re-examine your copy to better reflect the language of your customers
- You can track the growth of your organic traffic, an indicator of a good SEO strategy.
- You can create specific blog articles or pages dedicated to a specific search term people are using. Your directly answering their questions on your website (SEO 101).
- Look at what search terms garner the most engagement on your website and create more content to attract that type of visitor
- Examine the search terms to discover new ideas for your business. You may not be offering (supply) what people are looking for (demand).
Check out this article from Google for more information about analyzing organic traffic to your site.
For a local business, unless you have an e-commerce site and ship to a large area, you typically do business in a geographically defined area. If this is the case and your business is in Denver, would it do you a lot of good if you get tons of traffic from people in Canada? It looks good on paper, but useless to you as a business.
Google Analytics allows you to view your traffic according to Country and/or City. This allows you to see if the people coming to your website are in your business trade area. If you're in a metro area, like Denver, you will also be able to see suburbs/cities in and around the area, such as Aurora, Parker, or Lafayette.
How can you use this information for your business?
- Examine the “City” tab to see how much traffic is coming from your trade area.
- If you find that this is a smaller segment of your visitors than you would like, consider creating additional content that has a local theme to it. The search engines do a fairly good job identifying location specific content from generic content.
- Are there specific areas where there is a lot of activity? You may discover a certain suburb is a hotbed for traffic for your business. This can help in making offline marketing decisions as well.
- Examine what your geographic target audience is doing on your website. What pages do they frequent, is there certain content that they are drawn to? If so, give them more of what they want.
It's not easy
Reading analytics is easy. Understanding the data is hard. Implementing improvements based on the data is harder still. But the good thing is that it's available to you, and if you're willing to put in the time, the payoff can be a big one for your business. Stick with a handful of metrics, understand them, and be ready to make improvements based on them.