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Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Understanding Website Analytics

Understanding Website Analytics

Paying attention to your small businesses’ website analytics — software that tracks a variety of statistical information about your site’s performance — can provide valuable insights to help your site better support your business goals.

In broad terms, analytics software helps you understand key measurements of your website, such as the numbers of people who are accessing it, the keywords that attract them, the content they’re engaging with, and other important success factors.

Analytics software can provide very detailed information suitable for complex statistical analysis that, unless you are a specialist, can ultimately be confusing. But even a basic understanding of the most common metrics can provide valuable insights that help you adjust your website as needed.

The most popular tool — Google Analytics — is free to use, and Google offers considerable information to help site owners use the tool and understand its results. There are several analytics tools that offer different metrics and interfaces, but Google Analytics is probably the best place for most business owners to start.

Key Metrics

While different analytics tools provide different capabilities, they all help business owners understand some important metrics about their site’s performance:

  • Pageviews: The number of times someone has loaded pages within your site (a visitor clicking on five pages would count as, simply enough, five pageviews). This helps you understand your most popular pages and content.
  • Visitors: How many people (devices, actually) have seen your site. This is most useful to help you monitor trends. You’ll also see statistics for first-time and return visitors.
  • User location: Where people who visit your site are located. If you’re targeting a local or regional audience, your traffic should, ideally, match those users.
  • Bounce rate: How many visitors see one page and leave? Whether this is an issue or not will depend on the specific page. If it’s your home page, it could be. If it’s a landing page from an ad campaign, a high bounce rate is probably to be expected.
  • Conversions: How many visitors take a desired action, such as placing an order, booking an appointment, signing up for a newsletter, downloading a whitepaper, or whatever goal is important to your business.

Analytics software can also help you understand your site’s traffic sources — where visitors are coming from and how they find your site. These will be a blend of search engine referrals, links from other sites, social media mentions and links, and advertising campaigns.

Identify Your Goals

While the results from your analytics software are interesting, it’s important to set your goals as you start to review your site performance. The statistics, without the context of understanding what you had hoped to achieve, are not as helpful as they can be.

Depending on whether you are a product or service company, you will likely have different goals. A service company will be more interested in generating leads and educating customers about their offerings, while a product company will, natural enough, focus more on making sales.

Those sales are easy enough to track from week to week or month to month, but metrics such as brand awareness will require understanding how traffic is trending and how many visitors are filling out contact forms.

Looking at analytics results once may not tell you much, but reviewing them on a consistent basis will reveal important trends that can help improve your website performance and business results.

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