Finger On The Pulse: Web Analytics
Whenever we are involved in an activity, there are phases that we go through. With each moment we make headway and can see for ourselves how far we have come. Looking back and measuring progress allows us to gauge the level of success in that particular task.
I have found it essential over the years to always measure my progress, to have a yardstick on how far I have come. I call this putting a finger on the pulse. Doing so has several advantages and you can do well to incorporate the habit of measurement into your activities.
One of the activities that is well suited for the habit of measurement is managing a website. Websites are well suited for the act of taking measurements because the technology makes it easy to readily do so. What’s also great about measuring website activity is that the process can be completely automated.
In order to measure something adequately, it is important to understand the unit of measure. For websites this unit is website traffic. Website traffic is analysed in order to gain insights about the visitors of that particular website.
For example, website traffic can be analysed in order to determine if a certain marketing campaign is delivering the desired results. In another case website traffic may be used to gauge the popularity of a business.
By analysing the interaction and website traffic patterns on a website,a website owner can gain insight into the type and nature of website visitors which in turn drives strategy formulation. Strategy that is based on actual data is more likely to have a positive impact on results than strategy formulated without data as a basis.
What To Measure: The Metrics
There are many metrics that a website owner can focus on when measuring traffic interactions on a website. Web metric refers to the specific attributes of recording and interpreting website statistics. The major metrics can be divided into three major groupings; Audience, Acquisition and Site Content.
Audience metrics deal with measures analysis of data that provide more insight into the website visitor and involve elements such as pageviews, bounce rate, pages per session, demographic information and devices. Pageviews measure the number of pages that are viewed either by visitors or over a given period whilst the bounce rate indicates the number of website visitors that do not meaningfully engage with a website before leaving.
Pages per session is about the number of pages that a unique visitor visits on the website during a single site visit encounter. There is often a distinguishing criteria called unique visits to distinguish repeat visits from total number of visits. Demographic information provides data on visitors such as location. The device being used by the visitor is also an interesting metric as it is possible to tailor experiences based on the device being used.
Acquisition metric are concerned with understanding the nature and source of website traffic and include considerations such as organic traffic, social traffic, referral traffic and direct traffic.
Organic Traffic refers to traffic coming from search engines. You might want to know which search engine is bringing in which traffic in order to better carry out Search Engine Optimization. The Social Traffic metric indicates which social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin are bringing in traffic. This is an important metric as social media has taken off in a big way in recent times.
Sometimes website visitors will come to a website by clicking a link on another website, this is referral traffic. It is important to have other websites link to your website as this means more traffic and also good search engine rankings. Direct traffic on the other hand is simply traffic arising from people putting in your website address in the browser.
Site Content Metrics
Site content is all the material that goes on a website for the consumption of site visitors. Content is the reason that people visit the website in the first place.
Landing pages are a critical part of a website since they are the starting point of interaction with a website. Before the prominence of search engines, it used to be that the landing page was most likely the home page but this has now changed as it is possible for visitors, directed by search engines, to land on deeper pages within a website. By noting the popular landing pages, a website owner can incorporate the insight into an effective strategy.
Speed is another crucial site content metric. After all, people are guaranteed to leave a website that is too slow and taking too long to load. By measuring page loading times, a website can be better optimized.
How To Measure: Google Analytics
Every trade has its tools and web analytics is no different. Whilst there may be several tool out there to use to measure website metrics, very few can beat Google Analytics. It is free and does an amazing job of tracking website metrics.
Google analytics works when the website owner creates an analytics account with google and create a property for the website. After this is done, Google Analytics generate a small piece of code which is embedded into the site to be tracked.
Google Analytics has a lot of metrics on which to focus including great clean graphs and charts. There is even a real-time metric where website traffic can be analysed as it happens.
The Long Game
Impatience is a trait that most of us suffer from. For keeping your finger on the pulse, you have to be willing to play the long game. You have to be prepared to analyse data and do it over a long period of time. After all, that is what web analytics is all about, finding the trends within the data that will ultimately drive strategy.