Revealing the secret to a better website: analyzing traffic
While getting people to your website is typically a top goal for any site owner, it’s crucial to ensure you’re getting the correct type of traffic. It’s also essential to analyze key metrics to understand your audience behaviors and whether or not your traffic is growing over time.
From connecting the right tools to understanding conversions, let’s explore how website analytics can help you, the small business owner, make critical decisions.
Why do you need to analyze your web traffic?
To answer even the most straightforward questions about the success of your website, you must have an understanding of the people who visit. It’s crucial never to forget that on the other end of those dashboards and line graphs are real people (for the most part) that behave like humans! Bettering your skills at analyzing their behavior can make all the difference in the ongoing success of your site.
Let’s kick off with some basic terminology.
Many website owners think of traffic as simply the number of people that come to your website each month. However, for a successful business, you’ll want to pay attention to several different traffic sources and which type is most beneficial.
- Organic – users who arrive through internet search
- Paid – users who clicked on a paid ad to get to your site
- Social – people who found your site through social media
- Direct – users who come to your site directly using your web address. This source may also include sources that cannot be tracked.
Due to the ubiquity of Google Analytics, many other reporting tools now default to similar names for key metrics. Metrics are simply the measurements of trackable actions on your website to analyze over time.
- Users – Visitors who have started a session on your site.
- New users – Visitors who came to your site for the first time (based on tracking cookies)
- Sessions – Groups of interactions taken by individual users within the same visit
- Pages per session – The number of pages a user visits within a session
- Average session duration – The length of time a user stays on your site within the same session
- Bounce rate – A percentage of one-page sessions compared to all sessions on your website
- Conversion rate – The number of completed conversions on your page or site compared to all interactions
The ins and outs of tracking these metrics get somewhat complicated, so as you become more familiar, you’ll likely need further explanations. Hotjar, an online service that’s developed several web analytics tools, has an excellent glossary of Google Analytics terms.
Connecting website analytics tools
To analyze your traffic, you first must collect the data! Therefore, it’s critical to connect accurate, insightful measurement tools before launching your site, or if you missed that step, as soon as possible. Here is a list of the top choices you can trust.
Much like the global search engine leader, Google’s analytics tool is the one that everyone uses. The free version of Google Analytics is extensive and contains more than enough metrics to get you started. In fact, many of the more advanced, premium analytics programs available start with data from Google Analytics to create their reports.
Google Search Console
The reporting available from Google Search Console (GSC) is often overlooked, but that’s a big mistake. While GSC relates only to how people behave on Google organic search before they land on your website, the data is incomparable for insights into how users find you.
WordPress users should also consider MonsterInsights. When operating an e-commerce site, The MonsterInsights plugin connects easily to WooCommerce and gives a valuable analysis of your customers’ journeys. It makes Google Analytics integration simple and creates an easy-to-use dashboard right in WordPress.
The HubSpot platform has an extensive list of features, from sales funnel generation to customer service tools. Fortunately, HubSpot offers a limited but helpful assortment of free tools, including how users interact with your on-site forms and tracking across multiple sessions for returning users.
Understanding Google Analytics
The key to analyzing your traffic is to understand how Google Analytics works. With Google Analytics, you’re able to see the top pages and essential pages on your website, as well as monitor a variety of important metrics, including average time on site and bounce rate.
Understanding these critical metrics is essential for any small business owner, as you can make strategic decisions around your traffic by understanding the most influential factors. Fortunately, Google Analytics offers a free course for beginners. We highly recommend this video series for anyone who wants to get serious about traffic analysis.
What to watch for in your web traffic analysis
Knowing exactly what you’re getting with your traffic is a crucial way to judge your site and find out where you need to improve. That way, you can spend less time developing your site and more time focusing on improving your business.
Knowing what pages your audience tends to visit is one of the first things you should analyze. What pages are getting the most organic traffic? What pages do people navigate to most often after landing on your website for the first time? What pages have the highest bounce rate?
With this data, you can determine what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong and then make necessary adjustments to grow your audience.
The first metric that will tell you the health of your site is total traffic volume. If you have a website, you should know how many people come to your site each day. But for a deeper analysis, break down your total traffic volume by channel.
Organic traffic volume is the number of visitors who enter your website from organic search engines, such as Google or Bing, and click to see the main content. If your Bing organic traffic goes up while Google users decline, you can infer that you have a ranking issue on Google and can then dive into individual landing pages and search rankings to diagnose what’s gone wrong.
In addition to volume, Google Analytics provides a variety of other dimensions, including estimated age, gender, the type of device used for access, and approximate location based on IP address.
Is your site converting your visitors? Conversions can be online sales, lead form completions, or app downloads, and more, depending on your site goals. Which strategies are working and what are not?
Google Analytics is one of the best places to understand how your site is doing and, perhaps more importantly, gain insight into which tactics are producing the most conversions. Explore the landing pages that have the most conversions, then compare them to the pages with the least.
Analyze them side-by-side, and try to view the content from the point of view of a first-time visitor. This tactic will help you know what’s working and what’s not.
For e-commerce retailers, the site also needs qualified visitors to actually make a purchase! That’s why an essential step to analyzing traffic is to understand the types of visitors and conversions making a sale.
How does your site look to people who aren’t interested in your products or services? What kinds of information do people want from you? What are people searching for? Knowing these types of conversion data will help you prioritize your resources, such as where to find new traffic and even what new products to develop.
Measuring the true success of a website starts with thoughtful traffic analysis. While Google Analytics and other tools offer a rabbit hole of numbers and measurements, knowing the most important indicators is an easy way to get started and enhance your site’s progress. With time, focus, and a little bit of intuition, you too can uncover the secrets of customer behavior and increased conversions.
As you dig deeper into traffic analysis and sales conversion, it’s helpful to measure your overall Return on Investment, or ROI. For more details calculating website ROI, visit our comprehensive Guru Guide on marketing analytics.