What is web analytics?
Analytics platforms measure activity and behavior on a website, for example: how many users visit it, how long they stay, how many pages they visit, which pages they visit, and whether or not they arrive by following a link.
Businesses use web analytics platforms to measure and compare site performance and to look at key performance indicators that drive their business, such as purchase conversion rate.
Why web analytics is important
Web analytics provides information and data that can be used to create a better user experience for website visitors.
Understanding customer behavior is also key to optimizing a website for key conversion metrics.
For example, web analytics will show you the most popular pages on your website and the most popular shopping routes.
With web analytics, you can also accurately track the effectiveness of your online marketing campaigns to help inform future efforts.
How web analytics works
Using this tag, the analytics tool counts every time the page receives a visitor or a link clicked. The tag can also collect other data such as device, browser, and geographic location (via IP address).
Because some users delete cookies and browsers have various restrictions on code snippets, no analytics platform can claim that their data is completely accurate, and different tools sometimes produce slightly different results.
Example of web analytics data
Web analytics data is typically presented in dashboards that can be customized by the user, date range, and other attributes. The data is broken down into categories, such as
- number of visits, number of unique visitors
- the proportion of new and returning visitors
- which country are you from
- what browser or device they use (desktop or mobile computer)
- common landing pages
- common exit page
- frequently visited pages
- duration of visit
- number of pages per visit
- bounce rate
- which campaigns generated the most traffic
- which websites referred the most traffic
- which keyword searches resulted in a visit
- the breakdown of campaign media, such as email or social media
Examples of web analysis
The most popular web analytics tool is Google Analytics, although there are many others on the market that offer specialized information, such as real-time activity or heat maps.
Below are some of the most commonly used tools:
- Google Analytics – the “standard” tool for website analysis, free and widely used.
- Piwik – an open-source solution similar in functionality to Google and a popular alternative, allowing companies full ownership and control of their data
- Adobe Analytics – highly customizable analytics platform (Adobe bought analytics leader Omniture in 2009)
- Kissmetrics – can focus on individual behavior, i.e. cohort analysis, conversion, and retention at the segment or individual level
- Mixpanel: advanced mobile and web analytics that measure actions instead of page views
- Parse.ly – offers detailed analysis in real-time, specifically for publishers
- CrazyEgg: Measure which parts of the page receive the most attention using a “heat map”.
- Clicktale: use “heat maps”, keystrokes and mouse movements
With a wide variety of analysis tools on the market, the right vendors for your business needs will depend on your specific requirements. Fortunately, Clicking365 integrates with most of the leading platforms to simplify the analysis of your data.
Why web analytics is important?
If this is your first time using web analytics, the sheer amount of information you have access to can be overwhelming, as can knowing what to do with it. However, making sense of this data is essential, as it will allow you to keep the pulse of your site.
Let’s take “time on site” as an example. This metric measures the time that users spend on your site on average, and on each of your pages individually. In general, if visitors only spend a few seconds on your website before leaving it, then something is wrong.
If you’re wondering, users, spend an average of three minutes on most websites.
In the next section, we’re going to introduce you to other key metrics to watch out for and why they’re important.
Five key web metrics you should track
There are many metrics that you can continue to use analysis tools. However, these five are a good starting point. Let’s start with the number of visitors in general.
1. General traffic
When we talk about web traffic, we refer to the number of visits your site receives in a given period of time. This number is significant because it tells you if your website is getting the attention it deserves.
Let’s say you get about 50 visits a day. This is a low figure if your website has been running for a year. However, it is decent if it was created a month ago. In other words, it is not only important to monitor traffic, but also its evolution.
Ideally, your numbers should go up as your website grows. If your traffic stagnates or decreases over time, it is an indicator that you are not doing something right. In most cases, it could be due to search engine optimization (SEO) issues, so it’s always a good starting point.
2. Bounce rate
When someone visits your site and leaves without seeing a second page, we call it a “bounce.” The percentage of those visits measured against your total traffic constitutes your bounce rate.
This metric is important because it tells you if there are any outstanding usability issues on your website. Some of the most common causes of a high bounce rate are:
- Long charging times
- A clumsy navigation scheme
- An unattractive web design
The average bounce rate for most websites ranges from 20-70% (the lower the better). However, as a general rule of thumb, if your bounce rate is higher than 30%, you’ll want to take a good look at the possible causes we’ve mentioned above.
However, the bounce rate is highly dependent on the content your site offers and what the search engines are looking for, so it is not always a bad thing if you are above that number.
3. Traffic sources
In most cases, first-time visitors to your website do so via links instead of typing your URL. The pages that link to your site are your traffic sources, and we can usually divide them into four categories:
- Search engines
- Links from other sites
- Visits from email campaigns
- Links from social networks
Generally, the aim is to increase all four sources of traffic. However, their main target is usually search engines, because they have the potential to attract massive traffic. Most importantly, if your website ranks high in search results, it is often easier to get links from other sites because they will consider you to be a reputable source.
With web analytics tools, you can easily monitor your traffic sources and adjust your strategy accordingly. For example, if you don’t see a lot of traffic from search engines, you know you have to review your keyword strategy.
4. Visits from the desktop or from the mobile
It may not surprise you to learn that mobile traffic is now fully embraced by many web users. In fact, it has long outpaced typical desktop traffic, which means it’s essential that your website offers a strong mobile experience.
With analytics tools, you can track the percentage of users visiting your site through the desktop or mobile browsers. It’s a fairly straightforward metric to interpret, and it tells you where to focus your efforts.
Even if your website receives more desktop traffic than mobile, we recommend that you focus on optimizing your mobile experience. Taking a mobile-first approach to web design will pay off in the long run.
5. New and returning visitors
Ideally, people will return to your website over and over again. We call those users “repeat visitors” (and they are the best!), But you can also think of them as your primary audience.
Many people have different ideas about what constitutes a decent rate of return users. In our experience, if your recurring traffic is around 30% of the total, you are doing quite well.
However, if it is below 20%, it means that your website is not as attractive as it could be. This may be due to usability issues – such as those affecting your bounce rate – or your content strategy. In any case, it is a reason to review your website and find out how you can improve it.
How to start collecting analytical data from the web
The most popular web analytics tool is Google Analytics. This official tool is 100% free and gives you access to all the metrics we have covered previously, plus many more.
To get started, you can follow our guide on how to configure Google Analytics in WordPress. You can also use a plugin like Google Analytics WD.
Once you have Google Analytics up and running on your site, you can read our beginner’s guide to the Google Analytics interface to get your bearings. And once you’ve learned the basics, you may want to create your own custom dashboards for quick access to important analytical data.
Many people manage their websites without keeping an eye on their metrics. That can work, but you have so many analytics tools at your disposal, it’s a waste if you don’t use them. For example, just by taking a look at your traffic, you can tell if your content strategy is paying off (or if you need to try something new).
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