Thursday, May 1, 2014

Using web analytics to improve your website

So you have analytics set-up for your site - but now what? Consistently evaluating your analytics data will help you to better understand your website’s audience and adjust your marketing strategies and objectives as necessary. Analytics reports provide valuable insight into a website’s strengths and weaknesses, and can help you to pinpoint the areas on your website that could benefit from improvements.

This article will help get you started analyzing your website's data by providing interpretations of common analytics statistics, such as: audience demographic, returning visitors, traffic sources, keywords, page views, visit duration, exit rate, and user technology. It will focus specifically on Google Analytics, one of the most popular choices for web analytics.

Goals

Before diving in to interpreting your data, you’ll need to set some Goals for your website. Goals will help you to monitor how successfully your website is meeting your objectives by tracking Goal conversions. As Google explains, “a Goal conversion occurs once a user completes a desired action on your site, such as a registration or download.” So, you must determine what a successful visit to your site should entail, and set up your Goals accordingly. For example, you may set a Goal that tracks purchases from your website, or how much time a user spends on a page. Once your Goals are set, you can use your analytics data to determine what aspects of your website are successful, and what areas need to be improved to better support your objectives.

Audience demographic

Google Analytics can tell you all kinds of facts about your website visitors: geographic location, age, gender, and more. Take a close look at these statistics, and determine if they align with your website’s target audience. If not, adjust your site to attract the right demographic. For more information about understanding your audience, check out our post on developing audience personas.

Returning visitors

If your goal is to keep users frequently visiting your website, then the amount of returning visitors is a useful piece of data. If you don't have a high number of returning visitors, first narrow down what aspect of your site is the culprit. Sometimes, this is a result of users being driven away by design flaws such as a poor navigation or a confusing layout, requiring improvements to the website’s design. Other times, it’s caused by lack of engaging content on the website. One way remedy this is to increase the amount of dynamic content. For example, implementing a blog or a news area that is frequently updated will increase the chance of a user consistently coming back for new content.

Traffic sources

Google Analytics can tell you how users are getting to your site. They might be going there directly, finding your website in search engines, or following links on social networks or other websites. This information will help you to determine if one of these sources is not generating enough traffic, thus showing you where to focus your efforts. For example, if you find that you are not getting many users coming to your website from search engines, you might need to improve your website’s search engine optimization. Or, if you find that a large number of users are coming from social networks such as Facebook, consider focusing your efforts on promoting your website through social media.

Search keywords

Another key web traffic statistic that Google Analytics generates is what keywords users are searching for to get to your site. It’s important to evaluate this list and determine if you are targeting the appropriate keywords in your content. If any of your major keywords are missing from this list, investigate why users are not getting to your site using those search terms.


Sessions / Users

A session is the period time a user is actively engaged with your website including screen views and events. Sessions are counted multiple times whereas Users are counted as one session within the selected date range for both new and returning users. The Users metric is more valuable to evaluate an accurate number of visitors during a period of time.

Pageviews

The pageviews statistic is the total number of pages viewed. Repeated views of a single page are counted. Google Analytics also provides pages per session, which can be more useful in that it filters out multiple pageviews by a single user per visit (e.g. if the user refreshes the page, this isn't counted as a new pageview). It also gives you an idea of how many pages a user is looking at (on average) per visit.

By looking at Behavior > Site Content, you can determine what pages on your site are the most popular as well as where users start and leave the site more frequently. If users are not visiting certain pages on your site as frequently as you would like, you should make those pages easier to find, and consider implementing call-out areas across your site that link to those pages. Also, you can use the most visited pages on your website to promote important content, making it more likely to be seen by users.

Session duration

Session duration provides the average length of time a user stays on your website. As with the returning visitors data, session duration can be improved by implementing more engaging and dynamic content. If your content is interesting, users will be more likely to keep browsing. A low visit duration could also mean that users aren’t finding the content they need and thus are leaving too quickly. Make sure your site is easy to navigate and that users can easily access important content. Rich and engaging web content tends to increase the session duration as well as improve the user experience. Videos on your website are one type of content that help increase session duration.

Exit rate

The exit rate for a page tells you how many users left your site on that particular page. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can indicate that users are finding the content they need on that page, and then leaving the site. However, if a page has a high exit rate, consider adding content to that page that will promote further site exploration. For example, if it’s a page with product information, include links to related products that users might be interested in viewing.

(CC0 1.0 - Alejandro Escamilla)

User technology

Google Analytics provides information about the technology used by your website’s visitors, including details such as device, browser, and operating system. This data is crucial in determining if your website is meeting the technology needs of all users, and you can use these statistics to improve your website’s overall user experience. For example, if you find that a large number of your users are using a specific web browser, ensure that your website is fully optimized for that browser. Furthermore, if the majority of your users are accessing your website from a mobile device, make sure your website is mobile accessible. You can look at the different types of devices your visitors are using to help determine what mobile solution would work best for your website.

These tips should help you get started with evaluating your website data and putting your findings to use. User these metrics and compare them over time to see the trends of your users and evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing tactics. And this is just scratching the surface of what can be done using Google Analytics. Learn more at www.google.com/analytics.

Kayleigh

About the author | Kayleigh Circle

Kayleigh is a web developer at TBH Creative, specializing in front-end development and responsive design. She likes to blog about a variety of web design topics, including design tips, the latest trends in the industry, and how to make your website more successful.

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