One of the most notable advantages of a website over traditional advertising methods is that web traffic is much easier to track and measure. Analytic tools can help business owners answer important questions about a website. For example, it’s important to know how many people are visiting a website and where they’re coming from. Additional information such as what pages they are visiting and how long they’re staying on the site are also critical statistics.
By answering these questions, you can gain powerful insights into how customers and prospects become attracted to a website. Additional strategies can be formed about how a website’s content can best be optimized to meet the customer’s or prospect’s needs.
While large enterprises can use sophisticated analytics tools, for most small businesses, that kind of complexity represents expensive overkill. Instead, Google Analytics provides a free, yet powerful tool that will answer the vast majority of questions and provide valuable insights without requiring technical expertise to set up or an advanced statistics degree to interpret.
What to Measure
Google Analytics and other online traffic measurement tools can provide a wide range of data some of which is good to know, and some that can be unimportant or confusing to measure. To gain the most information quickly and easily, you should pay attention to the following metrics in their website analytics report:
- Unique Visitors - This, as the name implies, measures how many distinct people view a website within the report’s specified time period. Unlike "hits," which measures how many times a web page is loaded, the unique visitor’s statistic prevents visitors to multiple pages from being repeatedly counted.
- Traffic Sources Where do the visitors find the website? Are they being directed from search engines, Twitter, Facebook, or local review sites? By understanding where the traffic is coming from then marketing measures can be taken to expand the potential reach. For instance, if web search engines are directing the majority of traffic to the website then it may be beneficial to invest in some pay-per-click advertising.
- Referring Keywords - What are people searching for when they visit the website? Ideally, the keywords should be related to a company’s products or services. If not, the website content probably needs some tweaking to highlight the company or products offered more effectively.
- Top Content - What are people clicking on most frequently and spending the most time reading? This will give you a good indication of what people find most interesting about the website and company. Adding similar or related content would likely help increase the website’s traffic.
- Exit Page - This statistic tracks the last page visitors see before they leave a website. The exit page metric allows you to understand the most common page that people are leaving the website from. This can also help provide information for where a call to action should be placed or website content could be changed to better fit the visitor and what they are looking for within the website.
Installing Google Analytics on a website is a simple process. If you have a Google account, visit the Analytics home page and request an Analytics tracking code. This is a short script that will enable Google to track visitors and content.
This code should then be inserted into the HTML code of each page you’re interested in tracking. If you’re running a WordPress blog or have built your site in WordPress, many plug-in options are available that can automate this process for you. Once the code is inserted and verified, you’ll probably start seeing results in a day or so.
Within a few days, you’ll start to see interesting patterns about how the outside world finds and utilizes your website. This may confirm your website plans, or lead to suggestions for needed improvements.
Either way, it’s valuable to gain analytics data, so you’re not making decisions about a website based on hunches or guesses.