man and woman checking analytics on tablets
Keeping track of your website's analytics will help boost your traffic and provide ease and efficiency to visitors. — Getty Images/PeopleImages

Whether you’re an e-commerce business, a brick-and-mortar shop, or a service-based company, it’s likely you have a website. This site requires both time and money — and you need to be sure you’re getting the most out of your investment. This guide to website analytics can help you identify ways to optimize your site to better support your business goals.

What is website analytics?

Website analytics is the gathering of data from your site and organizing it in ways that reveal insights about users and their site experience. Codes placed on each page gather information and your analytics tool measures and reports on things such as number of visitors, most popular pages, visitor demographics, whether visitors’ actions align with your site goals and much more.

Many areas of your business can benefit from website analytics, namely:

  • Marketing can improve by knowing which channels or activities drive site visits.
  • Sales can review conversion rates and identify areas for improvement.
  • Product developers can better understand what customers need with analysis of search terms.

What should be measured

Each business has different needs, so first consider what your website needs to accomplish. You should assess who your key stakeholders are, such as marketing, sales, product development, investors or partners. Then, identify their objectives for the site, such as online purchases, education, event registration, newsletter sign ups or feeding the sales funnel. Taking this step will help you determine what analytics to gather to see how your site performs against these objectives.

You can also seek guidance from experts. For example, Purely Branded, a marketing and web design company, explained that to best understand marketing effectiveness a business should measure:

  • Website visits. Although basic, this information addresses the big picture question: Are we driving enough people to our website?’ Also use visit data to assess your keyword strategy and specific calls to action.
  • Percentage of new visits. The percent of new versus repeat visitors can indicate if your outreach is driving new visits and if your site content motivates repeat visits.
  • Sources of traffic. You can better understand your audience when you see where your visitors are coming from, e.g., another website, organic search or a link on social media, and the behaviors that visitors from each source display.
  • Bounce rate. Knowing the percentage of single-page visitors may lead you to identify issues such as poor content or site performance. However, Purely Branded suggested that bounce rates don’t always indicate a problem. Some visitors may visit one page with a specific purpose, such as getting your phone number.
  • Conversion goals. Measure how often visitors complete actions you’ve identified as valuable, like newsletter sign-ups, purchases, or literature downloads, and you can increase efforts towards goals that are not being met.
  • Engagement. Measuring the length of time and the number of pages on which a visitor spends on your site may help you judge how engaging your website is. However, long engagement doesn’t always mean you’re sharing interesting content. It can also mean visitors are spending time searching for what they need.
  • Site content. Learn which pages and sections of your site are most popular to assess if visitors are accessing the content you want them to.
  • Compatibility with mobile and other devices. Knowing on which devices your visitors most frequently visit your website can help you design content appropriately.
  • Landing pages. These are pages where site visitors enter your website. Knowing where visitors start can shed light on what areas are best optimized for online searches.
  • Exit pages. Knowing which pages visitors leave from can alert you to areas of your site that may need to be improved to keep them more engaged.

Measuring the length of time and the number of pages on which a visitor spends on your site may help you judge how engaging your website is.

What analytics tool should you use?

There are many free and paid analytics tools. Perhaps the most well-known is Google Analytics. Google Analytics tracks what each visitor does from entering until exiting your site, or until they become inactive for 30 minutes (or another timeframe you set). The free version likely offers all the features you’ll need. But if more are desired, you can purchase Analytics 360.

[Read: Google Analytics: A Beginner’s Guide to Tracking Your Website Traffic.]

“For individuals and small businesses, sometimes all you need is the basics,” Leadfeeder, a sales and marketing platform provider, explained in a blog post. “Tools such as StatCounter and Clicky offer stripped-down Google Analytics alternatives that help site owners keep tabs on only the most important metrics.”

Also, concerns over the type, amount and use of data gathered by Google has motivated the development of privacy-sensitive website analytics tools. Fast Company highlights the three following products as alternatives to Google Analytics, all of which offer free or inexpensive versions:

  • Fathom looks at aggregated rather than personal data, and requires technical know-how in both the free and paid versions.
  • Simple Analytics does not use cookies and honors the “Do Not Track” browser setting.
  • Matamo is an open-source alternative to Google Analytics that launched in 2007. It has privacy built into it through an option that restricts Matamo’s access to user data and is used by the United Nations, Amnesty International, NASA and the European Commission.

Each analytics tool has the power to offer the insights necessary to help you improve not only your site but also your sales, marketing, product development and customer service.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published July 19, 2019